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


Sunday, 24 June 2012

Scenes from a Street Food Tour

chicken vendor

The streets of Hanoi tend to be a very foreign place for most of our street food tour clients. There's a lot to take in. A lot might be said. It can be sensory overload. Indeed, if Hanoi is a person's first ever stop in Asia, it will most likely be bewildering and confronting. And there is no doubt that a street food tour can accentuate those feelings.

hi there fish face

While we don't want to protect or molly-coddle our clients, we do want them to have an enjoyable and relaxing experience rather than a stressful or confusing one. So we wander. And we see things and we eat and drink things.
At certain points, we explain things. But we don't talk from go to woe. Much of the experience of Hanoi is about allowing time for the brain to process the message from the eyes...or the nose...or the ears. If we yack too much, it interferes with that process.

But we do get a lot of questions.

Which we love answering.

banh com

Like, what is that bright green thing wrapped in plastic?

pomelo skins

Or what is that drying on the handlebars of that bicycle?

Do people really eat that? Um...and what is it?

And then later, when our customers are relaxing back at their hotel, we send them some information from here and there, which they can peruse at their leisure.

I suppose you would call it 'after sales service'.

12 comments:

  1. Last stop on on Vietnam adventure was with Mr Tu a guy who travels the world eating. He had previously managed one of the Hanoi 's restaurants, writes for a couple foody magasines and has a Vietnam food blog. He was also quite young but very nice. ( oh and he was really onto Kath and Kim and showed us the app on his iPad which just made us like him all the more. )He has been to Australia a few times and understood where we came from and Aussie slang.
    The tour was wonderful. We did all the things we really wanted to do. Ate at tiny plastic chairs and table, found really good coffee up an alleyway in a very low roofed room. We went into buildings with multiple staircases branching off in all directions with tiny kitchens tucked into hallways. We went down back alleyways that we would never dare enter by ourselves and saw how the locals lived.
    Highlights of our eating tour were
    Russell- eating fresh stirfried eel
    Zita- fried and fresh fish soup
    Richard- nicest - BBQ pork, novelty- eel
    Sue- frozen yogurts with avacado, field brown rice ( fermented), espresso and passionfruit
    This was the perfect way to end our stay in this wonderful culinary country. Our only regrets not finding a tour like this at the beginning of the stay- we just might have been able to squeeze a few more dishes in!

    ReplyDelete
  2. We just did a morning tour of the narrow busy streets of old Hanoi with Tu as our street food guide. It was a fantastic, delicious and sometimes tastebud-challenging experience for both us and our two kids of 3 and 6 years. It is our first day in Hanoi and while walking the streets with thousands of motorbikes around us was pretty scaring, Tu - on top of the delicious food experience also tought us a bit about survival in this scooter jungle. Thumbs up for Tu - if you are in Hanoi it's a half day well spent

    Nina & Brian

    ReplyDelete
  3. Doing the street food tour with TU was the best move of our 4-day Hanoi holiday. We're glad we booked it for the first day of our trip - having a local take you around and help you get your bearings was priceless, including little tips like how to cross the street, how to order, which cab to take, etc.

    We did a full day tour - lunch time onwards. We must've eaten 15+ or so items, but Tu was careful to caution us to pace ourselves (no pressure to finish everything on our plate, so we could have room for more). The pace of the tour was great - enough walking to burn some of the calories, but not enough to break a sweat. We were lucky to have cool but sunny weather.

    Tu himself is easy-going, very friendly and game to answer all kinds of questions. He knew the vendors/sellers well. We showed him our initial list of places to eat (from the internet) and he patiently gave tips on each one (e.g. overpriced, this one had closed already, etc)

    Everything we had was good, but our favorites were:
    - Pho Tiu at dong xuan market
    - yogurt coffee (and the coffee itself) at Duy Tri
    - hot vin lon (half-hatched duck eggs)

    We also loved the "after-service": Tu emailed us photos he took throughout the tour as well as links on blog writeups about everything we ate.

    - Judy and Brian
    (Thanks, Tu! Please message us when you come to Manila next year!)

    ReplyDelete
  4. We did the full day tour with Tu on our second day in Hanoi and it was one of the highlights of our trip. We returned later to several of the vendors for repeats. In addition to the delicious food, Tu is a lot of fun. I have already recommended this to a number of folks, and urge anyone who visits Hanoi to make it a priority.

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  6. Louise and Tony24 April 2013 20:54

    We had the 3 hour tour with Tu on our first morning in Hanoi - amazing! Like other comments here, it was great to do first up as Tu gave us many Hanoi survival tips. Husband, teenagers and myself all had a great time, which says something about Tu. He really is The Food God, and his passion for Hanoian food is infectious. Just walking down laneways that you wouldn't venture down, having someone to ask all those dumb questions, Tu really showed us food. I liked the fact he does several tours a day but is still excited and passionate about food. He started by asking us our likes and interests, and just built the itinerary in his head from there. Tu even connected with the teenagers and managed to tap into their likes. Thanks for everything Tu! Louise
    PS Don't forget my return offer of a Sydney inner-west food tour when next in Sydney!

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  10. We ran around the food stalls in Hanoi with Tu a few weeks ago and were so impressed with his energy and insight. And everything he selected was so delicious. We compared the pho we had on the street with every one we had all through Vietnam...and we kept wishing we were back in Hanoi eating that one. Take a tour with him--you'll learn so much, have so much fun and eat so well

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  12. What a brilliant way to spend a morning! We walked the busy streets of Hanoi with our insightful and entertaining guide; Tu. While ensuring everything was safe and hygienic, he brought us to the most local and authentic street food stalls. The food was spectacular; fresh with fantastic tastes. However, it was Tu's company that really made the tour memorable.

    Cannot recommend this tour enough.

    Thank you Tu.

    Sam and Caroline.

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