Hanoi Gastronomy- abundant and unique

It seems that nowhere in Vietnam is more famous for gastronomy than Hanoi. Formerly, each street or village in Hanoi was well known for a dish. Although these dishes were not delicacies, their flavours were so special that no Hanoians could forget them. For those who live away from the homeland for ages, these popular foods are always reminiscent of their native place.

Among the specialties of Hanoi, Com (green rice flakes) Vong (name of the village that makes it) seems to be so famous that it was exclusively reserved for presenting to the kings and the lords in times of old. Sometimes it is simply a kind of fruit, “Guavas of Quang Ba village, fish in the West Lake” goes a saying.

Numerous delicious dishes of Hanoi have appeared in folk ballads and proverbs. There are banh troi (a floating cake made of bits of brown sugar wrapped in glutinous rice paste and cooked in boiling water) of Ga village, rice vermicelli of Su and Tu Ky villages, anabas in Set Pond, sam cam (a kind of duck) of the West Lake, snails of Phap Van village, pachyrrhizus of Thuong village, watermelons of Ha village, oranges of Canh village, persimmons of Dien village, sweet potatoes from Trieu Khuc village, bananas of Su village, aubergines of Lang, steamed rolled rice pancakes from Thanh Tri village, plain sticky rice cakes of Quan Ganh and Ke villages, rice dumpling filled with meat and brown onions of So village, plain rice flanks of Do Bui village, soya sauce of Sui village, pork pies of Chem village, sour pork hash of Ve village and rice gruel of Duong village.

Liquor was also regarded as a specialty of the ancient capital. The great poet Nguyen Trai mentioned lotus and chrysanthemum liquor in his work Vietnam’s Geography. A number of places are famed for wine, such as Hoang Mai (Ke Mo) village.
            “I am a girl from Ke Mo
        I go to sell wine and meet you by chance”
Besides, there were Thuy, Vong, Ngau, and Tho Khoi village, which could distil famous liquor.

In the recent past, a number of dishes were created by certain families and have been famous for many generations. A family in Cha Ca Street created La Vong grilled fish more than 100 years ago. Pho (noodle soup), now considered a Vietnamese specialty, may originate from Pho loads carried on shoulder with a pole and sold on Hanoi streets at night.

Nguyen Ninh green rice flake cake is also a product of a family in Hang Than Street.

Many families in Hang Dieu Street have been making and selling delicious lotus seed jams, moon cakes and lotus jasmine-scented tea.

Hanoi’s dishes are delicate and refined. A dish does not require too many ingredients, but each has its own spices and garnishes. Bun Thang (vermicelli and chicken soup) and banh cuon (steamed rolled rice pancakes) must be served with fish sauce seasoned with aromatic belostomatid essence. Long lon tiet canh (pig’s entrails and blood pudding) and “moc ton” (dog meat) must be accompanied by basil. Canh Hen (corbicula soup) should be seasoned with fragrant knotweed, Bun nem (fried spring roll) and bun cha (vermicelli and grilled meat) must be sprinkled with pepper while bun rieu cua (vermicelli and sour crab soup) needs chilies and shellfish soup requires cockscomb mint, etc. A tray of food is like a harmony of many sounds. “Precious sounds and tones are always few, and delicious dishes are always refined”. Even a chili can be trimmed into a flower. A moon cake or a pork pie was also cut and arranged under the form of a flower or a leaf. For a dish but it should be a real treat to the eyes first before being full up.

Moreover, Hanoians are very punctilious in eating. They do not eat xoi lua (steamed sticky rice and maize) in the afternoon and luc tao xa (sweetened porridge of mung beans) in the morning. Pho is a very popular dish but Hanoians are particular about the aroma and the tastiness of pho. Its broth is made by simmering bones till it becomes tasty and should be pure, not fatty. The rice noodle in pho should be soft and not crumpled. The dish should be served with fresh chilies, pepper and aromatic herbs, and chiefly onions. A lack of these spices and herbs will not make pho.

Hanoians often eat ngot vegetable soup cooked with lean pork paste in summer, or anabas cooked in fish sauce and served with pickles in winter, while soya cakes, cooked with tomato or simply grilled or boiled, can be eaten all the year round. When the festival of the third day of the third lunar month comes, people in Hanoi make banh troi (marble dumplings made of white rice flour with rock sugar fillings) and banh chay (glutinous rice dumplings filled with mung bean paste in syrup). They enjoy banh deo (sticky rice cakes filled with preserved fruit and cubes of lard) and banh nuong (pie filled with various stuffs) in the Mid-Autumn festival.

Com Vong (green rice flakes made in Hanoi’s Vong village) is a women’s snack in autumn. La Vong grilled fish served in a restaurant bearing the same name in Cha Ca Street is a mixture of luxurious and popular flavours and is a good dish that the brown and beard can treat their guests in winter. Bun thang, bun nem and bun cha are dishes bearing many cultural traits of Hanoi while country snacks like Banh khuc (cakes made of glutinous rice mixed with everlasting gnaphalium leaves, filled with mung bean paste and sprinkled with grains of cooked glutinous rice); banh day (plain sticky rice cakes); boiled yellow, sweet potatoes and boiled young maize, etc., have been deeply ingrained in the consciousness of people in Hanoi’s rural area./.