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


Friday, 13 June 2014

When it's hot, we drink...

tra chanh
The beginning of Hanoi's 2014 summer has been brutal. The first heat wave of May has continued now for a few weeks, with high temperatures combining with high humidity to sap the energy out of even the most heat-hardened of the population.

But we must soldier on through it for now. The rains will come and we will get used to it to an extent. And we will keep our clients well hydrated as we amble slowly - in the shade - from one Hanoi street food table to the next. If appetites for food are down, we will down more drinks.
iced coffee
Hot coffee? No - we recommend it with ice. Truth be told, Vietnam's climate - apart from a few months of cool weather in the north - means that the locals, almost without exception, are taking their caffeine with ice as a matter of course. When Hanoi coffee houses brew their coffee, it is cooled to room temperature and, if a customer does want it hot, a portion is heated to a simmer in a little saucepan.

On the subject of ice, many of our clients express concern about consuming ice in Vietnam, afraid that it may make them sick. These days, even street food eateries are ordering safe factory manufactured ice rather than bothering with the process of boiling water and freezing it. From time to time, ice may be handled in a dubious manner but in general, at street eateries with little or no refrigeration, if one wants a cold drink, ice it must be.
cheers
Even in beer at such eateries, ice is required. Though this may go against the grain for many beer drinkers, the practice has the added benefit of providing hydration to an alcoholic drink that typically dehydrates. Hanoi's other beer culture, bia hoi (or fresh draught beer), is pulled from lengths of hose attached to kegs packed in layers of insulation and dry ice or stored in refrigerated metal cabinets. A couple of tumblers of this preservative-free, low alcohol beer is almost compulsory drinking, particularly on our evening tours. Though, in Hanoi, there is no stigma attached to drinking at any time of the day.
chanh leo
There are soft options, of course. We carry water throughout our tours and though it may not be cold after the first five minutes in the current weather, it is wet. We eschew manufactured soft drinks in preference to those made in the city's tea and coffee houses. Would you prefer a Fanta or a freshly made long glass of passion fruit juice? A Sprite or green tea, sweetened with sugar, soured with lime, cooled with ice?

Quenching a thirst and keeping liquids up to our clients is just as much a priority in the Hanoi summer as feeding them.