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


Wednesday, 7 December 2011

The Disappearance of Wet Markets

Dong Xuan market

There is no doubt that wet markets in Vietnam are indeed part of the culture, as much a feature of the country as street vendors. These days, however, these wet markets are being threatened by development and it may be that their days are numbered.

Duck

In Hanoi, in recent years, many of the city's biggest central wet markets have been knocked down and replaced by commercial office and retail complexes. Obviously we don't want to live in the dark ages in Vietnam but it would be nice to think that the authorities could attempt to maintain certain aspects of this unique part of our heritage. Many Hanoians have been patronising these markets for their whole lives, have established friendships with their regular vendors and their day is not complete without a stroll (or two) through the market each day to pick up the ingredients for lunch or dinner.

Dong Xuan market

Even for me, a beach boy who's been living in Hanoi for ten years, the speed of change and development has been pretty remarkable. The number of cars clogging the streets, especially the narrow ones of the Old Quarter, makes life difficult. Crossing the street is not so easy and the charm of this special part of Hanoi is getting lost in the noise and pace of modern life. I still enjoy my trips to the remaining wet markets but they're getting harder to find and harder to get to.

Dong Xuan market

Of course, some of the big retail and commercial office complexes have permitted the market vendors to operate in the basement of these buildings. But for regular customers, for the older people and even me, we don't really like shopping in such a strange environment?

Hue - Dong Ba market seller

Maybe I'm weird but I do like to shop in a real market and choose my own produce from my friendly market vendors.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Eat Walk Drink

Adam James

British actor Adam James joined our morning street food today.
Together, we hit some of Hanoi's main eating stages and Adam was up for the challenge. Our three hours started with Bun Ca - deep fried fish with noodles and herbs. This was perhaps his biggest challenge of the day as he indicated that seafood was not something he was all that fond of. With some apprehension, Adam tasted the fish and was surprised that it wasn't that fishy. Who knows, it may be that the experience will add another dimenion to his diet in future.

Fish noodle soup

A lakeside coffee followed before we continued our route into one of Hanoi's wet markets. Adam noted the differences between markets here and markets back in the UK and was impressed with the freshness of the produce and the fact that there were no flies.

Banh Gung

We made our way back into the Old Quarter for a dessert dish typical of Northern Vietnam, consisting of fermented wild rice with yoghurt. Other sweets we enjoyed during the morning included banh com, a traditional rice made from pounded rice, mung beans and sugar and che chuoi, dried banana with coconut cream.

Bun Cha Hanoi

As lunch time neared, the bun cha experience loomed. This Hanoi barbeque of pork belly and pork patties is a must for all visitors to the capital. Adam was particularly interested in the range of herbs that accompany Vietnamese cuisine and, of course, they are not in short supply when bun cha is for lunch.

DSC_0102

An after lunch coffee was our last stop on the tour. Adam departed the tour with a full stomach and a kind word. And we thank him for choosing us to guide him through Hanoi's street food scene.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Fun Evening

Duck meat

Over the last few days, we've been receiving quite a few bookings for our evening snacks tour. I do love this tour as it's like a social occasion, like going out with friends for a beer and some tasty treats. It's more relaxed than the chaos of the markets in the day time.

Joanne's family

With Hanoi resident Joanne and her friends from Sydney and KL the other night, we did some serious eating. For starters, it was fried noodles with beef which is available along the lengths of many old quarter streets in Hanoi. A special dessert followed; only available from October through to April in Hanoi's cooler weather, local TV personality Pham Bang serves the Chinese influenced sweet dumplings known as Banh Troi Tau. I like to do some taste testing with our clients whenever I visit this place...see if they can guess some of the exotic ingredients that go into these daumplings and syrups. It's fun!

Che Chuoi

We needed wheels for our next stop. I wanted to show Joanne and co my favorite duck noodle soup so we took a short trip by taxi to a vendor just out of the old quarter. Duck with bamboo and Asian basil served with fresh vermicelli noodles and a robust broth is a nice proposition on a cool evening in Hanoi, everyone agreed. Walking towards West Lake, we stopped in to Truc Bach village for some spring rolls known as pho cuon, a fresh spring roll with stir fried beef and herbs. Joanne actually suggested that one as she didn't want her friends to miss out on one of her local favourites.

Joanne Cusin

Steamed rice pancake with some Hanoi beer was next on the street food menu. By this stage in the tour, there is normally quite a bit of sharing going on rather than everyone having their own serve. Sensible because we had two more stops; for lemon iced tea and sweet banana with jelly and coconut milk followed by grilled dried squid and a beer nightcap to top it off.

Tra Chanh

Thoroughly full, Joanne and her friends waved me off saying they had experienced something special. That's the way we like it.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Morning .....

