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: firstname.lastname@example.org and Mark: email@example.com
Saturday, 13 June 2015
Eating Elsewhere in Vietnam
Our street food experiences don't end with Hanoi. We're not that one-dimensional. While we eat with our clients in Hanoi, guiding them through the dishes, walking through the markets and helping them to peel back the layers of the city - to see it a little bit as we see it - our food expertise does extend to elsewhere in the country.
Oh yes, we've been eating at tables in the centre and the south of the country whenever we've had the opportunity over the years. And we continue to do so. The places in Vietnam that we find ourselves in - when we're having a break from the tables of Hanoi - are often the same ones that our clients are venturing to later in their trip.
So we like to share what we know in a follow up email. We hope that the skills we give our clients to navigate the amazing street food of Vietnam, they can then utilize on their own both after the tour in Hanoi and then in their onward travel. We want them to eat the good stuff throughout their journey.
We tell them to wait until they reach the centre and the south to seek out Vietnam's incredible sandwich, the bánh mì. People are surprised to find that it's not done so well in the north of the country. Finer versions - with all of the classic ingredients - are being assembled in Hội An and Saigon.
Dishes like bún bò Huế - a ballsy meaty lemongrassy noodle soup - should of course be eaten in Huế, the ancient capital in the centre of the country. There is also the unique range of savoury cakes steamed in leaves, and dunked in very spicy nước chấm. Huế gets kudos because of its historic sites and proximity to the Vietnamese DMZ - but we view the city as one of the very best to eat in, especially if a bit of local knowledge can be procured.
Like the locals, we wait until we hit coastal towns like Danang and Nha Trang before we down any saltwater fish and seafood. It's common sense. In Hanoi, we eat freshwater swimmers. In the coastal cities, we follow the crowds to seafood barns where we select the fish or squid or prawns - whatever has been caught that day - we pay by weight, we instruct the waiter about how we want it cooked - and we gourmandize!
Vietnam is a fine place to eat. There are many different tables across the country. Sometimes it might be a dish interpreted in a different way - using ingredients on hand in that region. Certain dishes are only eaten in certain locations. A dish originating in one city might be a poor imitation cooked in another city.
We do our best to impart these nuances to our clients both during the tour in Hanoi and in the follow up.