Tag Archives: England

Around Hanoi in 30 dishes #7: Bánh Gói

Not an English motorway station in sight.

A quick one this.

In a bit of a rush between a 12-hour-day and drinks I stopped off to grab a few quick bites at the side of the road on my main street of Đội Cấn. I had driven by this stall several times on the way to work and thought the same thing every time. They look like Cornish Pasties, an English hand-held snack of meat and potatoes in a pastry thick enough to withstand accidental blows whilst stuck in a harsh English coal mine.

Called ‘pillow cake’ in Vietnamese, these pastries were made from a thinner dough akin to an Indian samosa. Maybe the Vietnamese mines had better conditions in those days. Either way I appreciated the lightness of the pastry with this much oil involved. It was filled with pork and glass noodles and probably other things but they were long gone before I had the chance to inspect the contents my mouth. Comes served with the mint and the lettuce and the spicy dipping sauce and your own saliva.

Where: Close to the corner of Đội Cấn and Liễu Giai.

How much: 6,000 VND each.

Hanoi, I’m not scared of you anymore y’hear?

I’ve been here for a month now and finally getting used to the city. I’m no longer as wide eyed (and mouthed) as I was when I first arrived. I now know how to negotiate the open manholes, hanging electricity wires and poorly parked motocycles standing between me and my next amazing meal. I survived the floods without being electrocuted.

We're in the middle of monsoon season.

I also start Vietnamese lessons next week which is a real relief. On recent nights out with western friends I’ve been the person the restaraunt-owner talks to before anyone else. So you can imagine the look on their face when its the white guy who can speak better. A hilarious time for all concerned! Kinda like the end of the 60s sitcom where everyone shares a joke and then freeze mid-laugh as the credits roll.

But it’s getting a little old now. so yay for Vietnamese lessons.

One owner even asked my white friend if I was his son. We pondered the improbable scenario that needed to occur for this to be true. It involved child trafficking.

One month on, my experience of teaching is improving. I feel I have the respect and even admiration of the students. Like most Hanoians, they have let down their guard and are much more receptive and warm towards me. This is a great feeling and makes me feel that my teaching (and not my apperance) is whats most important to these students.  We’re gettting somewhere here.

The good nature isn’t just confined to the classroom. On the street I find people are willing to rush to my aid if I had any language problems. Their English isn’t great, but the fact that they are trying to help gives me a warm feeling inside.

Of course, you still get your fair share of dickheads. Many people try to charge you western prices (normally double those of local prices) for everything, and this becomes apparent when you realise that menus and price lists are a rare sight in Hanoi. As a Viet Kieu (overseas Vietnamese) I often get charged the western price. Compared to living in London, its still a great deal, but knowing you’ve been charged over the odds adds a bitter aftertaste to your bowl of pho. Another reason to learn Vietnamese then!

Most interesting thing seen on the back of a motorbike – A HUGE block of ice riding free and unattached to the back, with the driver holding onto it with one hand and the other on the handlebar.