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


Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Street Food For Honeymoon

Kelly and Patrick210912 (76)

A couple of weeks ago, I led a tour for a "Just Married" couple from the US. They were not too concerned about an itinerary, just stating that they wanted me to surprise them.

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First off, we headed to West Lake for fish noodle soup which is a pretty standard breakfast noodle dish in Hanoi. This was followed by a morning visit to the Quan Thanh temple to explain about how Vietnam's people make offerings to the Gods and ancestors.

Cafe

At this point in the tour, coffee is generally a good idea and in Hanoi, there are quite a few choices about how you have your coffee. Sweetened condensed milk and even yoghurt are used in some coffee drinks. It's also common, because Hanoi is pretty hot most of the year, to have ice in coffee. Some of our clients worry about the ice but it is all commercially produced this days. Vietnam's hot so if you don't have ice in your drinks they won't be very refreshing.

Grape fruit seller

With caffiene in our systems, we headed to market which can be a challenging experience for westerners who are used to doing their food shopping in supermarkets. Vietnamese wet markets are a place where many processes occur, even the killing of animals like chickens, ducks, fish, even frogs. My client Patrick helped the vendor pull the skin off a frog, saying that he thought that if you are going to eat animals you should be prepared to kill them.

Bun Rieu Cha

After the market, the eating continued. We had Hanoi's most famous lunch dish Bun Cha which is served with Hanoi spring rolls. To celebrate their recent wedding, we had some beers too. And then cake...but not wedding cake. Instead, a traditional cake made from pounded rice, mung beans and sugar which is actually eaten at engagement parties in Vietnam.

Dong Xuan market

We stopped off in one of Hanoi's streets where ceremonial merchandise is sold, stuff for altars and festival occasions. In between, we took the paintings that Patrick and his wife, Kelly bought at the temple to my favorite framing place and it turned out super cheap for them.

Kelly and Patrick210912 (16)

We finished our day at Bia Hoi (draught beer) with grilled dried squid in the old quarter. I had a brilliant day with them and I guess it was a unique thing to do on a honeymoon.