NEWS: In 2015, we will not be available to conduct tours at the following times:

May 3-9, June 19-July 4, August 20-September 22

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 ten years, 'the god' (Van Cong Tu, author of the blog 'Vietnamese God') and myself (Mark Lowerson, otherwise known as 'Sticky' in the pages of this blog) 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 15 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 a one hour market familiarisation to a full-day eat-a-thon. The most popular tour is the 3 hour (8.30am-11.30pm) morning tour which kicks off at Hanoi's old East Gate, and includes a typical street market walk (Tu explains 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. For those more in tune with the evenings (4pm-7pm), we also offer a tour of snacks, beers and street noodles, followed by streetside dessert. 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


Saturday, 19 November 2011

Eat Walk Drink

Adam James

British actor Adam James joined our morning street food today.
Together, we hit some of Hanoi's main eating stages and Adam was up for the challenge. Our three hours started with Bun Ca - deep fried fish with noodles and herbs. This was perhaps his biggest challenge of the day as he indicated that seafood was not something he was all that fond of. With some apprehension, Adam tasted the fish and was surprised that it wasn't that fishy. Who knows, it may be that the experience will add another dimenion to his diet in future.

Fish noodle soup

A lakeside coffee followed before we continued our route into one of Hanoi's wet markets. Adam noted the differences between markets here and markets back in the UK and was impressed with the freshness of the produce and the fact that there were no flies.

Banh Gung

We made our way back into the Old Quarter for a dessert dish typical of Northern Vietnam, consisting of fermented wild rice with yoghurt. Other sweets we enjoyed during the morning included banh com, a traditional rice made from pounded rice, mung beans and sugar and che chuoi, dried banana with coconut cream.

Bun Cha Hanoi

As lunch time neared, the bun cha experience loomed. This Hanoi barbeque of pork belly and pork patties is a must for all visitors to the capital. Adam was particularly interested in the range of herbs that accompany Vietnamese cuisine and, of course, they are not in short supply when bun cha is for lunch.

DSC_0102

An after lunch coffee was our last stop on the tour. Adam departed the tour with a full stomach and a kind word. And we thank him for choosing us to guide him through Hanoi's street food scene.

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.