I swear to god I did more in Southeast Asia than just eating…but like come ON the food was spectacular!
I went in to the trip thinking I would enjoy Thai food the most and, while it was obviously heaven in my mouth, I came out of the trip with Vietnamese food the clear king in my mind and my tummy. I loved the food I had in Vietnam. I almost married it. I couldn’t stop eating everything and trying everything, and I thank god so often that I live in Toronto since we have SO MUCH Vietnamese food in the city (well, we have so much of every kind of food, really!).
On our last day in Hanoi, my friend and I decided to do a street food walking tour that was recommended to us by someone we met in our travels. The company, Vietnam Awesome Travel, has a few different walking tour options (no ghost tours, unfortunately) and we did the Street Foodie Tour. I would recommend it to EVERYONE who has time in Hanoi. It was phenomenal.
We were picked up at our hotel and brought to the old quarter where we met up with the rest of the group (a young traveling couple from North America) and started what I’ve come to call The Day I Ate More Than I Ever Thought I Could Ever Holy Shit How Did We Eat That Much.
Seriously. There was so much food. And I was hungover as fuck and I still did it.
We started at this hole in the wall dirty little place that sells Bun Cha – a soupy flavourful dish that I have not yet been able to find in Canada and breaks my goddamn heart. We walked up four flights to find a free table, and each floor of this building was tiny tiny tiny. Like “we can seat a table of eight and that’s it” sort of thing. Our guide ordered for us and we dug in. In hindsight, we all ate too much. It was our first stop and we were hungry, but little did we know we’d be eating enough for the country of Vietnam over the next three hours.
After that, we headed out and walked to the next restaurant where we ate this gelatinous eel soup with crispy eels on top. It…wasn’t my favourite. And it especially didn’t go with my hangover. Tell me again why I decided to drink all night?
Hangover aside, the whole tour was just fantastic. We walked from place to place and our guide was so knowledgeable and shared so much with us about the city, the country, his life, the food…it was so much more than just a food tour.
We ate mushroom rice rolls (that were gone so quickly I couldn’t take a photo of them), sugarcane juice, banh mi, fermented rice made by an old lady in the alley…honestly, we would just walk around and if we saw something delicious our guide would be like “Want to try it?” and we would! I don’t know if it was planned like that or not, but it was just SO fantastic to be walking along, see something, learn about it, and try it.
We walked through a large market area and when we came out, met these women selling fruit. Our guide chopped up some fresh dragon fruit and something really pear-like and between munching, the ladies threw their hats and produce on us for photo ops. Fruit and photo ops? These ladies knew the way to my heart.
Sidenote: those baskets they carry are fucking HEAVY! These little women carrying these huge baskets…just mental.
After eating…everything that was ever made to be eaten, we finished our tour with Egg Coffee. Sounds weird, right? Let me tell you: this thing is one of the best coffee desserts I’ve ever had in my life. It was sweet and creamy, warm and coffee-ey…it was so rich, and so fantastic. Such a perfect way to end the tour.
If you have time in Hanoi, I would highly recommend doing this street food walking tour; it was around $20 for more food than I could handle (and I can handle a LOT of food), and it was a fabulous way to learn more about the city, the food, and a great way to spend an afternoon. Our guide was fantastic, and if the rest of the people working for this company were anything like him, I would check out their other day trips in a heartbeat. I’d suggest doing the tour on one of your first days there, though, so you could go back to your favourite places and eat some more.
I’m still searching for a bowl of bun cha in Toronto, but I’ll skip the gelatinous eel soup. You can have that one.