Street food in Hanoi leaves a lot to be desired. Most of the food is bland and they don’t really have any condiments to jazz it up – unless you want saltless chilli sauce, or vinegar with garlic slices in it. The staff aren’t to excited about serving foreigners either because of the language barrier – this is especially annoying when they only serve one dish. Just give me what everybody else is having!!! Oh,and they don’t have the price of anything on the English menu – is this an excuse to rip you off – prices vary wildly.
Luckily, there are a few exceptions – Sadly exceptions rather than rules. But one place where you can try a cross section of the nations street food is Quan An Ngon. Its set in the courtyard of an old French colonial villa, the staff are attentive and friendly, the food is good, you can see all the food being prepared and it’s only a little more than the price of street food. It’s also very clean – something that most places in Hanoi don’t seem to care about – you might say I can’t expect certain levels service and cleanliness in a developing country, I say go to Thailand and see how it’s done there – and it’s cheaper!!!
Anyway, At Quan An Ngon you get exactly what you expect. I’m not saying it’s the best food in Hanoi, far from it. It’s just really good. And the choices are endless – Each dish being cooked in it’s own mini street food stall. We go for a selection of rice paper rolls – Pickled pigs ear with crispy vegetables; Shredded pork skin; Sour pork sausage with green papaya and more pig skin; and finally the classic pork and shrimp roll. All text book rolls, fresh, tasty and coming with a dip specific to the filling.
After this we had a huge Banh Xeo. A crispy rice flour pancake stuffed with beansprouts, herbs shrimp and pork belly slices. This was Amazing, so fresh, the way I imagined Vietnamese food. we also had spicy chicken wings,which weren’t the same standard as the rest of the food, but you can’t win them all.
On a second visit we try the shrimp hash steamed on sugar cane, another winner. Steamed shrimp mousse with a great fresh taste, and an interesting presentation, like some weird drumsticks. The waitress then cuts the mousse into wrappable pieces which you match with what I can only describe as pieces of rice noodle pancake.
This time we also eat a crispy salad of papaya, banana flower, mixed herbs and strips of dried sweet beef – This is dressed in the usual sweet sour light dressing common in Vietnam and dusted with some extra crunch in the form of crushed peanuts. When I eat salad as fresh and crispy as this I always wonder at how something so simple can be so tasty, so good. Why cant the creators of limp flavourless salads taste stuff like this – maybe then I wont have to eat soggy lettuce again.
All in all a great meal, and if you’re in town definitely get yourself to this place. Or try eating at every stall in town till you find something decent.