Ah yes. Hanoi in the summer. Where do we even begin? All this crappy scorching hot air keeps me from venturing forth deep into Hanoi’s delights, but food discoveries nearby do await. I stopped by Dieu’s in the Tay Ho neighborhood for some takeaway. I had eaten at this place a couple of times while living in Hanoi and it did what it was supposed to do in filling me up. On this hot and miserably humid day it was convenient, cheap and close.
As is customary in Vietnam one cannot have a minute alone while perusing a menu and the wait staff hover just inches away with pen and pad at the ready. What sweat the outside air couldn’t extract from my skin the steaming hot restaurant tried to harvest. My irritation mounted as the waitress inched closer and closer, so I just surrendered and asked her what she enjoys most on the menu. After giggling profusely and covering her mouth while I rolled my eyes, she pointed to rau bí xào thịt bò or beef sautéed with pumpkin seeds which sounded intriguing and different.
So much for going healthy by ordering a vegetable, and I made the mistake of watching the food preparation. Now I expect some small amount of oil when the wok comes to smoking life, but a whole cup of it? As the pumpkin greens cooked down some more, she dipped the cup back into a plastic bag and threw another load into wok. I told myself this has to be water but the bag said in bold English letters “cooking oil.” Choi oi. Two cups of pure oil to stir fry these greens into oblivion and beyond seems excessive indeed. I then turned away since if we can’t see it, it can’t hurt us. I shuddered to think how they’d fry up the beef.
After five sweat fueled minutes loitering around the restaurant, my greasy gut bomb guru sent me away with a takeaway container. Remember that Wendy’s commercial a long time ago? You know the one with the old lady looking at a tiny hamburger patty in disgust and yelling out, “Where’s the beef?” Yeah, that’s the one. Her name was Clara Peller, and I suddenly felt myself channeling her ire when I cracked open the lid and found not one piece of beef. I one upped Clara and asked, “Where the [starts with f and rhymes with duck] is my damn beef?”
Stabbing the wet spinach like greens with my chopsticks did nothing to cause strips of cow to miraculously appear. And not only that, where the heck are the pumpkin seeds? The waitress had carefully pointed to beef with pumpkin seeds on the menu and transferred those words carefully to a receipt. Oh well, that’s Hanoi. What is asked for is not always what is delivered in the end. Having moved to Saigon I had largely forgotten how things roll in Hanoi. What can you do? It all just adds a little local flavor to the meal.