After a few fumbles along the food trail in Bangkok, with an overpriced lunch and a mediocre dinner, we were set for redemption in Hanoi. Vietnam would only be experienced with street food, and we knew just the right person to show us all the hidden gems.
Having met through the small food blogging world, we made prior arrangements with Tu, also known as @Vietnamesegod on twitter and the writer of www.vietnamesegod.blogspot.com to ensure that not a single bite would go missing on our few days in Hanoi. After checking in and a quick drink at the bar, we met with Tu who ensured us that his evening was dedicated to our palates. With explicit instructions not to finish every plate of food, leaving room for more to try, we were off on our journey through the streets of Hanoi.
Our first stop, and a recurring theme through out the evening, included a few plastic chairs short to the ground, surrounding a small plastic table, and one item on the “menu”, with the highlighted dish cooked outside. Pho Xau Bo at Kuong Nga on Van Mie Street was the first delicious bite to hit our lips. Automatically we failed at Tu’s one and only rule, small tastes. It was so incredibly flavorful, that putting our chop sticks down was just not an option. The soft sauteed beef with vegetables mounted on top of the crispy fried noodles encompassed all the textures for the perfect bite of this slightly spicy dish. Although our initial thought linked hunger to our inability to stop eating it, we later realized it was our favorite of the night, and dreams of having it again soon followed.
Our next stop was a delicate sweet dish, of coconut broth and mixed fruits and vegetables. A combination of characters not frequently seen together, we found no problem scooping out the sweet potatoes and beans in what is considered a dessert dish.
Next we were back on to savorily. A dish most notable in Vietnamese cuisine, Pho Ga is a combination of noodles and chicken in a delicate broth. Although in the south, one might find this dish to incorporate more vegetables, ours was served with one green and the most delicate chicken. Tu knows his spot, for future attempts at Pho on our trip, clearly showcased the beauty of this one, only to be found at 172 Ton Duc Thang St, for a mere 99 cents a bowl.
Having learned our lesson, we only had a few spoonfuls, leaving room for our next bite, Banh Cuon in a small nook of a place in the old quarter. A steamed rice pancake, made to order on what looked very similar to a crepe creation, it is then rolled with minced pork and mushrooms, followed by a hearty topping of dried shallots, mint and coriander. The delicate big fat noodle, housing the sauteed meat and mushroom, was only further enhanced with the salty touches of the shallots and refreshing notes of green.
A bit full at this point, we took a break with a classic Hanoi street food of grilled squid and beer. A fish that is initially dried, it is later beaten over a small grill, and served along side a refreshing ice cold beer. The performance of its preparation, it is enjoyed in just the same way, eaten sitting barefoot on a rug on the street while catching up with old friends, and new.
Our two final stops, dedicated to pleasing our sweet tooth, included a trio of Bahn Troi Tay and later on a sweet lemon tea. From the trio, we favored the rice flour with two fillings in a ginger infused syrup and found refreshment in homemade sweet tea.
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