Rob and Petrie

It seems the Dutch are pretty adventurous. I've had close friends from Holland who have lived in Hanoi for long periods of time and now, the majority of our current streetfood tour clients are also from that country. They are great to have aboard because they embrace the experience and will give almost every thing a try.

Thanh Ha Market

I always try to connect the clients with the market atmosphere, try to involve them with the market vendors. As Holland is a dveloped country very different to Vietnam, the concept of a wet market is something new to them and some of the activities in the wet market can be shocking. Skinning frogs and killing chickens and ducks are examples. I don't see the point in protecting the client from this as it's part of the wet market culture. Generally, after the first few minutes they get used to it and start to understand the difference...or they turn away! When it comes to eating though, they don't mind sitting down on the tiny stools in the middle of all this activity to enjoy a bowl of noodles.

CL Market

Many people who take part in our street food tours want to try some bazaar food such as duck fetus eggs or tofu with fermented shrimp paste. They like the combination of these dishes and their accompanying herbs. Duck fetus eggs are served with ginger and Vietnamese mint for example. I get a real buzz when people are prepared to try food that may be unusual for them and the Dutch are the most adventurous so far.

Friday, 23 September 2011

Eat Walk Love

Dong Xuan market

Since we started our first street food tour offically a few months ago, this is the first time we've written about the experience with our clients (with their permission, of course).

Loretta

Mrs Loretta joined our morning tour and she wanted the experience to be a surprise so Tu didn't show her any of the itineraries. Tu took her by motorbike and started the day by trying a delicious fish noodle soup called bún cá. This dish incorporates crunchy pieces of fried fish with different herbs, including dill, bean shoots, mustard leaves and of course, the noodles.

Dong Xuan market

The tour continued through one of Hanoi's wet markets where Loretta enjoyed the atmosphere very much, saying it was very different to the markets back in Australia. More streetfood followed in the form of Hanoi's signature lunch dish, bún chả, which combines grilled pork belly and pork patties with noodles, herbs in a wonderful warm fish sauce based broth. A stop at a traditional Vietnamese coffee house rounded out the tour and Loretta was definitely full by the end.

Tu - Viola

Another client was Viola, a Canadian expat who has been living in Hanoi for a long time. We did the tour on a pretty cool day and she enjoyed the hot chicken noodle soup (phở gà) to start. We walked through a wet market and Tu explained the different ways of cooking in Vietnam, something Viola appreciated a lot as she loves spending time in the kitchen. After that, Viola also learned about wedding and offering culture in Vietnam which is something unique to this part of the world. We finished our morning trip by having coffee and exchanging our coffee experiences.

Sometimes I learn a little something from my clients, too.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Braised Eggplant with Pork

Eggplants

Like most Vietnamese people, I can cook some basic daily dishes but I really enjoy cooking for my good friends. I love trying new recipes but I always put my own interpretation in there and don't always follow the recipes or the rules for cooking. Luckily the dishes normally turn out pretty tasty. I would like to introduce this recipe on our Street Food Tour website one of the dish called Braised Eggplant With Pork. I cooked it over the weekend for some friends.

Vinh Long - Eggplants

Cooking Vietnamese food doesn't take lots of time or preparation. I cut preparation time by asking my vegie vendor, who is fantastic, peel and sometimes chop the vegetables at the market. This dish takes next to no time to prepare but the key is allowing the eggplants to soften and take on the other flavours.

For 4 to 6 people:
Eggplant 4 : slice into batons
Pork 200 grams : slice into batons
Gala Thau - Pickled dried radish : slice into batons
Ginger : thinly sliced
Chilli : thinly sliced
Onion : diced
Garlic : finely chopped
Chicken powder
Oyster sauce
Sugar
Soya sauce
Coriander to garnish

Eggplants

Stir fry the eggplants in oil for a few minutes for color and tenderness then put them on a plate. Stir fry garlic, add pork then Gala Thau for three minutes. Add chicken powder, oyster sauce, a little bit of sugar and soya sauce. Keep stir frying for 5 minutes then return the eggplants, ginger, onion and chilli and stir fry for a minute or two more.

I think this is such an easy (but very tasty) dish in which eggplants are the star.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

The Taste of Hanoi Street Food

Banh xeo - pancake(Crispy)
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.


Thit Nuong - Hoi An
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 his 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.


Grilled pork with noodles at Duong Dong market - Phu Quoc
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.


Seafood seller
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.


Dong Xuan market
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.


Macleod's family
Our tours range from a one hour market familiarisation to a full-day eat-a-thon. The most popular tour is the 3 hour (9am-12pm) 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.


Dong Xuan market
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 (5pm-8pm), 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.

Beef salad
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@yahoo.com and Mark: lowiemark@yahoo.com.au