MY HANOI STREET FOOD TOUR WITH VIETNAM ECO TRAVEL – COME HUNGRY, LEAVE SATISFIED!


    It’s the first time I visited Hanoi, Vietnam’s capital city. It’s a chaotic, buzzing and hungry city that is a lot of interesting things to do. Before visiting Hanoi, my friend recommended me to try street food in Hanoi, especially in Hanoi Old Quarter which is a paradise of street food and the tastiest food place in the capital.
Honestly, all my knowledge of Vietnamese food barely stretched beyond “pho” (Vietnamese noodle soup) and  “ banh mi ” (Vietnamese sandwich) before I visited Vietnam. Therefore with a food lover, I am so curious and excited with trying Vietnamese cuisine. So, what is the best way to try as much as possible authentic and local dishes in best places in Hanoi Old Quarter?, I decided to book a private Hanoi street food tour with a tour company names: Vietnam Eco Travel to make my stomach happily. I booked it online and confirmed quickly by them. So, let’s explore what how happy my stomach was through this tour!

   My tour started at 5:00 pm and they would pick me up from my hotel in Hanoi Old Quarter. My tour guide, Ha, came on time and introduced herself and wasted no time taking me to our first stop: Nom bo kho (dried beef and salad). Ha said that through this tour, each dish she just ordered a small dish to help me no feel full quickly. That’s true, I wanted to eat all this old quarter.LOL.

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   “Nom bo kho” is very tasty. It includes papaya, peanut, dried beef, herb and an awesome sauce made from soya. I love dried beef which was made by this small restaurant, it tasted different from dried beef that I tried before at home. Especially I ate on the sidewalk with a small plastic chair. I could see everyone, lifestyle from outside. Oh god, I love this moment!. Ha told me that with local restaurants in Hanoi Old Quarter, they don’t need to hire much staff because their members in their family will work with their family, from grandparents to their children. They live in their restaurant, each family has from 3 to 4 generations in a small space. I was surprised that a house or apartment in here are very small and still have a lot of people can live together in a small house. After that Ha guided me to a small long lane which has about 100 apartments. They even have to share restrooms together. Ha said that in here each 1m2 has 4 people. That’s crazy but I understood that it’s very expensive to buy space here and Hanoi Old quarter is a good place to earn money because it’s a touristic place!.

   We continue on the tour and visited Dong Xuan market which is the oldest and biggest market in Hanoi. Inside the market, it’s really large. There are numerous kinds of goods and products selling in this market such as clothes, household goods, dried foods, etc. Go out of the market, we visited the fresh market behind Dong Xuan market. They was selling fish, frogs, eels, small birds, and even turtle, etc which that are kept in large bubbling pans. Ha said that Vietnamese people can eat almost of animals: Any animal can move, we can eat it. That was funny. Vietnamese also eat dog meat, cat meat, rat, worm, insects, etc. It sounds creepy but I know it’s their culture for centuries. It will be a big problem if you eat dog meat or cat meat in Germany. And yes, dog and cat are members in my family so I never want to eat them.
Ha showed me some special foods which are favorite foods of Vietnamese people but they’re weird and creepy with foreigners, especially westerners like me. They were duck egg fetus, I even could see a baby duck inside, maybe they will become a cute duck soon, they just boiled them and ate with ginger and vegetables; fresh pig blood pudding and fresh coconut worm. They really made me scared. I saw the coconut worm still moved inside fish sauce which was served in a small bowl. Yeah, I couldn’t try it although locals tried to motivate me that they’re delicious. Oh my god!, “No, thank you”!. If you have a brave heart and strong stomach, try them!
 
   Anyway it’s really interesting to chat with locals although they don’t speak much English but they’re super friendly and always smile. I think Vietnam is one of happiest countries in the world.
My next stop for food is a small restaurant where I tried “Bun cha”. Ha said that this restaurant serving the best “bun cha” in the city. Delicately crispy spring rolls and herbs such as shiso, holy basil, lettuce accompany the main event: a bowl of warm broth containing “cha” (grilled pork) into which you add white nice noodles. Oh my god! I love the dipping sauce which is made from fish sauce, vinegar, papaya, carrot, etc. It was awesome. This dish is the best Vietnamese food I have ever tried. I couldn’t help to eat all of it for some minutes.  Ha lead me around the Hoan Kiem Lake (Returned sword lake) and told me the story of Le Loi King, the turtle god and the magical sword. It was interesting story and I respected this holy place. Ha also told me about Vietnamese religion and spiritual life. I feel like I love Vietnam more and more right now. :D

   On the way to try “Banh cuon”, we tried “bia hoi”, the fresh beer inVietnam. It was very light and it’s a favorite beer of local, especially in summer. Now I know how to say “cheer” in Vietnamese: 1,2,3 zo!. It’s funny!.Hahaa.
 
