There is no way I am going to visit Vietnam without doing a food tour. We have a good selection of Vietnamese restaurants where I live but I would like to know which dishes I have been overlooking.
I’m early so the tour office suggests I walk around while I wait and maybe get a beer on beer street which is nearby.
We meet our friendly tour guide Cozy. The area is crowded so we try to stick close to her as she takes us to all the stops.
1. Bún Chả at Bun Cha Ta
First stop is for Bún Chả (Rice Noodles with BBQ Pork). There is a vegetarian version of the soup if needed but I did not come all this way to not try the dish in its original form. It is delicious and well balanced. The pork meatball and soup is served separately from the rice vermicelli and herbs. You assemble it all together at the table. Cozy tells us about how this dish is different depending on if you order it in the north or south Vietnam (It tends to be more spicy in the north and sweeter in the south). I have another new favorite.
No.21, Nguyễn Hữu Huân Street
2. Egg Coffee, happy water and Vietnamese Baguette at Hanoi Egg Coffee
No.10, Hàng Muối Street
We go to the egg coffee shop to try a few things.
Egg coffee is made from egg yolks, sugar, condensed milk and coffee. It is delicious but very rich. I would probably drink it as a once in a while treat.
Bánh mì is pretty familiar to me because we have them back home. The one served here is pretty tasty.
We learn a Vietnamese cheer and then try happy water (rice wine) or rượu và.
3. Dried Beef Salad “Sexy Salad” (Nộm Bò Khô) at Long Vi Dung
No.23, Hồ Hòan Kiếm Street
At a small outdoor restaurant where we sit on little chairs Cozy introduces us to what she calls “sexy salad” (Nộm Bò Khô). It is a dried beef salad made with shredded green papaya. The papaya is not sweet so it all makes sense. I am eating raw street vegetables (a big gastrointestinal no-no) but I don’t care. The salad is good. It does not seem to give me problems later on so I would not be opposed to coming back to order this salad again.
4. Steamed rice Pancake or Bánh cuon at Quán Bánh Cuốn Bảo Khánh
No.14B, Báo Khánh Street
First we watch Bánh cuon made by the women outside then we go inside to have the pancakes served with dipping sauce. Main ingredients of the pancake are rice batter, ground pork, wood ear mushroom, and shallots. They are a nice snack.
5. Vietnamese Fried Cakes (Pillow cake, salty donut, sweet donut, fermented pork)- Đồ rán at Bánh Gối Lý Quốc Sư
No.52, Lý Quốc Sư Street
Some are savory, some are sweet but all are good. I would like to come back sometime and order a whole plate of this for myself.
6. Fried rice and Spring roll (Cơm rang & Nem rán)
No.65A Bát Đàn Street
Viet Spring Rolls to try their spring rolls. The wrapper is flakier that what we typical get in the USA. The rice is a nice accompaniment.
7. Sticky rice with coconut ice-cream – Kem xôi dừa
No.95 Hàng Bạc Street
We end it all with Kem xôi dừa or sticky rice with coconut ice-cream. The rice is colored green from the pandan leaves. It is a very nice treat. What a perfect way to end the evening.
I contemplate a night cap at beer street but my belly is too full so I start walking back to the hotel via the walking streets by the lake. The streets come alive at night. People are selling things, groups are dancing, people are singing; it is very entertaining.