One would think I had learned my lesson by now that foods in Vietnam are best eaten in their native habitats. In other words, Hanoian food is best left to joints in Hanoi and conversely Saigonese cuisine is best left to the street chefs in Saigon. Why I thought that a restaurant advertising Saigonese cuisine in the foodcourt in Hanoi’s 72 story Keangnam Landmark Tower would be any different is beyond me. Perhaps watching the sun set from the top floor had caused me to succumb to delirium induced by the altitude.
In any case, curiosity got the better of me so I ordered a bánh đa cua Hải Phòng. And in case your imagination is now running wild, Haiphong is far from some magical and exotic art of food preparation. It is simply a coastal city near Hanoi. Now how often do we cross paths with a food stall selling Haiphong foods in Hanoi at a joint supposedly purveying Saigon specialties.
What I ordered was supposedly a crab noodle soup, but what arrived could maybe be in that ballpark with a very healthy dose of imagination. In other words, this foolishness appeared nothing like the giant picture posted near the counter. But then again a real life Big Mac never comes even close to the huge display on the side of the 18 wheelers disgorging pallets of that mess into the restaurant. As far as crab goes, maybe a teaspoon of greyish meat was circling the top of the broth. Now that I think about it, perhaps a teaspoon is too generous an estimate. I mean I would have been lucky if this crap, I mean crab, could have covered the surface of a fingernail.
The broad, brown noodles proved interesting as well. Have you ever eaten a cooked lasagna noodle before assembling the actual lasagna? Come on…I know you have when no one was looking. Well these well cooked strands of pasta tasted much the same. The broth even tasted suspiciously close to Campbell’s chicken noodle soup.
A most unusual addition to the food bowl was a trio of three meat stuffed leaves rolled into tight cylinders. They looked like Canada geese turd actually. The beef or pork or dog or cat or whatever this mess shoved inside was tasted much how I would imagine goose turd, not that I ever want to actually find out. One bite of this sour roll was plenty, and unfortunately the other two did not magically float away.
What I missed most in this sterile food court in the bottom of a skyscraper was the assortment of dirty plastic containers so essential to a street food joint experience had this soup been served in its natural habitat. These well worn vessels house the hot sauce, chili peppers, chili pepper infused vinegar, fresh limes, and herbs in petri dishes of bacteria and grime. It’s like a penicillin booster shot to the gut to eat like this every day. All I had here in the foodcourt was a napkin, spoon and chopsticks. What I would have given for just anything that could have added some flavor to this most bland broth. Oh wait, that’s what the goose turd stuff was for. Never mind.