NEWS: In 2017, we will not be available to conduct tours at the following times:

July 1-3, August 20-23, October 20-23, December 2-10

The food available in Hanoi's narrow alleys and tree-lined boulevards is just as much a part of the city as its lakes and old world architecture. In fact, all of these elements combine with the indomitable spirit of the Vietnamese people to produce a lively culinary scene that is both diverse and confronting.

Over the past twelve years, 'the god' (Van Cong Tu, author of the blog 'Vietnamese God') and 'Sticky' (Mark Lowerson, author of the blog Stickyrice) have been traversing the streets of Vietnam's capital, as well as cutting a wider arc through other regions of Vietnam and beyond, wolfing down between us virtually everything on offer.

Tu is an accredited tour guide with more than 17 years experience in the tourism and hospitality industry. He is an expert on the cuisine of the south-central coast, having grown up in Nha Trang and frequent visits to Ho Chi Minh City and Phu Quoc Island make him very well-versed in what people are feeding their faces with in the south, too. But Hanoi is where he dwells and its chaotic web of lanes and alleys are where he eats most. Tu knows the market vendors and they like him.

Mark has been resident in Hanoi since January 2002, eating on the streets here from day one. The blog 'Stickyrice' is one of the longest running foodblogs, with the first post dated May 2005. Named in The Times Online's 50 Best Foodblogs in 2009 (at #22), 'Stickyrice' has been featured on 'Gourmet's Diary of a Foodie' and as part of SBS's Featured Foodie series.

We specialise in Vietnam's streetfood and wet markets and have recently designed a series of itineraries for travellers and food enthusiaists. These tours have been carefully planned to give visitors to Vietnam an authentic taste of a country very attuned to the rhythms of food through the day and through the seasons. Together, we visit the street stalls and markets, sampling the produce and eating from their dishes and bowls, as well as cooking with the ingredients at home.
Our tours range from three hour morning, afternoon or evening walks to a full-day eat-a-thon. The most popular tour is the 3 hour (8.30am-11.30pm) morning tour which typically includes a street market walk (with ongoing explanations of food practices, strange food items, some delicacies), a visit to ceremonial cake stalls, a special French dessert, the food sections of Hanoi's main Dong Xuan market, a streetfood alley for a noodle lunch, fruit stalls and coffee at an historic old quarter cafe.

A full day (9am-3pm) itinerary for foodie tragics (including more market visits and more street snacks and drinks) is also available. It encompasses a deeper look at ingredients and is ideal for those in the food industry, whether they be chefs, food writers, indeed anyone with an enthusiasm for food, whether it be in the eating or the cooking! All tours are inclusive of all food/drinks and are conducted entirely on foot after Tu meets and greets at the hotel.

Tu and Mark can also customise tours for particular interests if given sufficient advance notice. For more information and/or to book a tour, email both Tu: tuvancong2003@gmail.com and Mark: lowiemark@yahoo.com.au


Thursday, 17 November 2011

Fun Evening

Duck meat

Over the last few days, we've been receiving quite a few bookings for our evening snacks tour. I do love this tour as it's like a social occasion, like going out with friends for a beer and some tasty treats. It's more relaxed than the chaos of the markets in the day time.

Joanne's family

With Hanoi resident Joanne and her friends from Sydney and KL the other night, we did some serious eating. For starters, it was fried noodles with beef which is available along the lengths of many old quarter streets in Hanoi. A special dessert followed; only available from October through to April in Hanoi's cooler weather, local TV personality Pham Bang serves the Chinese influenced sweet dumplings known as Banh Troi Tau. I like to do some taste testing with our clients whenever I visit this place...see if they can guess some of the exotic ingredients that go into these daumplings and syrups. It's fun!

Che Chuoi

We needed wheels for our next stop. I wanted to show Joanne and co my favorite duck noodle soup so we took a short trip by taxi to a vendor just out of the old quarter. Duck with bamboo and Asian basil served with fresh vermicelli noodles and a robust broth is a nice proposition on a cool evening in Hanoi, everyone agreed. Walking towards West Lake, we stopped in to Truc Bach village for some spring rolls known as pho cuon, a fresh spring roll with stir fried beef and herbs. Joanne actually suggested that one as she didn't want her friends to miss out on one of her local favourites.

