It’s now been a months since I left Hanoi and I’d be no closer to posting on it if it weren’t for this perfect storm of coincidences. Literally. Seattle is paralyzed by the worst storm in my 25 years of living here, the coldest temperatures in my dad’s 40 years of living here and let’s be honest, an amount of snow that would be an average Monday in Buffalo, NY. However, in Seattle this is cause for not moving anywhere so I’ve been blessed with, as I mentioned before, a few snow days. I’ve caught up on things, played in the snow, re-arranged my kitchen, and now, thanks to a reminder from Brian on my last post, am going to do the Hanoi food post.
Upon arrival in Hanoi, my friend Katy met up with us, taking us down the street to her favorite Bia Hoi. Some cities have great street food, Hanoi has street beer. Yup, you just grab a stool, sit down and instantly have beer in your hand. Wow. Many more Bia Hoi pics to come in this set. We were taken to this particular Bia Hoi because it was right by our hotel and had, Katy claimed, the best banana flower salad. While I wasn’t overly excited by the salad, we also ate delicious deep fried corn kernels and the steaming chicken hot pot you see above. It was a great introduction to Hanoi. She also gave us a little guidance about the city and a little advice on how to cross the street. I took up the slogan from Finding Nemo: Just keep swimming. Armed with that mantra, I never was hit by a moto.The next morning we were attempting to navigate a walking tour when it mentioned if you were hungry, this was the noodle stop to make. Me? Always hungry. Always loves noodles. Bun bo nam bo it is, guys. This was a big pile of noodles with beef, vegetables, peanuts and over all everything just worked perfectly. Come to think of it, that might be my description of a lot of things I ate in Hanoi–but what is so amazing is that each one was completely different, completely amazing and all the ingredients work in perfect harmony.After a long walk around the city we were hungry, and as we turned down an alley my nose began to twitch. Hmmm? That smell, B, I think someone is deep frying something on the sidewalk! Sure enough, we glanced around and found a group of lovely women deep frying corn and banana fritters. Having tried one form of deep fried corn, we went with the banana. This was when I first noticed the unbelievable friendliness, the eagerness to help that is ingrained in the Vietnamese personality. The only other place I’d ever seen anything like it was northern Peru, and I love it. The women patiently walked us through what each thing they were making was, despite the lack of common language. When we pulled out the camera, the smiled and carefully made sure that the fritter they gave us looked beautiful, discussing between them which of these melty, caramelized deep fried delicacies could take the best picture.Looks pretty good to me!This picture is kind of dark, but is pretty typical of us sitting outside at a Bia Hoi. Low stools, like a kindergartner would use are crowded around tables, you can see the giant kegs and piles of glasses. Sitting down, service is instant and often involves free peanuts. Here, we’ve also ordered some deep fried tofu, thanks to a group of nearby businessmen grabbing a happy hour snack. We had wanted some food, and they had a lot that looked good, so they started pointing and helping us to order. Finally we ended up with this lovely snack.For dinner we headed to Highway 4, a highly recommended restaurant, and ordered a beef hot pot. That red stuff? That is an enormous pile of of beautiful beef, perfectly thinly sliced. Along with this protein plate there was a mountain of noodles and a platter of herbs. Unfortunately we were just two people and had to leave a fair amount behind, but boy was it good while it lasted.Oh! It’s sideways. but it was rightways when we ate it. Then we wandered to a nearby Bia Hoi. Here we met a new group of friendly Vietnamese. They worked for a newspaper in a nearby city called Thuy Nguyen City. This was a half hour conversation over many beers to figure out, given the complete lack of common language. But they were so friendly, there was not turning back. Luckily we learned a Vietnamese phrase to shout along with them. Something to the affect of Choc tum cham (any Vietnamese speakers–this is probably totally wrong, help me?) that meant to chug your beer. Bottoms up! 100 Percent! Oh, good, they knew the English translation of this phrase. We had a great time.We spent a few days on Halong Bay, on a ship. The food was mostly unremarkable, flavor wise. But these prawns deserve special mention for being ENORMOUS. Do you see this? They’re huge!
And with that, I leave you to create…part 2 of Hanoi Food