Can I see the Children’s Menu, Please?
In Hanoi, there is no shortage of food. Phở, sticky sweet rice, egg coffee, fruits that look like they were created by Dr. Seuss and more. But what if these yummy foods are off limits? Yeah, I’m joining the pre-diabetic club, my doctor wanting me to avoid foods that can spike blood sugar. That means everything I came to Hanoi to nibble is a no-no. Goodbye, street noodles. Tạm biệt, avocado smoothies. Au revoir, fresh croissants, and durian.
So, what does one eat in Vietnam when you got to watch blood sugar?
There is not a shortage of meat dishes in Hanoi, especially in the Old Quarter, as they eat everything, from the oink to the doink. Just check out a few selections from a restaurant I frequent, Nhà Hàng Cường Hói. It’s the Hanoi version of Applebee’s, always crowded and with a view of Tây Hồ, or West Lake instead of the news.
Here are a few snippets from their massive menus: You can have coddled tortoise with ginger or banana and bean curd; roasted pig intestines with cucumber (a nice mix of protein and fiber); or crispy fried pork stomach, which I doubt uses Colonel Sander’s blend of herbs and spices.
For those of you craving items you dissected in high school biology class, you can get frog with bamboo shoots, eel with onions, or a goat. Plus, the things boys are made of: snips and snails and puppy dog tails.
While I may not choose to eat some of their cultural delicacies, I’m not going to get all PETA on these folks and say it’s wrong. Just ask a teen from China about your love for moldy blue cheese, or an orthodox friend about your affinity for a BLT. You eat things that other cultures wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole, including that last free sample of you nabbed at Costco that wasn’t behind a sneeze guard. And when you visit your in-laws for Thanksgiving? Keep your comments about the oyster stuffing to yourself.
I ended up going for the vegetable stir-fry topped with a bit of tripe, which I discretely placed in my napkin. And there’s always a plate of Đậu phộng, peanuts.
When you travel, you must pair your adventure with a good book, just as you do a bottle of wine with a fancy meal. If you go to Vietnam, may I suggest one of these:
A Man of Two Faces, by Pulitzer Prize winner, Viet Thanh Nguyen. His memoir is sobering, his raw emotions about being both a Vietnamese immigrant and a refugee transformed into twelve-point Time Roman font.
Or, the other tasteful selection is Nguyen Qui Duc’,’s Where the Ashes Are. It is his personal experience of being a child during the Tet Offensive in Huế. Not a light as a Pinot Noir, more of a dark rich Merlot. He also wrote the article about revisiting Vietnam fifty years after the Tete Offensive. Revisiting Vietnam 50 Years After the Tet Offensive.
Tomorrow, I’ll visit his restaurant, Tadioto on 24B Tong Dan Street.
Rumor has it, he serves Sushi.