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Ngõ Nooks: A Classic Thanh Trì-Style Bánh Cuốn That Took a Century to Perfect

Bánh Cuốn Bà Hoành is nearly a century old, and both the eatery’s name and the authenticity of the food they serve stem from the same source: the culinary wisdom of Grandma Hoàng.

The dish originates from Thanh Trì — formerly a village on the outskirts of Hanoi, now a ward within city limits — and the sumptuous feast is said to taste best when made there. That’s precisely what Grandma Hoàng did back when she was a teenager: prepared bánh cuốn, then hawked it around the capital. That is, until she was able to secure a fixed location on Tô Hiến Thành Street and give her husband’s name to her beloved food: Bánh Cuốn Bà Hoành. That’s the story I’ve been told by her children, who continue to run the place after Grandma Hoàng passed away in the early 2000s.

What I appreciate most is their bánh: no minced mushrooms or pork, just pure, freshly steamed rice wraps that are dished up cool — the traditional Thanh Trì way. With a flourishing hot-served bánh cuốn scene in the capital, many might forget that this was once a pre-made treat sold chilled. A hot stove or the constant fuss of steaming was never part of the picture.

The quality of the rice wraps is determined solely by their taste and texture. If sourness is detected, most likely the batter was poorly made or had turned bad before cooking. It should be soft and a little bit chewy so there’s not only added bite but also so it’s firm enough to be held by chopsticks.

Another small yet significant detail is how little or no oil is needed for the true Thanh Trì dish. Properly made, they will never stick together and you’ll avoid a greasy aftertaste. Most Hanoians favor light, subtle flavors and, personally, I’d gladly savor them with just nước chấm and some fresh herbs. What's more, the color of the sauce here is uniquely dark, yet is well-blended and sweetened with just a hint of sugar. Always kept hot, it coats the rice wraps with a layer of umami-infused warmth with every dip.

The principal set here includes chả, which the family makes at home. Once cubed and plunged into the dipping bowl, these ocher blocks are extra-tender and bursting with juice. The shop refuses to outsource their treasured creation, claiming that no others can match their standards.

These days, one can order an additional serving of thịt nướng or use it to replace chả altogether. This is possibly due to the rising popularity of Bánh Cuốn Phủ Lý, which pairs bánh cuốn with thịt nướng. But while the grilled meat in Phủ Lý is similar to that found in bún chả, at Bánh Cuốn Bà Hoành they use golden pork belly slices — unbeatable.

Bánh Cuốn Bà Hoành opens from 6am to 8pm. Find them at 33 and 66 Tô Hiến Thành Street, Hanoi.

This Ngõ Nooks was originally published in November 2018.

 

To sum up:

Taste: 5/5
Price: 5/5
Atmosphere: 4/5
Friendliness: 4/5
Location: 5/5

 Tạ absolutely loves food and dreams of selling noodles.

Bánh Cuốn Bà Hoành

33 Tô Hiến Thành, Hai Bà Trưng District, Hanoi

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