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


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!