Joanne Cusin

Steamed rice pancake with some Hanoi beer was next on the street food menu. By this stage in the tour, there is normally quite a bit of sharing going on rather than everyone having their own serve. Sensible because we had two more stops; for lemon iced tea and sweet banana with jelly and coconut milk followed by grilled dried squid and a beer nightcap to top it off.

Tra Chanh

Thoroughly full, Joanne and her friends waved me off saying they had experienced something special. That's the way we like it.

9 comments:

  1. Thanks so much for the tour. It was great fun and as seasoned eaters I can't believe we couldn't eat anymore!

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  2. We loved the morning we spent strolling and eating with Tu. There's so much marvelous food in Hanoi, and it's hard to get around to all of it on your own. As we don't speak Vietnamese, this was also a great way to learn much more than we could have found out through our usual strategies of smiles and hand signals and observation (enjoyable as that is in such a friendly country). Not to mention the DVD suggestions, etc. We recommend it highly! For an account of our tour, check out: http://parkersshanghaitimes.blogspot.com/2011/12/hanoi-iv-street-food-tour.html

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  3. I did the street food tour with Tu, as a private tour last week and I don’t know where to start to describe how great it was! Perhaps I should start with the scrumptious food – I had to severely restrain myself at the first offering of fish porridge – an unbelievably yummy thick chowder, with perfectly cooked fish chunks and plenty of herbs and salad, Plus a side of fish cakes and spicy dipping sauce – there were 11 stops all together, at 9 of which I ate and/or drank… all in 3 hours or so… every dish was lovely; I also particularly enjoyed the young sticky rice cakes with green bean stuffing – usually a wedding treat, and the ginger sticky rice sweet. The fermented shrimp paste probably won’t become a firm favourite, but Tu offered it to me gently and I could have opted not to try it without feeling at all ‘wussy’!
    At all the eateries I was the only westerner, so I knew that Tu was taking me off the beaten tourist path to try ‘seriously local’ food. Many were his regular haunts, as I gathered by the friendly way in which he was greeted. The same with the first market we visited – Tu’s regular shopping place, and he gave me guidance in what to buy for the noodle soup I was planning to make, and he helped me to select the right spices at the next market.
    Tu’s attention to detail was impressive – he rang the night before, to check that I would be happy to ride on the back of his motorbike, so that we could cover more ground. I agreed, and his careful driving had me at ease instantly. He also checked out the ingredients with the vendor, at several eateries, to ensure they used no meat or chicken stock (as I’m not a meat eater). Tu prefers to avoid MSG himself where possible, so he always asks for ‘no MSG’, which I was also very pleased about.
    The tour wasn’t everything I expected – it far surpassed that! It was the highlight of my stay in Hanoi so far. I can’t recommend highly enough Tu’s professional service, his knowledge of local food, and his friendly, chatty approach that made the morning speed by way too quickly.

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  4. Tu's street food tour was the most interesting, memorable and enjoyable aspect of our stay in Hanoi and one of the highlights of our trip to SE Asia. Should we be fortunate enough to return to Hanoi, one of Tu's tours will be the first thing we do.
    Tu is a consummate guide and foodie. He is engaging and professional and has a wonderful sense of humor. Not only is he tremendously knowledgeable about all things Vietnam, he is also quite worldly, having traveled extensively. He served as an excellent bridge for us (as Westerners) to the food and culture of Vietnam. We would have never experienced Hanoi in the same unfiltered and intimate way on our own; it was as if we were exploring the cuisine of Hanoi (off the beaten path) with a good friend.
    The pace, selection of eateries, and variety of foods was spot on. The food and drink were delicious and ample. We really lost ourselves in the moment, which, given the rather frenetic atmosphere of Hanoi, can be difficult to do.
    We were so glad that we did this tour the first day of our trip. It served as a great orientation to Hanoi, and Tu's recommendations set us up for excellent eating during the remainder of our stay.

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  5. Great post! I can certainly relate to your enjoyment of bun cha and other street food. Thanks for posting some pictures of 'home' for Hanoians like me!

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  6. Great blog! I like it and street foo.

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  7. Nice Post.Thanks for sharing in your Blog

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