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

August 22-October 1

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 (9am-12pm) 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 (5pm-8pm), 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, 3 March 2012

A Sweet Stop

Wild Rice

Vietnamese cuisine, in fact Asian cuisine in general, is not particularly known out of the region for its sweets or desserts. The people who come on our tours are generally well-versed in the main features on Vietnam's plates; the range of herbs, rice and noodles, the use of fish sauce. But get them to name a dessert and they struggle.

So, on our wanders, not only do we eat savoury but we also seek out sweet.

Sua Chua Nep Cam

Just north of Hanoi's Old Quarter, we sit low to the pavement for a sugar fix. Out of a narrow alley comes a northern speciality known as sữa chua nếp cẩm, which translates roughly as yoghurt with fermented wild rice. This dessert house is a Hanoi institution run by some wily elders and a bunch of enthusiastic teenage boys.

The wild rice, predominately purple in colour, is cooked, covered and left to ferment for a period of days with the aid of men ngọt (sugar yeast/fungus), shorter in summer, longer in winter. Laid out in bamboo baskets on withered banana leaves, what eventuates is something akin to jam - minus the fruit, or with rice playing the role of fruit!

Sua Chua Nep Cam

Dolloped on top of sweetened yoghurt, it gets delivered to customers. In Hanoi's pulsating summer, a generous scoop of shaved ice adds another layer. All that is required of the customer is a rigorous stirring with the spoon.

And, the enjoyment of the flavours - a slight twist of sour alcohol from the fermentation, the milkiness from the yoghurt, sweetness - a true dessert and a Hanoi tradition to boot!

13 comments:

  1. Tu,

    Thank you for a fabulous morning in the market. The street food of Hanoi is certain to be one of the highlights of our journey to southeast Asia. Seeing the turtle in the lake could hardly bring us any better fortune than our good luck in having you as our guide.

    David & Susan

    ReplyDelete
  2. I am currently in Hanoi and would like to book a tour with you for local foods. Have been to places the hotels suggested so far. How do I reach you?

    ReplyDelete
  3. I am currently in Hanoi and would like to book a tour with you for local foods. Have been to places the hotels suggested so far. How do I reach you?

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hi Wengbo,
    Our email addresses are tuvancong2003@yahoo.com and lowiemark@yahoo.com.au
    Thanks

    ReplyDelete
  5. Dear Tu

    We had an amazing time on the full day street food tour: so much fun and such a huge range of interesting and delicious food - there is no way we would have ever discovered any of this on our own. We will be recommending your tour to everyone we know who travels to Vietnam.

    Thanks again
    Ella and Paul

    ReplyDelete
  6. Susann & Denis2 April 2012 at 06:18

    Hey Tu, we´re back in Germany now and wanted to thank you for this great morning tour through Hanoi and for sending us the pictures. We had a great time in Vietnam and your tour was one of the best experiences during our whole trip. Thanks so much! We wouldn´t have found all the very tasty locations on our own and certainly wouldn´t never ever have tried all these great foods (I love the black rice with yoghurt ;) )
    Thanks for a really good time...and all the best

    Susann & Denis

    ReplyDelete
  7. We did a walking tour with Tu recently in Hanoi, and very much enjoyed the experience. Great to taste new foods and learn all about them.Tu is a mine of info about lots of other things, and can recommend good restaurants that are very good value.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Hi Tu,
    Just wanted to say thanks again for a great morning in Hanoi, a highlight of our Vietnam trip. We ate some of the best food of the entire trip. We would never have eaten in some of these places by ourselves! Thanks also for the photos and tips and links for the rest of the trip.
    Best,
    Ania

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  9. Hello Tu,
    We enjoyed your tour in the old quarter of Hanoi. Interesting and tastefull. A recommandation for all foodies. I didn't mind to miss my breakfest. In fact it was too short and do it over for a whole day.
    Thanks and the best.
    C.J. and E.

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  10. Hi Tu,

    Thanks for a fabulous tour yesterday. Your full day tour, starting from West Lake and ending in the Old Quarter, was the highlight of my stay in Hanoi. I couldn't have found the same range and quality of street food by myself even with a map, directions and and a month. I'll recommend your tour to everyone who heads to Hanoi and will be in touch should I return. It was a pleasure to meet you.

    Best wishes,
    Meghan

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  11. Thank you very much for the wonderful tour, Tu! This sweet snack/breakfast is definitely one of my favorites. I miss it already, I'm dying to recreate it here to munch on haha.

    Cheers!

    Alex
    http://www.reluctantstylista.com

    ReplyDelete
  12. Hi Tu,

    Thank you very much for the great tour and the marvelous Food. We learned a lot about Vietnamese Food but also about the People. We highly can recommend this tour!!!

    Thanks and all the best
    Luana & Kai

    ReplyDelete

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