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Page 6

Picture of slices of roasted pig on a plate in the center of the picture, with a plate of peanuts in the shell on the left, three small bowls of dipping sauces on the right, and a green glass with one inch of beer in it at the top. .


The are advantages to living in a country, as opposed to vacationing in a country. One advantage is, the friends you make can take you to their favorite restaurants! One such restaurant has become my absolute favorite place to eat. This gem is located about 1 km from my apartment, and I guarantee…you won't find it on any famous (or not famous) video traveler’s blog. I’m also pretty sure no President of the US will ever eat here; although I suppose there is the outside possibility, it’s located relatively near the current U.S. Embassy

Anyway…if you live in my part of town, have a hankering for some roasted pig, piglet, or duck and you start asking around, the locals are very likely to point you to this eatery as the “go-to place”. That said, other than the roasting set-up on the sidewalk out front, it’s a pretty nondescript looking place that you would easily pass by without a second glance. Roasting setups of all sizes, by the way, are not necessarily distinctive features in a country that uses charcoal as a fuel for cooking many meats. Regardless of it's appearance, this place is extremely popular, has indoor and outdoor seating for about 100 max., and I have never been there when it wasn’t operating at full capacity. Like any well-known eatery anywhere in the world, the early bird gets the best seating selections. “Early” in Hanoi means you arrive between 6:00 pm and 6:30 pm, as most people begin to arrive around 7 pm or 8 pm. 

So let’s talk menu. In addition to roast pig/piglet (my unquestionable two favorite menu items) and duck, there is a full menu to choose from; you can order your favorite beef, vegetable, tofu, seafood, snail, tripe, or entrails dish as well as desert (more on my favorite desert called, dàu hủ nước đường, later). As you can imagine, looking at how pig is cooked at this hidden culinary delight, it has a nice rich smokey flavor with crisp skin. This can all be washed down the ol’ gullet with your choice of water, soda, tea, Vietnamese domestic beer (Bia Saigon 333, Bia Hanoi, Tiger bạc) or the ubiquitous bia hơi. 

I recently went here to eat with two friends and our total bill (not per person bill, but total bill), out the door, for three adults with full bellies, including drinks…350,000 VND (~$15.00 USD). Our meal consisted of roast pig, a deep-fried tofu dish, a beef and veggie dish with uncooked ramen noodles, a tripe dish, a steamed veggie dish, and eight drinks. The dishes are always served family style. The weekend before I left San Marcos, I went to breakfast with a good friend of mine (shout out to Robert) at my neighborhood bistro. My meal of three pancakes, two eggs (over easy of course), two pieces of bacon, and coffee cost $15 and change, and his two eggs over easy, bacon, beans, toast, and coffee cost $16-ish, plus we always give a 20% tip. Point of interest, you don’t tip in Vietnam. When I’ve inquired as to tipping here, the response has always been: “Why would you pay the worker more money? They are already being paid to do their job.”. In Vietnam, employers pay workers a fair wage, rather than paying them a poor wage and expecting the customer to subsidize their workers’ income. What a concept.

Regarding the “bia hơi” mentioned above. The Vietnamese word for beer is “bia”, which is derived from the French word for beer - “bière”.  Bia hơi translates roughly to “fresh beer”. In reality, it is what Americans might call a type of draft beer. Bia hơi is the “working person’s” beer. It’s very cheap (less than half the cost of a Vietnamese domestic beer), has a lower alcohol content (somewhere around 2.3.0% by vol) than domestic beers like Bia Saigon 333, Bia Hanoi, Tiger bạc (4.6-5% by vol), and only comes in a keg. It’s always served in a 14 oz green glass (see the green glass in front of my friend in the picture), and it’s not available in stores. Bia hơi is dispensed through the end of a ½” surgical rubber hose. Un-kink the hose, fill the glass, kink the hose. Nothing fancy. How this hose is attached to the keg remains a mystery...all you ever see is the hose coming from behind a curtain/barrio.. “Bia hơi” is also the name of an establishment where you can go and drink bia hơi. They also serve other domestic Vietnamese beer, but the majority of patrons drink bia hơi. You can also buy very cheaply priced food. A one-stop-shop so to speak. There is a bia hơi located on nearly every street corner throughout the city. I’d say bia hơi’s are the equivalent of a neighborhood pub; except, in the US, as you know, the food is “bar food”, not particularly nutritious, and generally more expensive than the beer you are drinking.

Now for desert. Dàu hủ nước đường (sugar water tofu) is a tofu and ginger syrup dish that comes in a couple of varieties. My fav is the “silky” kind. The tofu is the consistency of flan and the ginger syrup is slightly sweetened. This desert is extremely light, really refreshing, and will not only cleanse the pallet, but also keep a meal from biting back in the middle of the night. Yummers! To see what it looks like, be sure to cut and past the name into your favorite interweb search engine.

If you want to see how they roast a pig click here (p. 6a). 

If you would rather not see how they roast a pig, click here to go to the next page (p. 7).



p.2, p.2 photos, p.3, p.4, p.5, p. 6a, p.7