Bánh Cuốn Nóng Street Food Breakfast – 95 of 365

Bánh Cuốn Nóng on the Griddle

In Hanoi’s Truc Bach Lake neighborhood across from the rather rundown Chau Long Market whose weatherworn facade has seen better days, an entire culinary world awaits exploration.  It’s funny how I had to move from Hanoi to discover Hanoi.   Coming back on a regular basis for work related trips has given me ample time to get out on foot and really explore this city where the old Asia still lurks at every turn.

In this very authentic area a couple of blocks and a whole mentality removed from the normal tourist haunts of the Old Quarter, a string of women sell various breakfast items at makeshift food stands lining the sidewalk near the market.   For 25,000 VND, or about a buck twenty-five, breakfast is served with the locals.  Eating at a place like this takes a great leap of faith and full trust in the food gods, but the breakfasts are cooked fresh and a constant stream of customers at each is a good sign.

One particular spot had me particularly mesmerized as a woman in one fluid motion ladled white batter onto a griddle, smoothed it over with a long stick also used to lift the sheet off the cooking surface.  Can you imagine if we tried to cook this mess at home while squatting next to a foot high cooking apparatus?  We’d have an endless supply of profanity cursing out the pile of torn crepes and burned batter for sure.

All This For $1.25

A handwritten cardboard sign hanging by a purple ribbon on an iron fence announces to the world this lady’s specialty is bánh cuốn nóng, or pork and diced wood ear mushroom rolled up in rice noodle crepes.   A fish sauce based nuoc cham with cuts of chả trứng, a type of pork sausage with the texture of a bologna chunk, is the proper condiment here.  Herbs such as mint and coriander give the pork and noodle rolls a bit of unexpected sophistication and depth for a meal eaten on a foot high stool on a sidewalk.

Let’s see…breakfast off the dollar menu back home at McDonald’s or breakfast off the sidewalk menu in Hanoi?  Need we even ask such a question for in my world, street food wins hands down!  Actually now that I think about it, are bánh cuốn nóng as commonplace to Hanoians as McDonald’s is to Americans?

Had I not taken this leap of faith and joined several Hanoians in sampling a flavorful food until now unknown to me, I would have missed out on a great experience for sure.   There’s nothing like sitting in a crowd of people who belch and suck on toothpicks after a fine meal.

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Categories: Vietnamese Food

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