Huynh Thi Dung, known to her customers as Ms. Chanh, serves bowls of scalding hot noodle soup at 7:30 a.m. on the dot every day at 69 Ton That Dam, just steps away from one of HCMC’s busiest hangout spots – the Nguyen Hue walking street.
Ms. Chanh (L) and her staff prepare a take-away serving at her noodles stall on Ton That Dam Street, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo VnExpress/Khanh Linh
Her uncle started the stall and ran it for about 30 years before he handed it to her in 1991 to go live abroad.
Chanh said that because her family is Chinese-based, her stall used to prepare only the signature white rice noodles of Guangdong Province in China – flat and soft like pho noodles, and served with char siu.
Later, she upgraded the menu to include dishes like macaroni, wonton and golden egg noodles to give her patrons more alternatives.
Customers can select white rice noodles or golden egg noodles that are served either dry or with broth.
The golden egg noodles stored in a decades-old cabinet at Ms. Chanh’s stall on Ton That Dam Street, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo by VnExpress/Khanh Linh
Unlike other stalls where the wonton is prepared in advance, Chanh always makes it fresh after someone orders the dish.
She comes to her stall every morning at 4 a.m. to get the ingredients ready, including the broth. She has her own supply of wonton dough, white rice noodles and golden egg noodles.
The broth is specially prepared by simmering pork marrow bones and pork neck bones that impart a rich flavor. To get a clear, fragrant and sweet broth, the foam on the surface of the broth is regularly removed as it cooks.
One highlight of the story is its decades-old kitchen and Chinese style cooking utensils.
Ngoc Thy, a regular patron, said: “The antique utensils and signature flavor of the noodles at Ms. Chanh’s stall stirs up a wistful feeling. I can have this several times a week without getting tired of it.”
A bowl of noodles topped with pork liver, pork, prawn and a small bowl of dipping sauce at Ms. Chanh’s stall on Ton That Dam Street, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo by VnExpress/Khanh Linh
The modest stall’s table and plastic chairs can barely seat five to six customers at a time. Diners who visit the stall at peak hours frequently end up waiting for some time.
However, Chanh has no plans to expand the stall. She says that she will focus instead on keeping the current nostalgic ambience and maintain the family tradition that has lasted for many years.
The stall opens from 7:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., and is usually packed between 11:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m.
The majority of Chanh’s customers are white-collar and blue-collar workers.
A bowl of noodles with a variety of toppings including pork liver, pork heart, a few slices of pork, prawns, bean sprouts, chives, fried pork lard and fried shallot ranges between VND35,000 and 50,000 ($1.41-2).