Despite being smack-bang in the middle of Hanoi’s expat district of Tay Ho, Mi Van Than Mai Hac De is a wonton soup shop that is easy to miss. Unpretentious with not much in the way of fancy signage, the restaurant feels like a large disorderly kitchen with just a few tables added. That is because food, not decoration, is king here. And when we say food, we mean a superb wonton soup, and that is pretty much it.
But if you do dig wonton soup then you might just have found your very own particular heaven. Chào asked the owner and chef Doan Phi Hoang why he was serving up what is essentially a Cantonese dish in northern Vietnam. “This is my grandfather’s recipe,” he said. “My grandfather did military studies in China when he was a boy. Previously he opened a strip on Mai Hac De street from 1972 to 1992. Ask anyone on that street and they will know my grandfather.”
Well, Doan’s grandfather must have been a fine cook as the wonton soup (35,000 to 40,000 VND depending on market prices) here matches many of the fine bowls regularly served up in Canton province in southern China. The light brown bouillon is cooked overnight for up to 12 hours, then the shrimp flavored broth is served with wafer thin slices of char siu (Cantonese BBQ pork) and a generous helping of pork and mushroom-filled wontons. With the addition of plenty of scallions, the flavors merge into a sumptuous offering making for a supreme soup. It is ideal for afternoons when you are desperate for a good soup, but need a change from the ubiquitous pho.
On being told what fine soup he is making, Doan is modest to a fault: “I use my grandfather’s recipe but the ingredients today are not as good as they used to be, so it will not be as delicious as before.” It is comments like this that make Chào, wish we had a time machine.
Nevertheless, this steaming wonton soup is superb so we shall not complain. When we asked Doan the special ingredient to making his soup taste so good, his answer was simple: “The secret is to cook it with all your heart.”
57 Xuan Dieu
6 a.m – 9 p.m.
09 755 02346