They're soft, hot and stuck on paper. White and perfectly shaped like a dairy whip ice-cream, these swirls of bread are known in the local lingo as banh bao. Misted up in the hot fog of a metal steamer R2-D2, they emerge sweaty and ready for the eating.
My sunglasses got a vapour shot too, as the lid was lifted, me with my big scone too close to proceedings. Visually impaired for a sec, I grapple with the plastic bag to get at the dough ball. Tearing the slip of paper from its bottom end is a frustratingly futile exercise so I end up chomping around it. The bread is light and fluffy, slightly sweet and rather devoid of filling. Aunty Steamer has bagged up the wrong one.
In the bun cupboard, there are a few different varieties, some denoted with pink spots. The local bun of choice is filled with minced up fatty pork and a fungus known as tree ears but sometimes the fat gag factor kicks in for me so I give them a wide berth. Quail eggs and pink Chinese sausage (lap suon) pack the centre of others, though anything bird is totally off the Hanoi menu map for now.
Just up from the Jazz Club and the stuffed toy stalls on Luong Van Can, there are half a dozen or so of these bun cupboards and R2-D2 steamers to choose from, their doughy numbers available morning, noon and night.
Extreme Cheap Street Eat (3)
2000VND (USD12c, AUD17c) a pop.
Banh Bao Dac Biet, 16 Luong Van Can St, Old Quarter