Here I am back in Hanoi for work sweating my you know what off. This city celebrated its 1000 year anniversary almost two years ago. This begs the question of which masochist thought this mosquito infested plain along the banks of the muddy Red River would be a most delightful locale for a city? You can’t tell me that in 1000 years no has ever thought gee, what were we thinking? I mean that’s 365,000 days for a great mind to have figured out this place is too cold and foggy in the winter and much hotter than fit for human consumption in summer!
I know. You are already asking yourself what does a complaint about a man who chose Hanoi’s location only because he saw a dragon rise out of a lake have to with food. Well, a lot actually. I set out at 6am for a walk but this road paved with good intentions for exercise didn’t lead very far. The scorching sun felt more like noontime hell, and the heavy air around me clung to every inch of my body like some sort of wet blanket. Walking just five minutes started my body on a slow cook from inside with every drop of water working its way out.
I only got as far as a street food shop at 25 Xuan Dieu Road in the Tay Ho neighborhood. A translation of this since you are not looking at a map of my journey would be that I succumbed to the elements not even ten minutes into this heat fueled journey. I collapsed into a chair under a fan and in turn collapsed the wobbly chair onto the floor. Had this been America I suppose this could have been a ticket to a multimillion dollar lawsuit. But since I do have a sense of humor unlike many back home and also realize crap just happens, I dusted myself off and laughed with the shrieking and giggling locals. I can only imagine what they went home and reported about the stupid white dude who doesn’t know how to use a chair.
I ordered from a picture on the wall and selecting mì trộn caused an eruption of animated ooooohs from the crowd now watching each and every move I made. Mì trộn, or mixed wheat, must be the Vietnamese equivalent of the Grand Slam at breakfast at Dennys or the Cracker Barrel Country Boy Breakfast. This thing is mammoth in contrast to the usual portion controlled meals in Vietnam.
Enough nonsense was spread out before me to nourish a small village for a week. A wonderful, slightly sweet clear broth filled the bowl to my right, and in it swam two tender pink shrimp complete with heads, a slice of liver, a couple of pork stuffed wontons, tart bok choy, and some strange gelatinous crap similar to a water logged honeycomb. I do not want to know what part of the animal this was, and I quickly discarded that piece of white sponge much to the dismay of those around me.
And just as a side note, I looked up what comes in that Country Boy back home. Do people really eat this in one sitting as listed straight from their website: country ham, pork chops or steak grilled to order, three eggs cooked to order served with fried apples, hashbrown casserole, grits, sawmill gravy and homemade buttermilk biscuits along with real butter and the best preserves, jam n’ apple butter available. Now I have single handedly solved the mystery of from where all those gigantic morbidly obese specimens loitering inside a WalMart spawn! But I digress…
The bowl on my left had a huge pile of soft wheat noodles, a hard boiled egg, slices of perfectly cooked roast pork, a sweet chili sauce and fatty pork paste. I mixed it all together and it was delicious. I selectively ate from the other bowl and managed to finish all the piping hot broth despite the inferno raging inside the restaurant.
Just think, if I ate like this every meal I could leave behind a few more loads of chair shrapnel in my wake.