Vietnam's $35 Bowl of Noodle Soup

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The next stop was for "pho" - the breakfast staple, a noodle soup that fuels the nation and steams from big pots in the cold Hanoi air, usually selling for $1 (£0.60) a bowl. Street cafe Many people still eat at roadside cafes.

But we were not going to any old street-food joint, we were to sample the country's most expensive pho - at $35 a bowl. Two Porsche 4x4s were parked outside the restaurant. I did not even know Porsche did 4x4s.

The restaurant owner talked us through the quality of his Japanese beef, the cleanliness of his kitchen and how much the rich are willing to stump up to slurp down Vietnam's priciest soup.

One diner admitted he had had the house special and, when I asked him his profession, he almost apologetically told me he worked for the government.

We were eyed suspiciously by a party Central Committee member slipping out of the door and into his Mercedes, as our minder sampled the produce, admitting later it was not $35 better than her usual breakfast spot.


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The above is an excerpt from a BBC broadcast on Radio 4 by Alastair Leithead in Hanoi. Read or listed to the full version on BBC's website.