The dishes you must try in Hanoi
Updated at Wednesday, 20 Sep 2017, 11:16
The Hanoitimes - O Mai, Tofu… these are the delicious dishes you have to try when to travel in Hanoi.
In the past, visitors always bought boxes of salted or sugared dry fruits on Hang Duong Street as gifts. Today, Hang Duong Street is much different; just a few houses keep the traditional job but when it comes to Hang Duong Street, people think about salted or sugared dry fruits that make up a distinct beauty for Hanoi.
Tien Thinh o mai shop at number 21 Hang Duong Street is an old house with simple ancient decoration. In a glass case, dozen of o mai jars and Vietnamese traditional gifts such as tea, cakes, cassava flour, and green rice cakes are arranged.
There are a variety of o mai such as: young dracontomelon fruits, ginger, apricot, five-star fruits, plum, etc. Customers in each area have their own favorite. Southern people like salted dracontomelon fruits, and young dracontomelon fruits while northern people like salted ginger, and salted apricot on cold days.
Main materials of o mai are typical fruits such asapricot, plum, tamarind, peach, mango, jackfruit. Every single o mai shop has its own traditional recipes.
Nowadays, o mai is no longer an exclusive product on Hang Duong Street. One can buy o mai at any supermarket, market, or drinking shop in street corner or from street vendors with different backgrounds and origin.
Quality issues of food safety and hygiene of o mai are very difficult to control, but o mai Hang Duong is still a reliable address because of quality products giving customers an elegant cuisine imbued with the Hanoi capital.
Tao Pho (Tofu pudding)
This dish recalls slices of white, smooth and thin tofu flooded with sugar water and smells of jasmine and grapefruit flowers. The image of a vendor with baskets of silken tofu and the street cries “who eats tofu?” Is familiar to Hanoi people.
For many years, silken tofu is still a favorite food in summer days of Hanoi but it has varied because of sellers’ creation or customers’ requirement. Below are some variations of tofu.
It can be said that this is the first “variation” of tofu and not much different from traditional silken tofu. They are still slices of white and smooth tofu but not watered with sugar, and soya milk instead.
Succulent taste of milk combined with the coolness of tofu creates a special flavor, which is both strange and familiar. Most tofu shops have two available choices for customers: tofu with sugar water and tofu with soya milk, depending on taste and favorite of each customer.
You are able to enjoy the dish on sidewalks or vendors on Doan Thi Diem street, Quang Trung street, etc.
Nem Chua nuong (Grilled Sausage)
Nowaday, Grilled Sausage is easy to find street vendors selling a variety of winter specialities such as grilled corn, fried bread sticks, boiled snails, fried banana cakes and grilled fermented pork sausage.
In particular, Vietnamese fermented pork sausage or nem chua is a favourite among young Hanoians. And as famous as the cheap bia hoi at the international crossroad Ta Hien, nem chua joints nearby have become a place where young Hanoians and foreign tourists head for the best nem chua in town.
Wandering around Ly Quoc Su in the Old Quarter of an evening, you will encounter the appetizing aroma of sizzling fermented pork roll grilled on barbecue over charcoals.
The aroma will lead you to nem chua joints hidden in an alley on Au Trieu where people squeeze into the tiny space, sitting on tiny plastic stools at dimly-lit stalls enjoying grilled and fried nem chua. This dish combines sweet and sour tastes, spiced up by local home-made chilli sauce. Plates of nem chua are paired with fruits, like green mango, jicama and various types of grilled dried fish or fried potatoes.
Nem chua is a meat roll made from rustic ingredients, including ground pork thigh, minced pork skin, chilli, garlic, fish sauce, sugar, salt, which is pressed, then cured and fermented by tender fig or guava leaves until ready, with no cooking needed. Being a traditional snack across Vietnam, nem chua differs from place to place.
Vietnamese green papaya salad
Vietnamese green papaya salad comes in two guises and one of them features earthy beef jerky and heady Thai basil (hung que). The other version of green papaya salad is southern Viet and has shrimp, pork and rau ram herb; the recipe is in Into the Vietnamese Kitchen. A northern Viet favorite, green papaya salad made with beef jerky includes slivers of smoked liver and on occasion, lung too.
Vietnamese green papaya salad.
In Hanoi’s Old Quarter, I recall a little street full of green papaya salad vendors. I’ve never had the lung in salads in the U.S. Both the jerky and liver are a tad chewy, the liver adding a slight minerally quality to the salad. It’s no great shakes. If you lived in Little Saigon, you’d go to the Vietnamese-Chinese jerky store for the beef and the liver. Or you make beef jerky at home, like I did last week. In my kitchen, I omit the liver and the salad is just fine.