Hanoi is Food is Hanoi

Vietnam is obsessed with food, and food writers are obsessed with Vietnam. So I end up with a lot of smaller, cuisine-based assignments here. Above are some recent outtakes. They’ll be a bit too gritty for newspaper publication, but I really like them. This is what dining in Hanoi looks like to me. It’s nasty, crowded, street-side and alive. It isn’t pho at the Metropole or steamed fish in a villa courtyard. Or it is those things, but it’s these other things, too. Sometimes I feel like a lot of food writers ignore these other things. They obsess over the country’s colonial past and its more watered-down restaurants and perhaps unwittingly temper the pulsing heart of the nation. Its food. Simple.

I’ve always enjoyed reading Sticky Rice because he seems to understand that pulse–the beauty in a bushel of herbs and a bowl of noodles, a small plastic chair and some paper napkins that feel like little more than brittle cardboard stock. Some chopsticks, a litter-strewn sidewalk. Xanthe Clay, the food writer I followed around for The Telegraph, also seemed to understand these things. She was game for it all. Her trip was mostly about pho, and she took several local recommendations to heart when scouring the city for her next bowl. It was refreshing, even if a lot of those places didn’t make it to the final article. In the end, anyone who braves a steaming bowl of noodles amidst the madness that is Dong Xuan Alley on their first afternoon in the capital is alright in my book.