Bánh Bao Steamed Bun – 280 of 365

Bánh Bao

Now that this scorching inferno popularly called summer in Hanoi is thankfully fading away, getting out and exploring again on foot while on my work related trips to the capital city is once again not a sweat soaked affair.  Yen Phu Street near Tay Ho is always an interesting walk as it’s full on Vietnamese with few hints of anything western.  Of course this makes the area a perfect feeding ground for exploring new foods on this culinary journey.  Just when I think I’ve exhausted all the edible choices Hanoi might have to offer, along comes something completely new to try.

A woman and her food stand parked squarely in the middle of the sidewalk blocked all who dared venture further up the road.  In Vietnam where pedestrian traffic does not seem to be a huge concept other than tourists, I suppose crapping up the way with a food joint really is quite acceptable.  Since my choices were to step into some rather large mud puddles and oncoming traffic or just stop, I stopped.

Bánh Bao Stand

And stopping for even a second made me an easy target for the hard sell.   Well, she didn’t have to sell too hard for I was hungry and on the prowl for something new.  She motioned for me to pull up a squat stool and join two other breakfast goers for a steamed bun called bánh bao or literally enveloping cake.  I’ve had these in the US and I must say the thick bread and pasty meat fillings left something to be desired.  Of course I was dubious about this one.

Having an authentic bánh bao in authentic surroundings on a sidewalk in Hanoi was a taste sensation and sensory treat.  I felt like one of the locals and chowed down on this puffy pastry that the woman had so thoughtfully cut into fours with a pair of dirty scissors.  Any semblance of feeling like a local came crashing down around me though when the woman started pulling my leg hairs.  Of course I had to be reminded that I am different, and she wanted the whole neighborhood to know as well.

My breakfast hostess shouted something across the street and right on cue the iced tea lady came running over to inspect my legs.  She pursed her lips and made some sort of nasal sounds while some random old woman emitted guttural clicking sounds.  I dipped the last of the meat and hard boiled quail eggs into the hot sauce, paid and high tailed it out there before they moved on to other body parts.

The bánh bao may have only cost fifty cents but the experience was priceless.

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Categories: Vietnamese Food

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