breathing playing

Eating Out – a Different Experience

In food, Hanoi, i love vietnam, vietnam on May 28, 2010 at 4:56 pm

(want to read this in vietnamese, click here to go to

Posted: 28 May 2010. Filed under: Roman, Traditional.

Tag-team grannies at 11 Văn Miếu

… in between my bites, as if I were any little grandson of hers, she dipped some of the chicken breast in the sauce and placed it on my spoon. As I was eating that, she already had two more mouthfuls ready for me.

I had just come out of my meeting at the Fine Arts Museum and felt I needed a healthy snack. I know there are plenty of sidewalk stands on Văn Miếu, so I headed that way, and was not disappointed when I saw a sign for Bánh Cuốn Nóng. I didn’t even have a chance to look around when the granny took me by the arm and “guided” me in and sat me down. Instantly, the other granny sprang into action and ordered her granddaughter to fix me phở bò. It arrived within a minute. Then, the other granny cut up a good chung of chicken breast, put it on a plate, and set it next to me. I ordered a couple of fried eggrolls and the granddaughter ran into the kitchen to fry them up. In the meantime, the other granny ordered the granddaughter to bring me a side dish of greens and another of lemon spiced salt. I was already enjoying the phở when the other granny came up and took out a pair of chopsticks, got another bowl and put some sauce into it. Next, in between my bites, as if I were any little grandson of hers, she dipped some of the chicken breast in the sauce and placed it on my spoon. As I was eating that, she already had two more mouthfuls ready for me. One she put into my phở and the other onto my spoon as soon as I had emptied it. Oh, and the greens on top.

Now the eggrolls arrived, along with the requisite sauce, and I was encouraged by the other granny to dip and eat. When both grannies were satisfied that my spoon and my chopsticks were always full and well-busy, they took a break and sat down – to entice other passersby into their diner. But, like all good grannies, while from their perches on the chairs on the top step of their diner they were dealing with the sidewalk traffic and running the granddaughter around from customer to customer, each one kept a watchful eye on my spoon, chopsticks, and bowls. If, even for one moment, my spoon or chopsticks were idle, or one or another delicacy was not disappearing steadily enough from their plates, there would be granny, putting the neglected food onto the neglected utensil and gently guiding my hand toward my mouth. No respite for a breath or a word of thank you or that’s delicious.

And, when some of my dishes seemed less laden, up would spring the other granny to put one or another morsel onto the delinquent plate: a piece of pressed pork, a couple of pieces of bánh cuốn, a dog-bone-shaped fried pastry to dip into the phở broth.

Finally, after mouthful-muffled giggle-stifled protests of “it’s delicious,” and “I’m so full!” did the granny onslaught end. At last, I was able to breathe again and push the mountain of empty dishes aside to record the experience herein. But, as I was trying to ask for a bottle of water from the granddaughter, the other granny was already bearing down on me, in one hand iced green tea, in the other a whole watermelon, all accompanied by a great big grin!

Typical granny dress: Black velvet or silk loose pants, purple or mauve velvet or silk blouse, back scarf upon the head – hair in a bun – socks and slip-ons or bare feet and plastic sandals.

On the menu (don’t ask me what this stuff is in English, just go there and have some!):
Các món ăn dân tộc

Sườn nướng
Gà nướng mật ong
Vịt cỏ Vân Đình
Hải sản
Thú rừng các loại
Lẩu – gà ta, bò, thập cẩ̉m, cua đồng, lươn Nam Bộ
Cơm rang
Phở, mỳ, miến xào

Bánh cuốn nóng
Gà tần
Trứng vịt lộn

And much more which is not on the signs.


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