Hanoi Food and Wine Tours
Try and keep up with Vietnam's non-stop capital
The city of Hanoi remains a fascinating mix of Vietnamese and French culture. Vietnam’s capital may be second in stature to Ho Chi Minh, but the city’s history goes back an awfully long way. In fact, it’s been inhabited since around 3000 BC, but it’s more modern history is largely the result of Chinese and French occupation in recent centuries. Religious temples, wondrous architecture, and monuments to the difficulties Vietnam has been through are everywhere to be found, and to witness the city at full pace to is understand a country racing to catch up with all it has missed out on in years gone by.
Plenty of Vietnamese cuisine has been heavily influenced by French colonialism in the 19th and 20th centuries. It’s fair to say that the French left their mark in terms of ingredients, techniques, flavours and combinations. But those all seem to merge seamlessly with the more traditional Asian-style dishes you might expect. Take for example the world famous baguette, which the Vietnamese have adapted, serving up their very own take on the classic bread but using rice flour for the dough instead. There is also a huge coffee scene in Hanoi, and it’s thought that coffee’s significance in Vietnamese culture has its origin in the former French rule. Many dishes in Hanoi also use the classic foundations of French cooking such as butter and wine, while there’s also a marked use of beef compared to its neighbouring countries.
It’s thought that several of Vietnam’s most popular dishes started out life in Hanoi. One of these is pho, a delicious and light noodle broth made with herbs and either beef or pork. A second is cha ca, white fish seasoned with garlic, turmeric, and dill. It’s presented cooking on a sizzling pan and served with rice noodles, spring onions, parsley, peanuts, nuoc cham sauce, and chillies. The result is a spicy dish packed with plenty of layers and flavour. Another popular treat is xoi xea, or sweet and sticky rice. Normally you’d take it savoury along with some soy, meat and vegetables, but it can also be served as a dessert with creamy coconut instead.
The Vietnamese also make the most of the wealth of fresh seafood at their disposal. Crabs, shrimps, prawns, squids, mussels, and clams are all made into light, refreshing dishes, packed with depth, heat and classic sweet and sour combinations. A popular snack is banh cuon - a rolled cake made with a steamed rice flour sheet, wrapped around a filling of chicken, pork, or shrimp and mixed with mushrooms, onions, bean sprouts, and cucumbers. For foodies that need a break from the heat found in much of Hanoi’s cuisine, this is a fantastic option, as well as a great snack to take with you as you explore the capital’s lively streets.