Half of my family on my mom’s side is from Ha Noi, so naturally we eat a lot of Northern & Hanoi style food. But there are still many things my family don’t have in their “repertoire”, and I got to discover a few dishes with this recent trip to Hanoi.
Above is chả rươi, rươi being the – yes, worm, chả is a general word for anything that’s flat and made of mushy stuff that’s then hardened (like Vietnamese bologna, fish cake, etc.) This dish is made by mixing the worms with eggs, onions, and then fry the whole thing. I’m not a big fan of thrill-seeking or crazy-nutrition-craving eating, and never go out of my way to eat cockroach because it seems adventurous and cool (barf), or eat snakes because supposedly it’s good for you. Chả rươi is actually a very common dish in the North, and people eat it simply because it’s GOOD. If you can get past the, well, appearance of the worms, they taste buttery and rich in the most pleasant way, and blend really well with the eggs so that you can’t even tell where the eggs end and the worm starts. It was a pleasant surprise, because I was skeptical at the appearance at first. I’ve had crispy fried silk worms before (the inside is buttery, soft and rich, outside is a very slight crunch), but at least silk worms don’t look like this 😉 Once I got past my reservations, however, it was rewarding. If you’re ever in Hanoi, I highly recommend trying this dish.
The second surprising dish is bún ốc (snail/escargot noodles), but eaten in the style of bún chấm (dipping noodle). Normally you have the bún (rice noodle) and the broth together, but here they give you a COOL (not hot like usual) bowl of broth, with the escargots in it, and you just dip in chunks of noodles as you go. Eating cold broth is weird. Dipping noodles chunk by chunk is even weirder. Apparently you also have to add a lot of chilli sauce/paste to make it spicy, as it is a dish eaten in the winter. The cold broth is cold because there’s no point in heating it up, it’ll get cold right away anyway (hahahaha how smart!). The broth is cooked entirely from escargots, tomatoes, fish sauce, and maybe some MSG, so it’s very light and clear. If you like bún ốc, this is definitely worth a try.
Of course, Hanoi has other wonderful food that I didn’t get a chance to try. In fact, I ate so much that one of the days I was there, I suffered from intense stomachache due to bloating/overeating! Pho in Hanoi is also 1000 times better than pho anywhere else. If you ever visit Hanoi, let me know – I can provide some recs 😉