A pho delivery
They do pho a little differently in Hoi An.
We eyed this popular stall on our first morning at the market, then returned the next day to find the vendor absent, his space empty. It was the first or the fifteenth of the lunar month and most of the market's prepared food sellers - save our favorite cao lau purveyor - had gone veggie or stayed home. When he didn't appear the next morning, or the next, we feared we'd missed our chance. But on our last morning there he was, back in business, sending out tray after tray packed with steaming bowls of pho.
He does a simple beef pho, with what we can only assume is a central coastal twist: after noodles, meat, and broth are in the bowl he adds a hefty spoonful of viscous fermented bean sauce (the pot in the center, below).
And with his noodles he serves a plate containing a jumble of fresh herbs, wide slices of pickled green papaya, and a mound of roasted dried chili flakes.
Diners douse the contents of the saucer with soy sauce (some also add fish sauce directly to their noodles), mix the lot up, and eat it with their pho. (Just dumping the green papaya et al directly on top of one's pho is simply not done.)
What we like here are the the herbs, which are varied (Thai basil, rice paddy herb, teensy-weensy watercress, mint leaves and a parsley-like green) and plentiful, the richness-sans-sweetness that the bean sauce adds to the soup (super-sweet hoisin is more common in Saigon and around), the full-on heat of the dried chili flakes (reminiscent of Thai guayteow nam, for us), and the sour punch of the green papaya which, eaten together with the chewy noodles, makes for a crunchy/soft, steaming-hot/cool texture-temperature contrast tour de force.
We're generally not pho-natics, but this is a great version.
Pho vendor, Hoi An Market, in a corner of the covered seafood section, right near the water