Vietnam Day One – Hanoi Food Tour

Hit the street food hard today. Perfect weather, low 70s and a breeze, lots if lakes here throughout the city and the Red River.

IMG_3383Started with a few black coffees and some nice dark bread with a jam that was almost more of a chunky chutny of mango and cinnamon. They seem really proud of their coffee here, it’s ok, but not the Peets hard stuff I needed to get going after the jetlag. But, combined with the 7 hours of Ambien sleep it got us out the door. Hanoi is very beautiful so far. None if the pollution of china, a fraction of the number of smokers, and virtually zero people trying to sell you crap on the street. You can walk up and look at shops and buy or not buy with no hassle. The architecture is much more simple, nothing much over 3-4 stories, all in a sort of pleasant state of southeast Asian decay. We are staying near a small lake in the old quarter with lots of people jogging and doing exercising. Another sign the pollution is not bad.

Our food guide named Tu was incredible. Great English and very open about all things Vietnam. A former chef at a top restaurant in town now making a very good living doing food tours for gringos. Crossing the street here is total f’ing chaos! 4-6 lanes of interwoven traffic and that’s not even the intersections. They have great side walks but they are unless since there are thousands of motorcycles parked on them. So walking in the street was constant. Tu said the general rule was to walk slowly and calmly, ignore the three ton truck coming from the left and the Vespa with a family of four coming from the right, make no eye contact and whatever you do don’t alter speed at all…because you might make THEM nervous!

Our first meal was pork belly cooked over wood charcoal on a small ground stove and a bowl of pork pho that was incredible! Tu pleaded with us not to finish everything since we had 6 stops but I couldn’t hold back. Nobody stares at us like in china either, maybe one of the benefits of all the backpackers, just some more strange white people trying comically to squat on tiny plastic stools.
Second stop was sweet young rice cakes filled with mung bean and tea. Very nice and sweet after the MSG rush we just had.

Third was sweet potato and fried shrimp cakes dipped in a vinaigrette/sugar/fish sauce with chillies and papaya. New for me to eat the whole shrimp with the shell but tasty though pointy in parts.

Things got real at the next place. Black small chicken/possible a sparrow or pigeon, cooked inside of a beer can with Chinese herbs. Very smokey, very salty, and very small bony. We both tried it and the vendor was watching us closely. Things were going well until I pulled the head of the bird off and Vanessa shut down. Haha. Next stop we both needed to pound a cold beer. The worst part was that they had small parquets in a cage in the food stale that were about the size of what we were eating…cheep cheep cheep as we ate the “chicken”
After the beers we had another bowl of pork pho with smoked pork at a ally stall that was run by a third generation pho family. Incredibly good.

MSG brain was setting in and we needed more coffee. We had iced coffee with whipped egg/sugar/condensed milk. Basically iced coffee with custard on top. With a bowl of cold tapioca and fried bananas. Vanessa had already forgotten about eating lil woodstalk.

Then crab and sweet rice fried in packets and chicken with sticky rice served with green cold honey tea. Vanessa had slowed down by now but I was plowing ahead.IMG_3400

One last iced coffee ended our three hour tour. I felt victorious. We walked home alone, surviving several more life threatening street crossings which required another cold Tiger beer.

Checked at the Hoa Lou prison “Hanoi Hilton”. Super downer/funny. Lots of classic commie propaganda. Many pictures of McCain having a nice stay, plus his flight suit/parachute. Looks like the boys had a good time playing cards and getting on shape while they were here. Cough/bullshit…though the pictures of Nixons carpet bombing of the city during operation linebacker are pretty extensive here. They had creepy shindlers list music playing through speakers in the whole place. I left depressed with a bad case of swamp ass to boot.

Nap time and the hope that my back pack will arrive today from Korea as the Korean air t shirt I am wearing, a gift that they felt makes up for leaving my bag behind, has food all over it.





  1. Thanks for your excellent article and there are travelers more enjoying hanoi street foods

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