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


Friday, 17 May 2013

Hanoi's Food Workers

bun cha griller

There's no doubt visitors to Hanoi - especially the food-centric ones - notice the constant presence of edible stuff on their strolls around the Old Quarter and further afield. Street-side meat, bicycles laden with fruit and vegetables, simmering pots of stock on doorsteps, boiling kettles, tipping teapots, sacks overflowing with rice - the streets are where the food action is at, not hidden indoors in gigantic supermarket halls nor protected behind glass windows or cabinetry. One can reach out and touch food up and down the length of any Hanoi street.

But where there is food there are people. Hanoi is definitely not a western supermarket aisle, where even shouting blue murder is unlikely to bring customer service assistance. Butchers here constantly cast a tending eye over their cuts of meat, keeping up their appeal, shooing the odd fly, ready and poised with a sharp blade at hand. Fruit vendors spend their days pushing bikes and re-arranging their specimens into perfectly conical formation, meticulously examining longans or lychees for flaws. The watermelon vendor, with baskets bending from her shoulder-poles, is weightlifting - all day!

The bun cha fanner needs recognition, too. In 80%+ humidity on a 35c day, she is sweating before she waves the fan once in anger. Crouched before a tin tray white hot with coals, one hand turns a fat-spitting wire griller filled with pork while the other is keeping the wind up to the fire. A kind of gym session in a smoky furnace - there is a reason why she looks on the verge of tears. It's bloody hard and hot work, obviously unhealthy.

rau can tay vendor

Maintaining Hanoi's image as one big bustling food shop relies on the physical toil of thousands of people, mostly women, all underpaid and under-appreciated.

Smile when you catch their eye.

8 comments:

  1. We had the pleasure of a Hanoi Street Food Tour and I woud say it was the best part of our Vietman visit.

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  2. Awesome food tour...just what I was looking for in Hanoi! There's food everywhere in many Asian cities, especially in Vietnam. Without Tu's guidance, I would have just randomly tried stuff and missed out on the best. Essential if you're a Vietnamese food lover!

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  3. ''Between his amazing store of knowledge and genuinely friendly manner, it's not hard to see why Tu is constantly greeted by friendly locals in the streets of Hanoi. He's a sure guide who understands the various demands of travellers and deftly negotiates a brilliant experience on their behalf, drawing on his seemingly endless supply of information and passion for this fascinating food culture. We thoroughly recommend the tour- if you do it early in your visit as we did, you'll have a great starting point for finding your way about Hanoi.

    Huge thanks again and hope to see you sometime,

    Julia

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  4. We did the 3-hours tour with Tu : it was awsome. We tried about 13 ou 14 different dishes and drinks, asked a hundred questions, got more than a hundred answers ! We only wish we could do this every day ! Everything was delicious and new, fresh and colourful. Tu did his best to fit the tour to our special demands (my husband is a vegetarian) and he succeeded. The day after the tour, we received an email with a link for every dish we had, and lots of recommendations for other good places to eat at in Hanoi, but also in Hué and Saigon.

    We would definitely recommend this tour to anyone interested in food and food culture, and recommend to do it early in your visit so you can understand a little bit of what's going on in the streets and in the markets of Hanoi.

    Thanks a lot, hope we see you sometime - for example in Paris ?

    Hélène and Ghislain

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  5. Excellent food tour today Tu (3 hour morning tour)! We absolutely loved it and would highly recommend it to anyone visiting Hanoi, not only foodies. Tu was very considerate (I was on the tour with my parents who are 70+) and slowed his pace a little bit and made sure they were safely crossing the streets at all times. We had two different kinds of noodle soups, bbq pork, two different kinds of coffee, fried shrimps with sweet potato, .... and we even tasted a worm-based dish! Tu adjusts his tour according to your taste and your interest. We visited a local market and Tu patiently explained how most Hanoians shop for vegetables, meat and fish. Tu is also very considerate about hygiene, he makes sure chopsticks and spoons are clean and honestly tells you what ingredients the food vendors use. On top of everything, Tu is an incredibly friendly man, very patient, nice and incredibly passionate about what he does. Highly recommended!
    Nathalie, Gaby and Hugo

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  7. Great Tour with Tu yesterday taking in the sounds, sights and flavours of Hanoi. Brilliant food from bowls of fish noodles, crispy prawn pancakes, and what I think can best be described as Vietnamese hot dogs.

    Any foodie will love it.

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  8. nice and great experience of food tour in Hanoi i like it and really this blog is very informative.
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    ReplyDelete