Hanoi sidewalks offer culinary warmth when it gets cold
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Hanoi’s sidewalks lure people out on to the streets even when the weather gets cold with a wide range of culinary delights from hot porridge to crispy banana fries.
Banh ran man (salty glutinous rice doughnuts) is a mixture of vermicelli, minced meat, veggies, salt, wood-ear mushrooms, pepper and prawn. The doughnuts are fried four to five times in different pans to make the crust particularly crunchy. They taste best when they are piping hot because they become a little bit hard when they cool down. One of the most famous addresses for this dish is a stall located in alley 242 off Lac Long Quan Street.
Normally, the salty version is served with sour and sweet chili sauce along with sliced papaya or radish. Unlike other kinds that use minced pork in their stuffing, the stall off Lạc Long Quan Street serves the dish with boiled sliced pork, giving it a clearer taste and flavor. A doughnut costs VND9,000 ($0.40) each.
Pork rib congee is a year-round favorite of Hanoi foodies, but on chilly days, the favor intensifies. The smooth congee, the soft braised pork rib, crunchy quay (fried dough sticks) combine perfectly to provide both warmth, flavor and texture to this dish. Many Hanoians say that a nameless roadside stall at 2A Ly Quoc Su Street serves the best rib porridge in the city. This hot treat can also be found in the famous Dong Xuan Market. A bowl of rib congee costs from VND25,000 to 30,000.
Banh duc nong, a thick, savory rice porridge, is cooked and stored in a hot pot and only ladled out when a customer places an order. The white sticky cake is complemented with ground pork and wood ear mushrooms. The broth is absolutely crucial for this dish. A helping of pork bone broth and some fresh cilantro make this an awesome dish for a chilly day. At some eateries, the cook places some fried tofu pieces on top of the bowl. This golden addition enhances the dish with a crunchy twist. Foodies can add some chili to raise its "temperature." Visit food stalls at 8B Le Ngoc Han Street or 246 Minh Khai Street to enjoy hot steamed rice cakes made by cooks with decades of experience.
Hanoi’s cold weather tends to make everyone crave hot snacks in the afternoon, and one of the most popular of these is fried banana pancakes. A fried banana pancake stall on Hang Dieu Street is highly popular. The freshly fried pancakes with a golden crust are not easy on the high, but very easy on the palate, with their crispy texture and fleshy sweetness inside.
The most important ingredient for this dish is overripe bananas, also known as "honey" bananas in Vietnamese with wrinkles and black spots on their skin. The set-up of every stall in Hanoi seems to look alike, with a bowl of flour mixed with sliced banana, a big frying pan full of oil and a rack displaying attractive golden-colored cakes. These are usually sold for about VND10,000 each.
Gia cay (fake dog meat) consists of pig feet and an aromatic broth of turmeric, lemon grass, galangal, shrimp paste, and fermented rice. The pig feet are stewed until they are soft but still tough and crispy. The taste is quite similar to dog meat but it does not smell so strong. It’s often served with rice or rice vermicelli cakes. Stalls on Pham Dinh Ho Street in Hai Ba Trung District or Thuy Khe Street in Tay Ho District are favored by locals for this dish.
Grilled chicken feet is another popular draw on cold rainy days. It is not difficult to find stalls serving this to be had alongside cold beers on Thuy Khue and Ngo Gach streets.
The barbecue menu for chilly days includes grilled shrimp, octopus and squid beard.
Grilled pork skewers can be found on many streets in Hanoi. Pork is seasoned with spices, marinated and grilled on charcoal stoves. This dish is served with chili sauce. A serving costs around VND10,000. Grilled meat can also be served with toasted bread.
Roasted corn is a perennial favorite in Hanoi and vendors sell this all over the city when the weather starts getting chilly and can found on biting cold days, too. Vendors, usually middle-aged and old women, begin to roast the corn from late afternoon onwards. People can be seen squatting around a stove as the ears of corn are placed on burning coal and turned over frequently to ensure they do not get burnt. Once it is done, the outer part is hard and browned, but the inside remains glutinous, sweet and packed with flavor.