Food-Touring in Hanoi…

15 December 2016

One of the things I thought of doing in Hanoi was to get onto some food tours. I usually don’t do this anywhere as I rather explore on my own, but being unfamiliar with Hanoi this I thought was a good move. Plus, I really wanted to explore some stuff I otherwise wouldn’t be able to get to on my own during a short visit.

So for the entire day of eating I placed my faith in Hanoi Food Tasting Tours, and arranged two separate tours. First, for lunch, was the Snake Village tour to Lệ Mật. This was focused on a large meal with an unlucky snake being my nose-to-tail lunch.

I will warn my readers that this posting is graphic and some of you may not like what you read/see, so…be warned. My new friend, who I did not eat…

snake

We headed out of town across the river to a very modern suburb before arriving at the so-called Snake Village. I was told that with so much development in the area, the village and its snake-related businesses were shrinking by the week and at this point is down to a tiny little area. Sad, as one of the more unique travel experiences of Hanoi is being bulldozed for more roads and factories. The government is supposedly very sensitive to developing its tourism sector by its various moves in the Old Quarter, but something like this is utterly counterproductive to marketing Hanoi as a unique destination.

Our destination was one of the larger remaining restaurants here, Quốc Phương Trại. A large area, that has various areas for keeping other delicious treats before it meets the kitchen; though of course some of the other animals are just for display (not edible even by local folks)…

We were led to the dining area where the experience began, and they had live grass snake there that was to become lunch. They also offer cobra, but that is a very rich meat and would be pretty stupid to do solo. This lunch turned out to be a huge one for me and my friendly and helpful guide. They took the live snake and extracted the beating heart, and drained the blood into a glass — which was immediately topped off by vodka.

The same was done with the gallbladder, which after extraction was opened into a glass and filled with more vodka. So a glass of red, a glass of green. We moved to the table where, yes, I ingested the beating heart and took a shot of the red drink.

00a-heart-and-blood

Nothing too special to be honest, I didn’t chew it. And it was not as metallic as the beating eel heart I had at Kabuto in Tokyo a few years back. Both vodka concoctions I slowly drained throughout the meal.

We chilled out with some raw veggies and herbs and chatted a bit. He told me about the traditions of snake meals and so forth, and also how it may disappear soon due to the developments in the area. Sad, as he say fewer tourists come to do this as they find it frightening or too exotic. I never understood why people travel if they are not interested in experiencing things exotic…

Anyway, not long after the items began appearing. The first item was a snake soup…

01-bisque

Not bad, though I imagine this was cooked before since no way they can get a soup with flavour in such a short time. A nice dish, with good thick liquid and solid snake flavours. Nice start. Then several dishes appeared. First were some fried snake rolls.

02-rolls

Very tasty stuff. Then some stir-fried snake…

03-stir-fry

Again, very tasty, lots of nice herbs here too. And more herbs with these…

04-herb-wrapped

Herb-wrapped snake meat, very delicious. Then a real cool one…

skin

Fried snake skin. These are nice, would be great as a drinking snack. And it kept coming…

06-grilled

Some grilled snake, which were also very nice. And finally…

07a-minced-bone

Some minced bone, which was actually too dry for me even when mixed with the rice cooked in snake fat…

07b-fat-rice

A bit bland, but helped with all the other dishes. This is a lot of food, plus some bread. We chatted and ate and enjoyed the relaxing time really. A nice lunch I must say, too much food for 1+1 perhaps. But we (mostly me) finished most of the items (except the bone and rice) before they cleared it away. Then to close, we were offered some herbal soup…

8

Very strong herbal flavours here, almost mediciny. Then a “dessert” of sorts…

09-pudding-fat-soup

My guide explained they usually don’t do desserts so they made a pudding soup of sorts using the last of the snake fat. A bit bland, but after such a rich meal this was just a tummy filler (prolly not needed). We need to walk this off…

We took a tour around the restaurant before we walked out into the area and arrived at one of the snake farms nearby. It’s one of the very last ones left in what was a place full of these…so sad… We were shown around to the “wine aging” area with all the various snake wines — but was told they were best for old folks as we were too young for them.

wine-jar-02

Oookay… Then he brought us into the snake pen and brought out a rather angry cobra (my friend from above)…

cobra-01

Obviously woken up from its rest, this guy was not happy, and lunged at us a few times. When the handler re-opened the trap door the cobra just slithered back, like saying “okay, show’s over, I’m going back to bed…” Well…

Well, that was the extent of the tour now that there’s not much left of this village. Poor government planning caused this, and it’s sad. I’m not sure there’ll be a similar tour offered soon if this continues and the rest of the village is turned into roads and empty shiny buildings… Sad sign of, erm, “progress”…

We headed back to town and I thanked my guide. He told me his former classmate will take me on the food tour this evening, so I was looking forward to it. I spent a bit of time resting, but part of the afternoon was devoted to my laptop, which decided to commit suicide for no reason. Do NOT ever buy HP stuff. This damn thing bricked after only 9 months. Ridiculous!

Anyway, I calmed down and tried to relax before I went to meet my new guide, who asked what I really wanted to see food-wise on this tour. I said more odd things, so he suggested instead of going by foot we hop on his motorbike. Now if you’ve seen Hanoi’s motorbike traffic you’ll know why I had to think a sec first. But I was game.

Riding through Hanoi traffic is actually exhilarating, and I’m still amazed there are no crashes. Plus the wind was very refreshing. We first went into the Old Quarter for a few stops. The first was a nice rice roll to get us started…

1-rice-roll

Then off to another place a few blocks away for some dried beef salad…

beef

Of course we rode despite it being 2 minutes away by foot…that’s the Hanoi way! Then we went a few more blocks away for some bun cha

3-meatballs

Nice stuff, but now the fun stuff begins. We explored a few things on the outskirts of Hanoi, even crossing the famous Long Biên Bridge — designed by Gustav Eiffel. A few stops later (I’m not going to elaborate on this section as my food adventures were quite…adventurous…) I was feeling full and later we headed back over towards the centre — with some fried goodies.

5-fried-roll

And then we headed back to the Old Quarter for a last stop, some self-rolling rolls…

6-self-roll

Nice stuff to stuff in the rolls, but mine always broke. Too full! But a nice coffee stop later my awesome guide took me back to my hotel. If anything, I really loved these long rides on the motorbike as we weaved in and out of heavy traffic, me holding on to the back bars and looking ridiculous with the bike helmet. But that’s half the fun!

I thanked my guide for a wonderful time. Honestly these guys are hard-working and have great ideas and can improvise on the spot. I highly recommend these tours, as these guys are fun, knowledgeable and friendly.

Quốc Phương Trại
Tổ 6
Lệ Mật, Việt Nam

Hanoi Food Tasting Tours
Hà Nội, Việt Nam

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2 thoughts on “Food-Touring in Hanoi…

  1. Pingback: A Lazy Saturday in Hanoi… | melhuang1972

  2. Pingback: Review: Tim’s Kitchen | melhuang1972

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