In the beginning, baguettes were for the rich. When the French first brought over their banh tay — ‘foreign cakes’ — they were an extravagance. Rich Vietnamese people would take the loaves and dip them in condensed milk. And no one ever thought to put cheap meats inside.
Five minutes into my first banh xeo, I’m wondering if I should have opted for a less ambitious dish. In one hand I’m holding a wok the size of a small refrigerator. With the other, I’m trying to ladle a mixture of rice flour and coconut milk across the scalding surface. Even pho — the archetypal Vietnamese street food dish — seems less daunting.
In the early 1920s, food connoisseur and writer Thach Lam penned the following words about street food in Hanoi: “There is no time in a day that one can’t find street food. Each hour is a different one; eating street food is an art: one has to eat at that right hour and buy it from that right man — that’s a connoisseur.”
In 2000 a friend took me to my first Vietnamese curry joint. A corner restaurant on Dien Bien Phu, the non-spicy, coconut curry dish was served up with bun noodles.
Before anything else, Van Anh — owner of Ho Chi Minh City's only Indonesian restaurant, House of Salvation — is a musician. She is a multi-talented instrumentalist who has played since she was five years old, and has travelled the world entertaining music lovers.
It’s one of those things I miss. It’s one of those things I do when I go back to the States, a lot. I eat breakfast.
Where is the best place to go in Hanoi for that decadent Sunday brunch? Here's some options of the five-star variety.