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


Monday, 11 November 2013

So you think you don't drink coffee...

the coconut
During our street food tours, we inevitably end up at one of Hanoi's local coffee shops. It's a mandatory part of all of our itineraries, morning, noon or night. As Mark wrote recently on stickyrice, in Hanoi, coffee can be sipped "against a century old ochre wall, in a memorabilia-lined passageway a metre wide, up a spiral staircase overlooking a lake. Even a standard Hanoi cafe is perfectly good for watching the frenetic passing parade." So the experience is very much about ambience and cultural immersion.

But occasionally we strike a client who self identifies as a 'non-coffee drinker'. While we try not to openly show pity, such admissions can be disheartening because the whole coffee experience in Hanoi - old-world atmosphere aside - is quite fascinating. So, to such clients, we assume the deviant role of 'drug pusher', enticing them with details that stray from the deleterious and addictive nature of coffee and caffeine, away from the side-effects of sleeplessness and anxiety, away from the notion of "I like the aroma of coffee but not the taste."

cafe nau da
We say words like sweetened condensed milk.

 yoghurt treats
We say words like homemade frozen yoghurt.

cafe trung
We say words like "imagine liquid tiramisu".

We don't even mention the word coffee. We say "just try it "or "take a sip". Consequently, we've had feedback emails from certain clients saying that their Hanoi coffee experience was transformative. It made them see coffee in a brand new light. They are now drinking coffee back home.

Some would say what we're doing is evil.

13 comments:

  1. Hi Tu !

    We need to come again to Hanoi and try this with you. Loved our tour with you in 2011.

    Pam, Peter and Parker

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  2. I have checked Hanoi food it is really very tasty and healthy.

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  3. Really very good blog thanks for sharing.

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  4. It looks delicious, thanks for this food guide.

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  5. I recently had the absolute pleasure to be led by Tu on a gastronomic delight for (as defined here) a foodie tragic! For 6 hours (!) Tu led me through streets and markets, stopping here and there to eat and drink and to understand how to choose the best and safe places to eat street food. It was an absolutely marvellous experience and one not to be missed! It was not the cheapest of experiences but cost should always be measured by value and this was worth every...Dong!!! I loved it and totally recommend it!
    Nina x

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  6. We recently did a 3 hour tour as a family of four - 2 adults and 2 kids. The whole family loved it, the kids really liked the frozen yoghurt and egg coffee!! We would love to come to Hanoi and do another tour. We definitely ate at places we would not have found ourselves. Thanks again Tu! Merran, Scott, Millie and Georgia x

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  7. Kathy and Clive Watkins15 April 2014 03:10

    On a Spring London morning as I contemplate whether to get turkey for the the Easter family meal, I am transported back just over 3 weeks to a wet Hanoi morning in a narrow street sitting on stacked plastic stools. Is there are link here? There is indeed - the link is two cultures and two traditions with food at the centre and I am delighted to have shared just a little of what seems to come naturally in Hanoi. When I noted that my husband and I were doing a tour of streets with a food blogger I was intrigued but not sure what we would get out of it. We certainly learned about Vietnamese coffees, spring rolls, noodle soups and the most delicious sweet red rice desert ever. We saw cuts of pork so fresh I could still imagine the pig and we experienced amazing standards of food hygiene practiced at street level that would put many a Western restaurant to shame. But for me the tour was much more than a food experience. It gave real insight to the lives of people who lived in those narrow deep houses and the farmers who carried all their produce to join the throngs of vendors. We learned too how couples work out their own way of being a special unit within the close lived family group. I think I might describe it as a socio-cultural experience through the vehicle of food. Whatever you call it was great and memorable. Thanks for the experience Tu.

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  8. Nice blog I never heard about this type of coffee. It is quite interesting. Coffee is one of my favorite drinks. But I am always looking for a food with coffee. Some snacks like burger, pizza, sandwiches

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  9. My buddy and I just had a tour led by Tu this past week. Highly recommended. Everything we ate was delicious, and more importantly, stuff we would never have found ourselves in the hectic streets of Hanoi.

    Hopefully we'll be able to come back and try it again.

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  10. Just got back from Vietnam and I was inspired by your food tour round Hanoi with Tu. I am trying out loads of new food ideas.
    Thank you for such a wonderful experience showing us a glimpse of the real Vietnam behind and on the busy streets I don’t think I have ever had such great food or had such an enjoyable tour,
    Can’t wait to come back to do the night time vesper tour!!!
    Thank you Tu

    swlG

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  11. I'm looking for a food tour in New York. I want to experience the different culture and diet. It's something I'm really excited for.
    John Bond | http://walkingtoursmanhattan.com/nyc-food-tours/

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  13. The egg coffee was one of the highlights of our trip to Hanoi. We even managed to go back and order it for ourselves another day. Great tour and fabulous food - thanks Tu. Sandra, Peter and Jack

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