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Preya

Cool! Amazing how far Hanoi's restaurant scene has come:)

foodcrazee

kewl! good review for u guys! keep it up.

HanoiMark

It’s nice to see some Hanoi get some attention for its culinary offerings, but there is something so one-sided about the article. Sticky Rice offers a nice balance between street food and haute cuisine. Gross’s article on the other hand praises the elite Asian fusion restaurants while snubbing its nose at the actual local culinary traditions that are supposed to be the inspiration for these high-end restaurants (quotes: “a city that once seemed beholden to boring food” and “a 996-year-old city where cooks in my experience take the rich variety of southern Vietnamese cuisine…and strip it down to a bland menu of broken rice and boiled meat”) I don’t know much about the author, but maybe he needs to stop looking for southern Vietnamese food here, and perhaps it’s time he get out on the sidewalk and experience the actual root culinary traditions that are alive and well in Hanoi. What about such creations as bun cha, bun rieu, bun oc, and a myriad other dishes whose names are advertised from sign boards up and down any Hanoi street? (Then of course there is the vibrant café culture.) This article makes it sound like Hanoi's culinary role is just limited to being a setting for fancy international chefs serving out of French villas. I think this reputation of native Hanoi food as bland, boring and functional is at least a decade behind. It’s time for a corrective.

Milo

I agree with you, encouraging North/South parochialism serves no purpose, they are both good. Similiarly denegrading street food in favour of high class restaurants betrays the fact that traditional food has been built up over such a long period of time and refined to such a point that it is now seen as acceptable for high end restaurants. If you wish to choose between one or another, you should base your views upon your preferences, not upon whether one is better or worse than another. I hope both high end restaurants and food in its traditional form flourish in Hanoi.

Anna

Loved the NYT article - great blog.

HanoiMark

I think part of the reason why some Westerners are disappointed by Hanoi food is that their idea of what constitutes "Vietnamese food" is formed largely by eating in Southern style restaurants in the Vietnamese diaspora. This was also how I came to know Vietnamese cuisine, coming as I do from Toronto. I love these restaurants too, but they provide a limited picture of the cuisine of this country. When people encounter Hanoi cuisine it just doesn't fit with their idea of what it is supposed to be. The perfect example is pho bo. The first time I tried it in Hanoi I was disappointed wondering where the heaping plate of herbs and the hoisin sauce was. Once I dumped my preconceptions I was able to appreciate the spare subtlety and deep beefiness of the northern variety.

Matt

Hi there,

I'm the author of said article and I'm glad to see this discussion going on! First, let it be said that I'm as much an adorer of street food as I am of the efforts of the restaurant chefs. Actually, day-to-day I'd much rather eat at any little com binh dan than at a fancy restaurant: Just plop a plate of com suon nuong (with a few strands of rau muong) in front of me, and I'm as happy as can be, particularly if the tra da is cold and bitter.

Still—and I fully concede that this is because of all the time I've spent in Saigon—I remain more in love with the cuisine of the south. I know northern pho is supposed to have that spare subtlety and deep beefiness, but often it seems like those concepts are thin cover for a paucity of ingredients, a lack of bright herbal notes, and a reluctance to pack a wallop of flavor.

Maybe it's just typical Vietnamese parochialism, the kind that expats inevitably absorb wherever they're stationed (if you've ever talked to expats from Phnom Penh, you'll know what I mean). I lived in the south, hence I eat like a southerner.

At the same time, I think that the high-end restaurant renaissance in Hanoi is indicative of a growing attention to dining overall in the capital. That is, Vietnamese now care that their food tastes good, they're rediscovering—finally—that it's okay to be seen enjoying dinner. They're the ones dropping $2,000 on dinner at Vine, not Americans (well, not necessarily). That has got to be translating into the food on the street as well. (Though in my short stay in Hanoi last October, the pho I ate still failed to impress.)

So what I guess I'm saying, Hanoi Mark, is that I'm eager to read your corrective! (Don't read that as a challenge; it's an invitation.) In particular, I'm curious to know if Didier Corlou's pho map is really a map to the best; I want to know if cha ca la vong has the best cha ca, or just the most popular; I want to read about the invention of pho cuon, a dish I'm led to believe is just 15 years old. And next time I'm in town, we'll go grab some bun cha, follow it with some che, and grab a digestif at Bobby Chinn's. OK?

kwautlizard

Nice blog and as a 14yr resident of Hanoi & local foodie, I just want to chip in. The majority of tourists, or people that hit the NYT's or this blog, are pretty hesitant to run the guantlet on the street (why risk a 7day vacation in a restroom or bolt out of a board meeting every 5min. eh?). And some local Chefs, namely Bobby Chinn & Didier Corlou, have reinvented local cuisine for western palates meeting commendable cuisine expectations. This has not come without the recognition owed to the local foodstall masters, in the spirit of true professionalism - quite the contrary, just turn on Discovery Travel & Living's, 'World Cafe ASIA' on Tuesday nights featuring Hanoi's own enfant terrible, Bobby Chinn as its host. This show specifically focuses on acknowledging street food vendors in 13 Asian locations. SUPERB and about time!! And if you hit the YouTube vidblog at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UrZYwwXxZw0 you can get a taste of Hanoi, Tokyo & Hong Kong. This show aims to steer those that are less than totally brave but cannot withhold their exploratory & curious appetite; they will be duly rewarded now. Hmmm just checked the site to see if the URL is still up ... think I will head over to Mrs Anh's Banh Cuon right now and see if I can have some of that free-range liver she keeps hidden under the table for her VIP's & one of those incredible "banh cuon trung ga" (for those few locals in the know) if she is not too busy! The concept of dessert takes on a whole new savoury definition. Kudos to Bobby for getting the message out there Asia-wide!

Oh, and for Cha Ca I recommend you give Cha Ca Thang Long a try, the Cha Ca Sisters may surprise you with their lemongrass rendition of this classic Hanoi dish, just down from the Hang Da Market at 31 Duong Thanh Street. Vive la difference!

I love this town, the people, the food & those who are finally bringing it to the rest of the world ... again !!!

zizo

emerald rings and gold rings www.emeraldring.fora.pl

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