Touring Chau Long Market Hanoi

Touring Chau Long Market Hanoi

Normally, in our digital nomad lives, I would never wander into a Vietnamese wet market a few days before Tet, the Vietnamese lunar new year celebration.  But, after joining our cooking class at the Hanoi Cooking Centre, we toured the nearby Chau Long market.  Surprisingly, I actually enjoyed myself. Chau Long Market is a “wet market,” or a traditional food market, where people shop for their everyday foods.  A wet market is the opposite of a market that sells clothes or toys or other products.  The term wet market can also refer to the fact that I have yet to walk through one where the floor was not wet, from constant rinsing of food remnants.  It is often, not a pretty sight. I love food markets in Europe, and markets like Santa Catarina Market in Barcelona or the Mercato Albinelli in Modena are simply stunning to walk through, to experience.  Everything all clean, and orderly, with lovely lighting, and foods often in a ready to eat form. But wet markets in Southeast Asia are totally different. They are an assault on the senses.  Chau Long Market in Hanoi was no different. Low ceilings, narrow walk ways, poor lighting, it was just like so many other wet markets in Southeast Asia. Being Intimidated by Chau Long Market Chau Long Market is located just north of the Old Quarter in Hanoi, just off of Truc Bac Lake.  We had spent a few days in the neighborhood at a friend’s apartment, and had walked passed the market several times.  Our pho shop and cafe were just a stone’s throw away, at the edge...
Exploring Hanoi Street Food

Exploring Hanoi Street Food

After a half dozen trips to Vietnam, and as many or more visits to Hanoi, I thought I had a good understanding of what to eat in the city.  We had spent countless days and evenings exploring Hanoi street food prior to this trip. The problem was we found ourselves going back to the same places, the same street corners, and eating the same foods that top every top 10 list of foods to eat in Hanoi.  We’ve eaten our share of pho and bun cha, and I love them both dearly.  I just wanted to know a little more.  I posed the challenge to Buffalo Tours in Vietnam when we signed up for their Hanoi street food tour in the Old Quarter. I figured the challenge would be exceedingly difficult for them as the Old Quarter is certainly one of the more touristy area of town. Our guide, Tuan, took us to a small bia hoi, or fresh beer stand on the edge of the Old Quarter.  We have drank our share of bia hoi before, but did not mind sitting down to chat with Tuan.  It was just before Tet, the lunar new year, and the city was energetic.  We were able to ask Tuan all sorts of questions about Hanoi, and about celebrating Tet.  It was then and there that I decided the tour would be worth our time.  Tuan then ordered a plate of nem chua ran, or fried fermented pork.  It was our first dish of the night and one that we had never had before.  Eric wondered aloud, how have we never known about...
Learning How to Make Pho

Learning How to Make Pho

I can’t really remember when I first tasted pho in Vietnam.  I imagine it was some time in 2009, during our first trip, and most likely in Saigon.  Since that time, though, I have been infatuated with the concept of pho, most notably in eating as much pho as possible while in Vietnam.  But, I have always been curious how to make pho. Pho bo, or beef noodle soup, is one of the most iconic Vietnamese dishes, and the dish most often associated with Vietnam.  Although pho can be served with chicken, or fish, the beef version is my favorite, and something I crave.  Pho is perfect on a cold day in northern Vietnam, when the hot soup warms you from the inside out.  It is just as perfect on a hot day.  Some of my best pho memories are sitting on a tiny stool, street side, with drips of sweat running down my back, and spicy chili sweat gathering on my eyebrows. Ordering and eating pho generally take about 3 minutes, combined.  It is street food, and street simple.  Point to a bowl and order.  Add some herbs and chilis, and eat.  Although it is a quick item to eat, pho is something that takes time and energy to make, which is why most pho sellers only sell one thing, and one thing only.  It takes time to perfect a perfect pho.  Learning How to Make Pho, the Speedy Way While at the Hanoi Cooking Centre just before Tet, we had the opportunity to learn how to make pho.  Well, at least we learned a shorter way to...
The Perfect Cooking Class in Hanoi

The Perfect Cooking Class in Hanoi

  After about a half dozen visits to Vietnam, and as many to Hanoi, I thought I was an expert on Vietnamese food.  Now, I know that Vietnamese food is complicated and multi-layered, and I knew that I was not, in fact, an expert on Vietnamese cuisine.  But I thought I had some knowledge on the topic.  I understand the basics of pho and bun cha, and even know some food words in Vietnamese.  The ingredients, and how to cook some of the most iconic Vietnamese foods, though, remained elusive.  That is, until we attended a cooking class in Hanoi. Learning Vietnamese at a Cooking Class in Hanoi The Hanoi Cooking Centre is in an historic building, just north of the Old Quarter.  With a cozy little patio out back, and a dining room upstairs, this colonial designed building became the scene for our attempt to try to learn how to cook Vietnamese food ourselves. The Hanoi Cooking Centre offers several different options for their cooking classes. Ours was the Vietnamese Street Food menu, complete with beef noodle soup, or pho bo, which we sort of watched being prepared because of the effort it takes to actually cook.  We also made BBQ pork two ways with rice noodles, or bun cha, fried pork spring rolls, or nem, and a green papaya salad. Bun Cha One of my absolute favorite Vietnamese dishes, bun cha includes two types of pork.  Any dish that includes two types of pork must be good, right?  We mixed fish and oyster sauce, garlic, shallots, and sugar into a mixture to marinate both a ground pork...
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