Hungry in Hanoi
By Maggie Videan
Hanoi is a wonderful city, busy and bustling, with a feast of fabulous local eateries that are well priced and boast wonderful fare.
As such, my short sojourn in Hanoi was enhanced by the fact that I am such a ‘foodie’; I was in my element out and about savouring the delights of this very interesting and diverse cuisine. Hardly anyone speaks English, so the trick is to track down a local who can help with some menu choices. Then, have them write the ones you like in Vietnamese so the next place you eat, you can ask for your faves. While the locals may not be fluent in English, they will, however, often be able to read an address, or specification or instruction, including obscure things like shoe brands and sizes or menu choices.
Many places, such as ‘Delicious’ restaurant, have their entire menu photographed, so the hapless foreigner can simply point to what looks appetising.
So, back to the food. Everything in ‘Delicious’ is delicious and so cheap. Rice-based carbs are a staple across the country and very adaptable to a variety of dishes. You will find rice noodles in the traditional dish Pho soup. It is also the basis for a dish of large rectangular soft rice sheets with fried spring onions and soy served as an appetiser. Rice paper sheets are often offered with a meal to wrap various yummy bits and pieces.
When selecting a dish that includes wrapping things up, you will be given a selection of vegetables and interesting herbs to accompany whatever the main item is. Of note is (Tom Banh Tiang) the minced prawns cooked on sugar cane skewers accompanied by slices of raw green banana, thinly sliced cucumber, bean shoots and a selection of interesting fresh, aromatic herbs, chilli paste as well as a light sweet sauce. So, one combines the selection offered according to personal preference, but the result is a total ‘taste explosion’ which then sets up the conundrum, ‘How will I combine the next selection to replicate what I just had?’.
The list of local cuisine is endless. Let me suggest the ‘must have’s:
- Pho is the local soup and is to die for. It consists of broth of some description (either beef or chicken), sliced meat or chicken, rice noodles, a bit of green veg, some fried and fresh shallots. Good pho, as I was told, has shredded Banana/Lotus Flower in it. It is served with lemon/lime slices and chilli paste. It is available everywhere but I found a great place in the old Quarter called Huyen Huong which was very reasonable for a quick lunch between checking out the endless silk and handicraft shops. It is located just a block away from the lake at 20 Bao Khan.
- Green Mango Salad is another fabulous dish and served to perfection at ‘Highway 4’. The simple fried noodle with vegetables was surprisingly good also.
- For the finale, across the road from the featured ‘Delicious’ restaurant, is the most exceptional French Patisserie I have ever been to. An enormous selection of all things French and delectable are displayed to tempt even the fullest Pho tum into something sweet for the tooth and wicked for the waist line!
Maggie Videan is a professional trainer, MC and speaker. For further information email email@example.com