Street Food in Old Quarter

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Saturday was a busy day for us. We started the day off with a street food tour in Hanoi’s Old Quarter. The tour was given by the leader of our Embassy language program, and it was an intimate group, giving us the advantage of stopping at stalls we liked. The tour started at Dong Xuan market, the biggest in Hanoi, and there you can buy anything that you can imagine. We walked to Hanoi’s most famous food alley, right outside of the market. The alley was extremely narrow, forcing us to walk single file. But like most adventures, there was a huge payoff at the end of the road.

We chose to eat Bun Cha for breakfast, sitting in a small room off the alley with plastic kids tables and stools. Most of the eating in this alley is done counter style right in front of the chef. But since we had Oliver, it was easiest to step inside and eat where he would be out of the way.

After breakfast we walked down the road to an open air market selling fruits, vegetables, and all kinds of meat and fish. Some of the meat was still alive, like the fish, sitting waiting to be chosen. Some of the meat was already butchered into choice pieces, with a woman waiting to sell you whatever amount you wanted. There were fruits I hadn’t seen yet, including a red dragon fruit. The most common dragon fruit has white flesh, but these were red, and just as delicious.

The next stop was a stop I never thought I’d make. Across the street from the last remaining Old City Gate is a woman who makes fresh sea worm cakes and spring rolls. So, we ordered some and went to wait under the ancient gate for our food. There was no room in her stand for our large group, so they brought the kids table and stools to us, making us our own dining room under the city gate. The fried cakes are made with tangerine, so they are very fresh and yummy. I didn’t care for the sea worm egg rolls, they were a little too fishy for me. But even Oliver couldn’t deny that the sea worm cakes were delicious. The sea worms are only fresh for a short time, and are frozen the rest of the year. We were lucky enough to get fresh sea worms.

Next we stopped at a stand for Banh Cuon (rice flour steamed rolls) that had minced pork inside with crispy fried onions on top. They also came with a honey and lemon/lime iced drink that hit the spot. Like a lot of food in Vietnam, what made the Banh Cuon was the yummy fish sauce made from scratch. I couldn’t finish mine at that point, because I was stuffed, but I did my best to share everything I couldn’t eat.

We finished the tour off with egg coffee at Giang Cafe Hanoi. The Cafe is really just a door on the street. The long hallway inside takes you up and up and up until you get to a floor with an open seat. They have a couple different options for your egg coffee: regular or with chocolate. Both looked amazing, and more like a custard than coffee. I chose not to partake since the egg isn’t fully cooked and thats one thing I’ll stay away from while pregnant. The chocolate egg coffee is on my list of musts once I’m not pregnant, because it looked amazing.

Now we have some new favorite street food stalls to take visitors! Don’t worry, we won’t subject you to the sea food cakes if you’re not interested…

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