The Hanoitimes - Hanoi teems with sidewalk life. Motorbikes beep as they zoom the past, pushing you closer to the woman washing chickens on the sidewalk who`s crouched in front of a café packed with people drinking egg coffees or local beer.
That comment line among one article in Detroit Free Press – part of the USA Today Network. According to an author, they decided to start our trip with a guided street food tour, leaving it to an expert to pick the gastrointestinal-friendly places and explain the unfamiliar options.
The walking tour starts with “Bun Cha Ta”. The tour guide explained that most restaurants are known by numbered addresses. Many are named solely by their dish — like bun cha, a pork, and noodle dish — and locals remember that dish, and where to find it. In this case, locals would describe it as the place serving bun cha at 21 Nguyen Huu Huan St., as opposed to “Bun Cha Ta”.
Banh Cuon Hanoi.
In addition, the group explained how to eat “Bun Cha” by their guide. The tour guide explained how to eat it — and a Chile or two, but “just leave it” for flavor, don't eat it — and detailed the broth's mix of vinegar, honey, and water. It didn't take long for us to appreciate the challenge of a food tour with eight stops.
In Vietnam, eating is a process. Small bowls accompany each meal so that diners can perfect the taste to their liking. It's normal, the tour guide said, to spend 10 minutes fiddling with add-on ingredients to get it exactly right. Balance is key. Diners tweak their culinary concoction to get the ideal mix of sweet and sour, salty and spicy.
Next, they made their way to a place serving papaya and beef salad. A bit different from other papaya salads in the region, this one was light on spice and big on crunch thanks to the peanuts. Not only did they get to learn about Vietnamese food and how to eat it; they also got to see how it's made.
At the next stop, they had a chance to enjoy “Banh Cuon” - another famous dish of Hano. In here, they just stand and look at a woman preparing a steamed rice pancake called Banh Cuon waited patiently as our guide explained the process. Then, in front of our disbelieving eyes, she picked up a bamboo stick to effortlessly create an ethereal sheet from the batter. Some in our group attempted the same. None succeeded. Walking to the tiny room behind her, we sat at a table to eat the finished product, dipping it in fish sauce and vinegar with individually added garlic.
Fresh beer and coffee egg, of course, were also on tap. The whipped egg, their guide explained, keeps the coffee underneath warm. After all, people on a food tour also enjoy a lot of famous dishes in Hanoi.