In a Ho Chi Minh City corner, all things Hanoi

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Cake corner at the Banh Mi Hanoi shop on Nguyen Thien Thuat Street in District 3, HCMC

The Banh Mi Hanoi shop on Nguyen Thien Thuat Street is a welcome sensory feast for every Hanoian.

Located on a busy area in District 3, this big shop offers hundreds of items that are typical of the capital city. They are all over the place, hanging from roofs and piled up on shelves in an apparently ad hoc manner, but once you order an item, you discover that there is some "˜method in the madness.'

The shop offers Qua (traditional Hanoian snacks) and other foodstuff. There is plenty of choice at reasonable prices, starting at around VND7,000 for a cake. For around VND200,000, I was able to choose up to 25 cakes of 10 different kinds for a weekend picnic with friends.

Another day, I noticed that busy female customers stopped by to buy readymade food like fried field crabs and pork pie, which are usually served with steamed rice for dinner.

Other Hanoi favorites at the shop include fresh foodstuff that has just been prepared during the day, like xoi (sticky rice), which has to be consumed immediately, and Banh dau xanh- dried green bean cake, which can be used for days.

There are different sections offering traditional cold cuts, bread and dried meat, pickles, ruoc (shredded dried pork meat) and several traditional cakes, not to mention roast chicken and other main course choices.


83-85 Nguyen Thien Thuat Street, District 3, Ho Chi Minh City

Banh gio (steamed rice cake with minced pork and black mushrooms) at Banh Mi Hanoi shop.
Photos: To Van Nga

The shop also offers good, fresh bread and baguettes made at a bakery behind the shop.

This popular shop becomes even more so on special occasions such as Tet (Lunar New Year Festival) and the first or 15th day of Lunar month. Traditional sweetmeats like mut (sugared dried fruits) and o mai (salted dried fruits) sell well then.

Apart from the sweetmeats, che (sweet porridge) is another item that people like to frequent the shop for.

My choice for breakfast is some sticky rice, a Hanoi staple. For lunch, the cakes wrapped in banana leaves are a favorite. The choices are banh gio (steamed rice cake with minced pork and black mushrooms), banh chung (square rice cake with pork and green beans), banh khuc (cake make of steam sticky rice and green bean and khuc vegetable), banh day gio (sticky rice round cake served with pork pie), banh it (sticky rice cake with a stuffing of sweet beans or sweet coconut).

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