Monday, August 01, 2011

Eating in Hanoi

After nearly a year in Hanoi, I'm finally getting into street food. I know, I know, everyone tells me you come here for the street food, it's the only way to try the 'real' local food. However after a lifetime of food and drink-related illnesses - including typhoid, salmonella and numerous bouts of giardia - I've become pretty cautious and have been training my gut to process the local bacteria. Plus there are some fantastic Vietnamese restaurants that serve sanitised but still delicious versions of street food including Quan An Ngon, Nha Hang Ngon, Dieu's Cuisine and the higher end Madame Hien. Oh and did I mention we have a cook that makes the most wonderful bun cha (barbecued meat served with fresh herbs and rice noodles), nem (spring rolls) and pho cuon (stuffed rice noodle rolls)?

The street food I've most been dying to try has been at the bia hois, basic beer cafes that serve beer from kegs and either a few or many different dishes. The one we chose was packed on Saturday night - large, bright with little plastic stools and tables and even an English menu, great for a beginner like me. We ordered our favourite vegetable dish rau muong (Vietnamese spinach) fried with garlic as well as the local classic fried steak and chips called bo bit tet, roast pigeon, and the ubiquitous nem. All were really tasty, not exactly light and healthy, but perfect with a couple of beers. Next up I will be going to a bia hoi that only does a couple of dishes and has no menu, then onto some of the food vendors selling specialised dishes like bun cha and pho cuon. Let the street food journey begin...

The bia hoi we went to was Cua Hang Bia Hoi, 2 Duong Thanh, Hanoi. For more information on places to eat in Hanoi and contact details for the above mentioned restaurants, go to the expat UGC site The New Hanoian or The Word, an excellent Time Out-style website and magazine, or the most famous Vietnam food blog Sticky Rice. Bia hois can be found all over Hanoi, perhaps keep the beer intake at a minimum as the toilets are fairly foul.

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