Urbanist Hanoi

Back Home Eat & Drink Eat & Drink Categories Street Food Ngõ Nooks: Hearty Banh Mi From a New-Fashioned Hanoi Co-Operative

Ngõ Nooks: Hearty Banh Mi From a New-Fashioned Hanoi Co-Operative

Hop Tac Xa Thit Xien is more than just a bánh mì eatery – it’s a place to rekindle your childhood nostalgia and absorb the style of the street.

For me, amongst the endless bánh mì thịt xiên nướng joints in Hanoi, one really stands out. Le Hoang Duc set up Hop Tac Xa Thit Xien (Grilled Pork Skewers Co-Operative) in 2011 when he was just 21. After quitting his regular job, Duc pursued his dream of starting his own business and settled on a small, homemade food operation. It began as a humble stall in alley 66 off Chua Lang Street, with only a few plastic stools.

“It was a hard time back then,” Duc said. “We didn’t have enough customers to cover our expenses. We had to push through all the obstacles and try to keep the business running. Although one good thing is that we didn’t have to pay rent since we were only open on the street.”

Wanting to keep the price reasonable, Duc charged VND7,000 VND for xiên thịt (pork meat skewers) and VND3,000 for bánh mì, while trà đá was free. Not only was the price cheap, but the skewers were also a cut above the rest and, thanks to word-of-mouth reviews, more and more customers found their way to the stall.

“There were times when we sold 1,000 skewers and served more than 400 customers in less than an hour, and there was a line of people waiting for their turn,” Duc said.

After six years of serving 50 kilograms of meat every day, together with the support of food lovers, Duc finally realized his dream of upgrading his stall from the alley to a proper house.

“I named it Hop Tac Xa Thit Xien as I remembered my uncle telling me stories about those co-operatives back in the day; how everyone worked together really well to keep the place running. It’s the same here. I’ve had people working with me for years now. We are like a family,” Duc said.

Although it’s now a proper restaurant, the decor remains modest, albeit a little gimmicky. In an attempt to keep the street food experience vibe, Duc brought the ‘pavement’ inside the restaurant: plastic and wooden stools, the ‘Ngõ 66’ sign, a rustic brick wall, barbed wire and one of the capital’s famous electricity posts covered in black wires.

Goc Tu Giac’ (The Honesty Corner) is a new addition featuring some all-time favorite childhood snacks. What’s cool about this corner is that there are no staff around, so it’s a self-checkout system if you want to buy something from the baskets.

The most important thing, however, is the quality. With its crispy bread and succulent meat, their bánh mì thịt xiên is still the best-selling dish on the menu. You can choose to have one, two or three skewers. It sounds simple, and it is, but the real secret is the sauce the meat marinates in. The ratio between fish sauce, oyster sauce and honey has to be perfect so the skewers come out juicy, fragrant and scrumptious. On top of that, you get to choose which sauce you want to drizzle on top: coconut sauce, tamarind sauce, or classic mayo-ketchup-chili sauce. They’ve also added a few more items to the menu, like nộm thịt xiên (green papaya salad with skewers) and peach tea, kumquat tea or soy milk.

“During eight years in the business, we were on the street for more than five years. I feel blessed because I had that stepping stone and support from people who’ve been coming back," Duc said. "Being on the street for that long was the main reason why I wanted to bring that atmosphere to the restaurant when I opened it, in the hope of creating that same aesthetic people love.”

You can find Hop Tac Xa Thit Xien at 55 Chua Lang. They open from 11am to 1pm, and again from 4pm to 7pm.

 

To sum up:

Taste: 5/5

Price: 5/5

Atmosphere: 5/5

Friendliness: 5/5

Location: 3/5

 

At night, Gia Nguyen is a drag queen. In the day time, all he does is eat noodles.

Hop Tac Xa Thit Xien

55 Chua Lang

Print
icon

Related Articles:

Ngõ Nooks: Come for the Coffee, Stay for the Aesthetic

Ngõ Nooks: The Deep-Fried Satisfaction of Steamy Bánh Gối

Ngõ Nooks: Sumptuous Xôi From One of Hanoi's Friendliest Street Food Vendors