When I first arrived in Hanoi, I must admit, I was definitely overwhelmed. Prior to Hanoi (excluding Bangkok, of course), I spent my days leisurely biking in the serene countryside of Thailand and Laos. As my taxi driver weaved in and out through the streets, I knew immediately, my days of strolling down picturesque paths while listening to reflective indie slow jams on my ipod were long gone. I started to have minor heart palpitations, while my palms began to sweat with anticipation. The view from my cab window didn't help matters either. All I saw were hoards of motorbikes, cars and bicycles, zipping across barely defined lanes and loaded with numerous passengers exceeding each vehicle's occupancy limit.
I shouldn’t have been too surprised. This city is notorious for its dense traffic. It was just a shock to my system to come from peaceful and passive Luang Prabang to the hustle and bustle of Hanoi. There was no middle ground that allowed me to adjust from one extreme to another. However, despite the fact that my stomach was tied into knots, I was still excited. Excited to experience the OTHER thing Hanoi is known for, the FOOD!
Once I finally got to my hotel, I checked into my room, took a second to brace myself, armed with a map, I charged downstairs and went straight to the concierge.
“I’m absolutely famished." Yes, I used the word famished, because when I'm that starved I use words like famished. "Can you please recommend an amazing place for dinner?”
“Of course, what kind of food are you looking for?”
All I can do at this point was to answer honestly.
With a laugh, she told me to go next door and order the Bun Bao Xao.
Relieved that I wouldn’t have to attack Hanoi traffic during my first night of arrival, I started out the door then perched on a plastic candy colored stool that was in front of the restaurant.
The waitress said something incoherent in Vietnamese, to which I responded “Bun Bao Xao?”
She nodded knowingly. Seconds later a bowl of noodles sprinkled with beautiful cool crispy herbs, such as mint and basil, with slices of fried steak arrived. The noodle salad was perfectly dressed with my favorite thing in the world - num mac sauce! I threw in a couple of diced chili peppers into the mix, then sloshed the contents of my bowl with plastic chopsticks. The fresh full flavors immediately rushed through my body like an icy cold waterfall and immediately calmed my nerves down. The noise that surrounded me instantaneously muted as I tasted each note of the dish's symphony. With a sigh of relief, I knew I would be okay after finally tasting the comforting flavors of Vietnam.
Bun Bo Xao
Bun Bo Xao