A dose of cool, nonhumid air got me out on foot on my last work overnight in Hanoi but hunger stopped short my wanderings on Xuan Dieu Road in the Tay Ho neighborhood. The trusty old won ton soup joint across from Tracy’s drew me right in, and this basic concrete hut has nourished me enough in the past for me to know it’s consistently decent.
A teenage kid held a picture menu with strangely translated names inches from my eyes, and the old saying a picture is worth a thousand words became so true. He kept pointing to three blurred images as if to tempt me into ordering one of those soups, so I bit. Sure, why not I thought. I’ll take the shrimp wonton he so insistently motioned to.
Well, that was a colossal mistake. He shook his hand as if to say no while irritation washed over his face. Since choice number one crapped out, I asked for another shrimp variety he kept pointing to with utmost vigor and got the same result. He then pointed over and over again to the same three pictures as if this game of charades made sense. Once again I asked for the shrimp and once again he said no. Why would anyone point to items as if to say yes, when no is really what is meant? Only in Hanoi.
Even asking for something completely ignored by his finger yielded the same hand waiving for no. How do you say just bring me the cook’s choice and quit with this nonsense? Why even show me a menu if nothing on it is for sale? Pointing yet again to mì sủi cảo led the guy to finally give me some sort of look that I assumed meant that choice was now on the approved list.
Why wasn’t it ok the first two times? I just don’t understand Vietnam sometimes. This place is like some sort of giant inexplicable riddle beyond my comprehension. Asking for something three times seemed to work like a charm though.
The soup finally arrived and was a who’s who of everything likable. Soft doughy wontons filled with savory pork or shrimp, a fried wonton, thin al dente noodles, slices of sweet roast pork, and leafy tart greens filled a sweet broth. I skipped the pasty liver and whatever that honeycomb like fatty blob was though. Imagine a honeycomb soaked in water and all soggy and swollen. I am convinced it was culled from deep within one our barnyard buddies, and its gastro-intestinal origins are best left unknown.
On a delightfully cool day what’s better than some hot won ton soup to warm things up? This particular one was new for me though the experience surrounding it has played out countless times. In the end this meal was a success and chalk another new one up for this food journey one bite at a time.