When your employer whacks a wad of dong in your palm, best start spending it, eh what?
On stomach sustenance!
Treat yourself to a bevie and a feed before you pay a bill, I reckon.
Last night we hightailed it down to a big bia hoi barn - neon lit, 1000 can sit and the fans spit - a fine cool mist that takes the edge off the stinking Hanoi mid-summer heat. This giant hollow, which is an acoustic horror - all concrete and ceramic tiles, iron-legged chairs scraping, china plates cracking on marble table tops - is peopled predominately by half-tanked local blokes all yelling at the same time!
Mot, hai, ba.....YOOOOH (one, two, three.....CHEERS!) bonds the boys together.
We shout, too, to discuss the menu, a sticky, plastic tome. It's a good read, a bit like an encyclopaedia of the animal kingdom. Select from the following species: duck, buffalo, chicken, goose, frog, pigeon, eel, shrimp, prawn, cow - young and old, rabbit, goat, tortoise, snail, pig, dog, catfish, mackerel, butterfish, trout, carp, and squid. By the end, I was looking for the plankton!
During the long menu perusal, we polished off the complimentary pickle of young bamboo - a nice, sharp beer-friendly snack and a couple of tumblers of solid quality draught beer. A thousand local pisspots can't be wrong!
It was a pay night pig out. We ate like it was going to be our last meal. The nosh came thick and fast - banana flower salad with pigs ear, crisp, golden chicken wings (to be dipped in salt, pepper, lime and chili), stir-fried beef, spinach and garlic (about 40 cloves!), veal garnished with sliced banana and served with a mysterious tangy sauce (more later), a 'save the animals' tofu with tomato sauce, and ricocarbo jammed in a claypot. All good!
The atmosphere is beer drinking competition extravaganza. Other behaviour modifying swigs can be ordered, including a selection of north-western tribal wines and medicinal wines with fixings of, among other things, bear bile, seahorse and ginseng. A big bottle of Johnnie Walker Gold Label would set you back 618,000VND (USD$38.90, AUD$50.88), a rough red Bordeaux 110,000VND (USD$6.92, AUD$9.05).
All above-mentioned food plus seven fine amber fluids - 177,000VND (USD$11.15, AUD$14.55)
Bia Hai Xom, 118 Giang Vo