   Next stop, I tried “banh cuon” (Steamed rice pancake rolls). It fiiled with minced pork, and vegetables, including shallots and mushrooms. The pancake sheets are incrediblely thin, so attempting to peel my our off the hot surface with a stick didn’t quite go to plan – but it’s fun all the same!. Again, the sauce of this dish made made me addicted. This dish is easy to eat so I think you absolutely love it!.
While we ate “Banh cuon”, Ha spoke about her life, her small village before moving to Hanoi for studying. She kept talking about ancestor veneration, which can be seen across all of Vietnam. She explained the reason why people burn fake money in a small stove on the side of the road or on the street, as an offering to their ancestors in the another world where death people live. In their religion, when they burn something for their ancestor, they can receive it and use it in their world. I think this habit is interesting but I think they shouldn’t waist too much money to buy things and burn it because Ha said that some people even buy a big fake house, car, iphone, motorbike, etc and then burn them for their ancestors. Anyway I respect Vietnamese culture and their spiritual life!.

   After that, we didn’t go too far for the next stop. Appearing in front of my eyes, this was a nondescript street cart selling small loaves of “banh mi” (Vietnamese sandwich) lathered. I tried “banh mi” before at home but when I took one first bite of this “banh mi”, I think I was in heaven. It was much more better than the “banh mi” in Germany. The bread is crunchy, Vietnamese ham, liver paste, pickle papaya and carrot, herbs were perfect combination. How could I express my feeling after trying it. I just ate and ate until the last piece. “So yummy”. There is only one cart in the city open from 4:00 pm to 8:00 pm. I think I will absolutely come back here again because I think I am addicted with “banh mi” now.
Ha told me about the difference between the regional differences in Vietnamese cuisine: Southern Vietnamese food is sweet because they put sugar in every dishes, Central Vietnamese cuisine is spicy because of their favorite flavor, they put a lot of chili into their dishes, and northern Vietnamese is all about balance. So I think northern cuisine is my favorite choice because I don’t eat spicy and sweet  much. Otherwise, it’s not the reason for a food lover like me to stop trying Vietnamese cuisine in another parts of Vietnam. 

   I was a little fun after that. I thought I just could eat 1 dish more, I had a beer belly right now and I wish my stomach was bigger at that moment. Ha guided me to try “bun rieu cua” (crab noodle soup). I just had beef noodle soup so it’s my first time to try this dish. It’s my favorite savoury dish of the night. It was served with a light vermicelli, tasty freshwater crab and a clear tomato broth. I really love the broth. Maybe I’ll try to make it at home, my family will be absolutely like it. Ha told me that the owner of this restaurant starts cooking at 5:30 am every day, after buying fresh tomatoes and crabs from the market and then create this rich and awesome dish. With her restaurant, she doesn’t hire any staff. All of the staff here are members of her family: her daughter, her husband and her grandmother. They live in the restaurant together. I noticed that in every restaurants and hotels in here, they have a small altar in the corner of their restaurant or hotel with small statues of 2 men. I asked Ha and she said that they were “than tai” (fortune god) and “tho dia” (god of land). Everyday people will put fruits, food, burn incense sticks and pray to have more customers. They even burn cigarettes because the fortune god like cigarettes. It’s interesting to hear that. 

    I was so full. Yeah, I didn’t want to say that because I still wish to try more but my stomach will be angry with me if I eat more. LOL. I couldn’t eat any food more so last stop, Ha guided me to try egg coffee in a best place of this city. Egg coffee is a special coffee in Hanoi, it only have in Vietnam, nowhere in the world. I love coffee so was so excited to try it. We went to a secret place which is hard for tourists to find it. Go inside with a small lane, I smelt coffee flavor already. Ha told me about the history of the man who created egg coffee from 1946. It was interesting because egg coffee now becomes more and more popular and attracts tourists when they visit Hanoi. An egg coffee is made from chicken egg yolks, sugar, condensed milk and Vietnamese coffee. Vietnam is one of top exporting country for coffee. When the egg coffee is served, it was beautiful. A cup of egg coffee is small, cute inside a bowl of hot water to retain its temperature. The marriage of egg’s rich taste and aromatic coffee waiting through the air makes up specific flavor. It tasted yummy with perfect combination. First it has 2 parts: whipped egg with stuffs on the top and the coffee below so you should mix them well before drinking. The whipped egg is thick, look like scream. I drank until the last drop. It’s awesome, I was thinking about how could I drink it again when I am back home. Maybe I should learn the recipe to make egg coffee and then I can open my own egg coffee shop at home. I will be rich. LOL.

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   When I was drinking egg coffee, Ha told me a lot a lot about Vietnamese ethnic groups and the special culture of some ethnics which are very interesting. We chatted about many things and I laughed a lot.
After 4 hours of munching on the streets of Hanoi Old Quarter, I was set to bust. Ha guided me back to my hotel. I had a memorable tour with a lot of fun and my stomach was absolutely satisfied now. LOL. With this street food tour, I not only could try delicious Vietnamese foods but also I know more about Vietnamese culture, lifestyle, spiritual life, etc via introduction of my lovely guide – Ha. I love Vietnam more and more now. And I am eager to continue my journey to southern of Vietnam tomorrow to have more incredible experiences in this “S country”!.

   You can visit Vietnam Eco Travel’s website and follow them on Facebook and Youtube