Baby black chicken served up in a broth with noodles. Could this be the Vietnamese version of that miracle cure, chicken soup? Words by Noey Neumark. Photos by Julie Vola
When the sun sets, the fluorescent lights at the corner of Hang Bo and Hang Can flicker on. Blue stools are hastily set up, not only at the intersection, but down and across Hang Bo, too. The broth has simmered and the chickens have bathed, and it’s time for action.
Chop, whack, chop. The butcher’s knife smashes down onto thick hunks of young chicken, slicing them into sections of wings, ribs, heads, and everything in between. The bowls are laid out. A rectangular clump of my noodles is set into every bowl, with a sprinkling of bean sprouts on top. Next, an abundant helping of blackened chicken is piled over the sprouts and noodles, followed by a petite nest of bitter rau ngai cuu (mugwort). The shadow of a massive ladle appears over the rows of bowls, pausing over each to pour in a flood of my ga tan’s trademark black broth. The noodles float to the top, the chicken sinks to the bottom, and the brimming bowl of black broth makes its way to the little plastic table.
For All Maladies
Ms. Pham Thi Lien and her family have been fixtures on this corner for 24 years, serving up this soul-warming comfort food. One of the most alluring aspects of my ga tan is its remedial value; my dining partners and I all agree that there’s no better medicine for a sore throat, migraine, or plain old bad day.
It’s no surprise that my ga tan (and its close cousin, ga tan, which is a similar dish but with less broth and no my noodles to hearten up the meal) will make its eater feel better. Ms. Lien procures her cocktail of traditional medicines and herbs from the nearby Lan Ong Street, and brews them into a heavily concentrated broth. Included are tao, which is good for your blood and liver; quy, prescribed for people with lung or kidney ailments; and thuc, a stomach aid.
She then dilutes the intense medicinal blend with a milder broth that’s made from stewed pork bone and a careful selection of chickens. The result is a full-flavoured, aromatic, rich and healing bowl of love.
From the bubbling vats of ga tan broth and the piles of my noodle packets, Ms. Lien and her family members serve around 500 bowls of my ga tan each night. It’s one of the few places in Hanoi where you’ll have to actually wait for a table, but I can’t think of a better use of your time and appetite.
Ms. Lien sells her my ga tan every evening on the Hang Bo and Hang Can, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi