Hang Duong: Retaining the sweet soul of Hanoi

My favorite Tet specialty – Hanoi’s ô mai – is flavorful and unique in its own way, combining sour, spicy, sweet and salty flavors all in one. The article is published on Le Petit Journal – Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi issue Jan 2016.

Photo credit: Internet

The high humidity up north lends a hand in making Hanoi’s weather bitterly cold, and even, frigid at night. Yet, even in Hanoi’s coldest months, the city still manages to keep its streets busy and crowded. The festive spirit is more than present in the Old Quarter, and when the lunar year is approaching its end, the streets are bustling in preparation for Tet. Wandering in this maze of streets, travelers will be easily appealed by splendid Hang Ma street and bustling Hang Dao street. In addition to these two, Hang Duong (or “sugar street”) is another spot with street side stalls selling diverse types of sweets and sugars for Tet. Over many generations, Hang Duong street has continued to retain traditional flavor of Hanoi’s specialty “ô mai”, known as the sweet and salty dried fruits or jams.

Dating back to the 18th century, the street was once used for sugar trading between Chinese broker and sugar producers from north-central Vietnam. According to the locals, during the French colonial era, the street was once known as “Rue du Sucre” and was renamed again as Hang Duong in 1945. Since then, the street has transformed into a busy little market where many merchants gather to sell trinkets and local goods, more specifically Hanoi’s traditional treat, ô mai.

The street is known best for its ô mai made by local experts using traditional methods. These sugars and sweets are made of a variety of Vietnamese fruits, carefully picked from gardens in northern provinces. Star fruit, tamarind, kumquat, plum, pineapple and lemon, are just but a few examples. The delicious taste of ô mai is said to be dependent on all steps of preparation – from choosing the best fruits to using special recipes. Hanoi’s ô mai is flavorful and unique in its own way, combining sour, spicy, sweet and salty flavors all in one.

Every year, when Mid-Autumn Festival or Lunar New Year arrives, the street comes to life. Through its ups and downs, the street’s soul is still retained with preserved structures and dozens of ô mai shops inherited from generation to generation. During this time of the year, Hanoians head for this “ô mai street” to hand-pick their  Tet specialties, and pair them with cups of tea as a special treat for the holiday.

– Huyen Tran

Banh gio Ha Noi

Hanoian’s like to snack. And when it comes to their favourite bites, banh gio, a savoury, pyramid-like dumpling found all over the capital, sits top of the pile. Words by me. Edits by Nick Ross. Photos by Vu Bao Khanh. The article is published on Word Vietnam issue July 2015.

Photo credits: Vu Bao Khanh.

Photo credits: Vu Bao Khanh.

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Some of my favorite: Oc luoc & Bo Bia

When being asked by Word Editor, Nick Ross, on which dishes are my favorite so that he can put my pick-up into May Issue cover story, oc luoc and bo bia immediately spring to my mind. How about you? What are your favorite?

Oc Luoc

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La Patisserie Chez Moi

When it comes to Hanoi’s experience of bakeries, besides big names like Nguyen Son bakery, Thu Huong, which are bakery chains for take away, small patisseries opened by local pastry chefs often showcase their cake display cases near the road, so that passers-by can see their cakes. Therefore, it is not easy to find patisseries with windows full of glorious gateaux, charming chocolates and other tempting treats. To me, that kind of pastry shops is exactly what would offer cake and tea experiences that satisfy my sweet cravings. On searching petite pastry like that, La Patisserie Chez Moi is the one that makes me keep coming back.

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Photos by: Julie Vola – Word Vietnam Issue May 2015.

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Bo Bit Tet Hoe Nhai

If you are looking for dishes with a “perfect marriage” between the western-originated food and local ingredients — which typically include Vietnamese fish sauce. My suggestions are banh my sot vang and bo bit tet. Words by me. Edits by Nick Ross. Photos by Julie Vola.The article was originally published on Word Vietnam issue April 2015 EAT-IMG_7418-Street-Snacker-Hanoi-BO-Bit-Tet-Hoe-Nhai-APR15-JV

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Street food: My Van Than

From Chinese import to a Hanoi staple, wonton noodles or my van than are found all over the capital. Words by me. Edits by Nick Ross. Photos by Julie Vola. The article is originally published in Word Vietnam Issue March 2015. 

My van than. Photos by Julie Volia.

My van than. Photos by Julie Vola – Word Vietnam.

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Street food: Bún Thang

As Tet is on its way, one dish that can’t be without: Bun Thang! Words by me. Edits by Nick Ross. Photos by Julia Vola. The article is originally published on Word Vietnam Issue February

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As the Vietnamese New Year gets close, people rush to the market to stock up on traditional food for Tet. Among the signature dishes prepared in Hanoi are chung cake or banh chung, Vietnamese-style ham or gio cha, sticky rice, chicken, dried bamboo shoots and bun thang, which is vermicelli noodle soup with chicken, pork and egg.
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Street food: Vietnamese dipping sauce

Bursting with characters and oozing with taste, dipping sauces are key component of Vietnamese cuisine. But what if they were a lady, what kind of lady would they be? I dip my way through the sauces and discover the women behind the condiments. Word by me. Edits by Nick Ross. Photos by Francis Roux. The article was originally published on Word Vietnam Issue December 2013

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Street food: Pho chien gion

In Hanoi, there is no end to the number of ways you can eat Pho. Have you ever tried pho chien going – crispy deep-fried pho dipped into hot sauce? The delicious variation is available at Kham Thien street. Words by me. Edits by Nick Ross. Photos by Francis Roux. The article was originally published on Word Hanoi Issue May 2013. 

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