Eating Our Way South - Hà Nội

It's raining outside so I'm going to blog again.

My wife once told me that she travels to eat. This is not completely true - she actually travels for family and leisure and a love of the seeing far away places - but she has shown me the satisfaction that comes from going out of one's way to ask the locals about where the regional specialty tastes best. And I have shown her how to put aside one's fears and dive into a narrow alley to eat the food many locals won't touch. We make quite the dynamic team when it comes to eating. Here's our report for Hà Nội.

The specialty in Hà Nội is bún. All kinds of bún. Bún is a vermicelli noodle dish served with different kinds of meat and lots of rau (leafy greens and herbs). It can be served dry or as soup. Everything is brought out separately to the table, then each customer gets their own little bowl to do the mixing in. Their bún is cooked and drained but not tossed so it sticks together, then it is cut into squares so you don't have to slurp it. In addition to the noodles, rau and meat, there's always a tasty mắm to go with it. Nước mắm (fish sauce) seems to be the thing in the South, but most of the bún we had in the North was served with mắm nem, which my wife always tells newcomers to eat first and smell later. Bún is one of my favorite dishes because it digests quickly and doesn't leave me feeling heavy after a big bowl. That's in addition to the delicious taste of fresh herbs, rice noodles and bbq-ed meat mixed with mắm. Yum!

For soupy bún, there's several different kinds. Bún thang, bún bung... but our favorite is bún mọc. Our favorite place by far is called, well, Bún Mọc Số 1 - Number 1 Bun Moc (see above picture). "Number 1" just so happens to be its address, but makes a nice name, too. This type of bún must be pretty regional because I haven't been able to find it anywhere other than the North, including in Orange County.

Another type of bún that we stumbled upon is bún đậu, meaning noodles with tofu. It was in a little alley at the corner of Hàng Bạc and Hàng Bè, and is not for the faint of heart. Entering the alley leads you through a mess of people sitting on little plastic chairs at little plastic tables (very typical of road-side stands). You have to find your own seat, which usually means sitting on the empty side of a table that is already occupied. Then they start bringing stuff out, and you basically look at what other people and point to order. This little dive turned out to be our favorite surprise in Hà Nội, and this dish is probably very tough to find outside of the North.

For those of you who love the classic Vietnamese eggroll - chả giò - then the North might leave you empty handed and empty stomached. The Northern version of eggroll, called nem rán, is filled with cabbage and bean sprouts, with a little ground pork and shrimp if you're lucky. Of course, I love them both. :) This is a picture of some homemade stuff we had while visiting the relatives in the countryside.

Is your mouth watering yet? If it is, we'll tell you a secret. Ok, it's not a secret, but it is a buffet - a Vietnamese buffet - that offers all of the above dishes in one location, all you can eat. It's like 7 dollars to eat to your heart's content, and the atmosphere is "exotic," too. I'll post the address (somewhere in Hồ Tây) when I find the business card.

Phew, that's enough for now! Later I'll post our report on Central Food, from Huế and Hội An. Oh, sorry Triết, we didn't get your extensive restaurant list until we got back South. I guess we'll just have to go back to Huế again!!

1 comment:

life goes on ... said...

can I have that list of restaurants if possible? Thanks.

travel log
  • 02.13.08 - to the temple with Luan and his mom, good to be back
  • 02.14.08 - Mẫu's alive! and staying for the weekend
  • 02.15.08 - floor hockey and Thái food makes for some strange dreams
  • 02.17.08 - frisbee and swamp monster at the park: fun but I'm pooped!
  • 02.19.08 - just read Triết's response to my last post - game on!
  • 02.20.08 - raining and expected to continue through Sunday - thank goodness!
  • 02.21.08 - 3-hour nap is a bad idea right before bed
  • 02.23.08 - to the beach to watch kites, a baptism @ 5pm, and homemade bulgogi - what a day!
  • 02.25.08 - just gave myself a haircut - woo, cold head!
  • 02.26.08 - 75° and spring cleaning - couldn't feel better
  • 02.27.08 - fed the elders bún đậu tonight - think it's their first time
  • 03.01.08 - working on new background...
  • 03.02.08 - finalized javascript to change background without muffing up my other scripts
  • 03.03.08 - fhe: "In his strength I can do all things" (Alma 26:12)
  • 03.07.08 - some decisions are harder than others, but some are downright excruciating
  • 03.08.08 - there is life after work... i almost forgot
  • 03.11.08 - the distance between good and bad is much shorter than between better and best
  • 03.12.08 - conversion is sometimes a gradual process, so much so that we don't even notice
  • 03.14.08 - for some reason everything was a little harder today, looking forward for bed!
  • 03.15.08 - last night after blog reading, I missed OnlyBlue, today I find she's back
  • 03.16.08 - best day of my life!
  • 03.19.08 - "Pray for the answer that they've been looking for"
release notes v1.0 - FINALLY DONE!
  • 12.07 - first thought of starting a new blog
  • 01.08 - busy with election stuff but blog design still on back burner
  • 01.13.08 - first idea to imitate jk rowling with the "desk" theme
  • 01.28.08 - start sketching current design, breaking down development into phases
  • 02.02.08 - election only days away but still drafting final plans
  • 02.04.08 - v0.6 LAUNCH
    • main components (blog body, sidebar, header, etc) designed and implemented
    • styling for font, links, drop caps, etc. finished
  • 02.07.08 - v0.8 LAUNCH
    • image style to imitate polariod
    • moveability - post-it notes and static clings can be repositioned by drag and drop
    • release notes styled and written
  • 02.16.08 - travel log (beta) added in hopes of catching the mundane
  • 02.22.08 - lightbox 2.03 reinstalled and working fine (hopefully - let me know otherwise)
  • 02.26.08 - v0.9 LAUNCH
    • travel log seems to be working, so I'll keep it
    • lightbox also seems to have passed the test, so it's a keeper
    • some credits/info added to bottom (will expand)
    • keeping old Viet terms in archive for future viewing
  • 03.18.08 - v1.0 LAUNCH
    • installation and testing of time-sensitive background completed (for now)