A period of neglect. Dormancy. Slackness. Call it what you will. This miniscule corner of the web still has some life. I'd like to make it sputter again from time to time. There are still stories to tell, observations to make and, clearly, plenty of street food to devour in Hanoi. And, it's not that I haven't been eating all these months I haven't been writing. I have. Too much. In the company of many fine gluttons from all over the world. I just haven't had the chance to eat alone with my thoughts for a while. Eating with others will not write a food blog.
So I'm committing to going solo and anti-social to the pavements, gutters and carts of the city from time to time in order to get this space kick started again. Today, after returning from a five week holiday in the States and Japan, I went about recalibrating my palate in my realm. After some excess - all detailed in short form on Instagram and Twitter, and evidenced in an expanded gut that cuts off my vision to my toes - it was nice to be sitting down again to the small portions that, by and large, exemplify street food in Vietnam. And none of that fear of making the wrong choice presented by the menus of the places we were eating at on our trip.
Today, a street food dish that's created quite a stir in my absence from Hanoi (and one that I've written about a few too many times) reared up in the streetscape as I sought out my first meal upon returning. A photograph of Barack Obama and Anthony Bourdain sitting at a bun cha table got relayed all around the world a few weeks ago. I believe there has been quite a lot of discourse about it, none of which I've read in detail. Former Hanoi, now Saigon expat Connla Stokes told me that the bun cha eatery in question is doing a roaring trade, many customers wanting to sit at the same table, set their dishes in the presidential way and take photos of course. Presumably, they then eat. We may have to wait until Mr. Bourdain's television program is aired to find out if the President did.
I didn't eat today where he supposedly did. Strangely I went back to a vendor that I boycotted many years ago when, after many fine experiences, she started to blatantly overcharge me. I'm talking 13 or 14 years ago when such practices were all too common. I pulled up with slightly better street smarts all this time later and she knows now that she can't pull such stunts. So many foreigners know so much about street food. And, to be fair, that level of desperation to forge extra profits through dishonesty - a reputation that afflicted Hanoi for a long time - is pretty much gone.
Fortunately, and completely aside from the dubious aforementioned tricks, this bun cha vendor and many of her ilk, are still here. Doing their one specialty, for a few hours a day. Here,the husband squats fanning the coals, turning the meat, smoking a cigarette. No doubt he could do it with one eye closed. Or both. The wife is boss of portioning the food, the money and the husband. That's how it works at street food level, day in and day out.