Minnie, our food guide, is 23 and is studying civil law. She was born in Hanoi but you are only considered native Hanoian if you are 5 generations born in Hanoi and that must come from both parents.
We are joined by Michael who is originally from the USA but has just moved to Bangkok.
Each street food vendor has a specialty. Minnie said that they really don’t have ratings or TripAdvisor reviews. How do people choose? Go to places that your grandma and grandpa have been going to for years. It is good food and you won’t get sick.
Here was our menu:
1. “Bánh mì” – Vietnamese baguette with meat (98 Hàng Bạc str.)
2. “Nộm bò khô” – Jerky beef with papaya salad (23 Hồ Hoàn Kiếm str.)
3. “Bánh cuốn” – Steamed rice pancake (14 Bảo Khánh str.)
4. “Bún chả” – rebak with fermented rice noodle (12 Đinh Liệt str.)
5. “Nem lụi” – rolling pork with tropical veggie (73 Nguyễn Hữu Huân str.)
6. “Cà phê trứng” – Egg coffee/chocolate (105 Hàng Buồm str.)
7. “Kem xôi” – Coconut ice-cream with sticky rice/ pomelo pudding/ mango ice-cream/ other Vietnamese sweet desserts (95 Hàng Bạc str.)
#3 Our first stop was a Vietnamese pancake. It has rice flour and tapioca. It is steamed on a silk screen that acts like Teflon. Then you put meat and other food on top and roll it up.
#2 The next place was started by a lawyer. She quit being a lawyer because she makes more income in street food. It was packed. Each place has a specialty. Other places will open nearby and offer it. Eat at the one which is most crowded and has been around the longest.
At many of these restaurants we sat on kindergarten-sized plastic chairs. It’s difficult to stand up again.
Chopstick etiquette: Never separate the chopsticks. Lay them together on top of your bowl when you are done. And never, ever touch your chopsticks to the chopsticks of another. There is a curse involved!!!
#4 Obama made this dish famous when he came to Vietnam in 2016. It is the perfect food as it is a combination of hot and cold. The meat is pork belly which is traded on the food commodities market.
#1 Banh Mi is the word for sandwich. She grills small bagettes from day old bread from local restaurant.
#6 Egg coffee was invented because they wanted to have latte, but they don’t have milk readily available. A Vietnamese man who worked as a chef in a French restaurant came up with the idea of using egg yolks beat with sugar to top the coffee. It is like pudding on top and then one stirs it in.
We went to the restaurant where egg coffee was invented. We saw this picture hanging on the wall. The small child in the middle on the bottom is the current owner.
#5 This dish had sausage cooked on lemongrass. We pulled it off the stick, added noodles and vegetables, and rolled it with rice paper. The recipe comes from the middle of Hue, and they have expanded to Hanoi.
#7 Delicious dessert of coconut ice cream.
When a relative dies, ritual papers are burned in front of the house of the departed. These papers are representations of possessions needed for the afterlife.
One girl burned a paper Mercedes car for her grandma so she would have a nice car. Later that night, the girl had a dream about her grandma. Grandma said that she doesn’t know how to drive so maybe her granddaughter could join her in death. The next day, the girl burned a picture of a chauffeur so that Grandma would have a driver.
We walked down a Street that had a lot of gravestone shops.
When someone dies, they bury them for a few years. Then they dig up the body and put the bones in a box like this. At that point they place the gravestone.
For dinner we consulted recommendations from Minnie. We decided to go to a restaurant at 47 Ma May Street. They feature Vietnamese beef barbeque that you cook yourself on a small grill. In our haste we ended up at #55 instead of #47. It seems that all of the restaurants on this Street provide barbeque (“Bo nuong”). We were lured in by a woman with a menu board that looked appropriate. This restaurant is not listed on the Internet. Is it safe?
We decided to stay. Since every food item would be grilled before we ate it, we felt confident that we could control the safety. We sat right next to the roadway, again on small chairs. Motorbikes were whizzing by about two feet away. No one else stopped at this restaurant while we were eating. They closed up at 10:30pm when we left.
Here are some more photos of scenes that we saw today.
The French installed electicity and the Vietnam continued the tradition.