Video: Street Food in the Mekong Region – Part 2: Hanoi

Proudly contributed by John Cragen

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imageAfter the first part – Street Food in Bangkok – we are now discovering street food in Hanoi.

Hanoi is a colorful, vibrant city with endless opportunities to enjoy my favorite type of meal while traveling – street food. This video shows a couple of types of food you’ll find on the streets of Hanoi: Banh Mi & a spicy beef soup called Bunya (phonetic spelling), along with some of the atmosphere you’ll experience while walking the streets and searching out places like these.

There’s no doubt visitors to Hanoi – especially the food-centric ones – notice the constant presence of edible stuff on their strolls around the Old Quarter and further afield. Street-side meat, bicycles laden with fruit and vegetables, simmering pots of stock on doorsteps, boiling kettles, tipping teapots, sacks overflowing with rice – the streets are where the food action is at, not hidden indoors in gigantic supermarket halls nor protected behind glass windows or cabinetry. One can reach out and touch food up and down the length of any Hanoi street.

But where there is food there are people. Hanoi is definitely not a western supermarket aisle, where even shouting blue murder is unlikely to bring customer service assistance. Butchers here constantly cast a tending eye over their cuts of meat, keeping up their appeal, shooing the odd fly, ready and poised with a sharp blade at hand. Fruit vendors spend their days pushing bikes and re-arranging their specimens into perfectly conical formation, meticulously examining longans or lychees for flaws. The watermelon vendor, with baskets bending from her shoulder-poles, is weightlifting – all day!

The bun cha fanner needs recognition, too. In 80%+ humidity on a 35c day, she is sweating before she waves the fan once in anger. Crouched before a tin tray white hot with coals, one hand turns a fat-spitting wire griller filled with pork while the other is keeping the wind up to the fire. A kind of gym session in a smoky furnace – there is a reason why she looks on the verge of tears. It’s bloody hard and hot work, obviously unhealthy.

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