Food is an integral part of travel, a country’s culture can be revealed through it’s cuisine. There are many aspects to culture and people understand ones culture through different eyes and each has an independent way of processing that experience. Food is undoubtedly the way I connect with a person who is from the other side of the world and I would encourage everybody to be open minded about food when traveling, hoping that you would find the courage to try weird and wonderful things on trips abroad. There are basically lots of packages to book online and be in the rendezvous of a destination like Vietnam, i booked a 12 day Vietnam travel packages and here is the story:
I get knuckle deep in sauces, munch on unusual breads or different types of cooked meats jolted at me by eager stall vendors and if I really like the stuff I’ll talk and ask plenty of questions to get a real grasp of what I am eating and where it came from and who invented it! You see travelers often sitting in the corner with a smirk on the face, probably feeling sorry for the poor man or lady having to deal with my chitter chatter! It is such an enjoyable part of travel and some of my best memories stem from food experiences, thanks to my guide, Thu, who was part of my great Vietnam vacation. I would like to try the things that are completely new and making funny faces because I didn’t like it and then having the vendor in fits of laughter along with his whole family and a bunch of his/her friends is priceless ‘too much chili – hot, hot, HOT!’. It is either tasty grub or horrible fare if I am very unlucky! But that is part of the game, so here is what I tried out in Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam.
Tai Bap Pho (beef fillet noodle soup) – A beautifully flavored soup filled with tender beef, slightly chewy noodles and a broth bursting with freshness thanks to the use of herbs. You will get a bowl of it with less than $5
Banh Mi Ga Ran (fried chicken Banh Mi) – Banh Mi is just one of the many indications that it was once ruled by the French. Various meats and salads are stuffed into a crisp on the outside and soft on the inside baguette. While trying Bun Cha on Ly Quoc Su Street I was informed to head to the best Banh Mi stall in all of Hanoi by some fellow Dutch travelers. They didn’t lie – it was delicious but will never live up to Banh Mi Phuong’s. I chose the fried chicken which was beautifully accompanied by mixed carrot, papaya, cucumber, tomatoes, mayo and a sizzling squeeze of hot chili sauce.
Thit Heo Chien Cha Gio (pork fried spring rolls) – The Vietnamese are mad about their fresh spring rolls and so they should be. The herbs packed into the center of paper thin rice sheets are an ultimate freshness during a belting hot day, but the fried variety are just as good. They are traditionally stuffed with pork and mixed sliced veggies and then eaten along side a chili dipping sauce. City View Cafe is a great place to get a good look at the bustling Hanoi from a height (and perhaps a safer place, tucked up a few floors away from those nutty scooter bike drivers!) and have a sneak peak at the beautiful Hoan Kiem lake.
Bun Cha (BBQ / grilled pork noodles and herbs) – This Vietnamese dish consists of white rice noodles, BBQ pork, tonnes of different herbs and served with a clear chili sauce. The place where I tried this was perhaps not the best and I have to say the pork was too fatty to be enjoyable. The noodles and herbs were refreshing but I was disappointed at how the cafe executed this famous dish. I have heard rave reviews about Bun Cha and would advise you to take a chance and try it where you can! If it is done properly I bet it is a knock out.
Ca Phe Trung (egg coffee) – This is an eggy coffee. I know it sounds horribly unappealing but it is a definite must try. Steeped in Hanoi culture, the best place to find the ultimate Caphe Trung is at Giang Cafe. Mr Nguyen created this rich coffee during times when milk was scarce in Hanoi and instead substituted an egg yolk which is whisked with sweetened condensed milk. It was a mission finding this hidden cafe but well worth the hassle (I’ve added a picture below to show what the exterior of the cafe looks like). The coffee itself is so rich and gloppy. It is served with ice which kind of relaxes and cools down the intense nature of the drink – something to indulge in on a special occasion.
Takoyaki – A Japanese snack which comes in a ball form with different things wedged into the middle. I tried 1) Octopus and red ginger 2) Octopus and Kim Chi 3) Pork sausage and cheese. Not something I’d have everyday but I’d definitely advise people to give it a try! It was squidgy and soft and not crispy as I expected! It comes with mayo squeezed on top with sprinkles of what I thought was dried smoked salmon.
If you are in Hanoi and would like to partake in a street food tour, then i highly recommend to book a local guide to show you what your lonely planet guide book cant.