Looking through pictures from my Hanoi trip, I’m convinced that I didn’t eat hard enough. Which doesn’t make sense because I was permanently full for two days. I regret not eating everything in sight! But maybe I feel that way to a certain degree about every trip, a sort of traveler’s remorse about all the what if’s, even food!
But then, there are legitimate reasons. There’s only so much stomach real estate. Some things looked funky and I would never find out what I ate given the language barrier so I passed. Buying a serving just to taste and then toss felt wasteful. So here’s a tip for your Hanoi trip – instead of buying a whole serving, hold up just the amount that you’d like and have the vendor charge you accordingly. Not all vendors may do this but I’m thinking most would agree to a sale no matter how small.
That’s how I found out the round green fruit that looks like sineguelas with red insides is bitter. Glad I didn’t have to work through a whole bag of that.
Are your jaws tingling? Mine, too. The salt + sugar + chili powder combo is bomb and goes so well with green mango as I’m sure you can imagine. I don’t know what the halved round green fruits are but I remember thinking of sayote when I had it.
While we’re on the subject of fruits:
I have no idea what they are. Texturally, they’re similar to plums but they’re a little astringent and mostly sour with no other distinct flavor which I guess is why they’re sold with a small packet of salt. Didn’t rock my world. But the worst was:
We only tried the dark glazed ones in the bag and they had an undercurrent of rancid lard. It was pretty nasty. Bad batch perhaps?
Now on to the good stuff. You can’t be in Vietnam and not have coffee, it’s just wrong. Not a coffee drinker? Can you please suck it up?? Vietnamese coffee just might turn you into a convert. Besides, it’s hard to resist when cafes beckon everywhere and there are even mobile ones!
Every morning, before I sat down for Vietnamese coffee at a random cafe, I got myself a banh my. Banh my is a Vietnamese sandwich made with a protein (grilled meat, pâté, egg, etc) and a pickle element stuffed into a baguette, a culinary mark of the French colonial period. This store was near my hostel and I grabbed my breakfast here. Good stuff.
The streets of Hanoi are dotted with banh my stands so I would usually grab another later in the day.
They were all as delicious as they look. And just the baguette alone was so good, soft and chewy with a crisp crust. SALIVATING UGH.
On the night of Beer Corner mentioned in a previous post, my friends and I got to try some Vietnamese bar chow and we liked the cheese sticks best.
The very crunchy logs held something like mozzarella inside. Hard to screw that up.
It was also during night time in the neighborhood of Beer Corner that I saw guys in bicycles peddling this stuff:
It’s corn kernels sautéed in butter with fried salty-sweet anchovies. It’s tasty and would go great with a beer or five.
It blows my mind how countries in Southeast Asia can have such different produce. Like when I went to Bangkok, pomegranate was being juiced in every corner (so fresh and super delicious). In Hanoi, it’s passion fruit. They put it in yogurt and make juice.
I had this while roaming the weekend night market and it was yummers.
What was surprising to me about the Hanoi street food scene was that they have quite a bit of Korean street food thrown in. I’m not sure if this is just a trendy Korean wave thing or there’s some cultural reason I don’t know about although my Dad thinks the Vietnamese probably don’t like the Koreans very much because Koreans fought alongside the Americans during the Vietnam War. So I don’t know what to make of that.
I had a fried fish cake at this stand and it was mushy and starchy. I will never know what the other stuff tastes like and this will haunt me. I mean, I get that I was really craving dessert but instead of trying something local I settled for Korean ice cream which I could have had here. Really?!
I’m so annoyed with myself. So please, if you’re going away on a trip, eat local and eat lots of it! Or book a food tour. I did. Take you around on my next post.