Hanoi, in common with most modern capital cities, offers a wide range of gastronomic experiences and dishes to suit most palates and pockets. Although local Vietnamese cuisine is dominant, and offered in a variety of forms, restaurants of all the major international food purveyors are well established: Chinese, Thai, Indian, Japanese, Italian, and even an Irish pub for those who favour a lunch of the liquid kind. Cuisine in Vietnam is underpinned by more than 70 years exposure to French culture so one can be sure of good basic standards and being served crisp freshly baked bread.
Hanoi is a
city of lakes and two are of special interest. Located at the centre is the lake of the redeemed sword (Ho Hoan Kiem), home of a famous giant turtle. Circled by roads and narrow strips of parkland, it is the social centre of the city and a place where many people congregate in the evenings and at weekends. For the tourist, it is a number-one priority and an excellent place to first sample Vietnamese food. One can choose between eating on a terrace at the lakeside or on a balcony several storeys high, enjoying a panoramic view across the lake. To the north of the city lies the West Lake (Ho Tay), much bigger than Ho Hoan Kiem and the home of fair-sized ships. Here one can experience a romantic dinner on an evening cruise and afterwards sit at a lakeside terrace enjoying a drink accompanied by live music.
Hanoi is full of towering office and apartment blocks, some combined with shopping malls, cinemas and swimming pools. In one such commercial complex to the west of the city known as ‘The Garden’, is a good Italian restaurant which also offers some Mexican dishes. In the more central district of Dong Da, just off Thai Ha street, is a highly recommended restaurant offering sushi and other Japanese dishes.
For those on a limited budget, looking for an alternative to American fast foods, one can recommend the numerous small restaurants offering the typical Vietnamese dishes of beef noodles (Pho Bo) and chicken noodles (Pho Ga). For a price of about one dollar one can purchase a tasty and satisfying meal, often with hot or iced green tea included. Some noodles restaurants also offer alternative inexpensive dishes of fried rice.
However modest one’s budget, one should take care to eat at a properly established restaurant on a busy street where one will find tables with chairs or stools of normal height, and a generally clean and airy environment. It is best to avoid the cheapest establishments in alleyways with low stools and tables, where standards of hygiene may not be to international standards. Rest assured that following these few guidelines, eating in Hanoi is as safe as anywhere, and one can be free to enjoy the full range of gastronomic delights that Vietnam has to offer.
John Powell weaves a tale of tension and intrigue into the lives and loves of the Mainu family and their friends, against the rich social, cultural, economic and political background of the first four decades of Ghana’s independence, in his two novels: The Colonial Gentleman’s Son and Return to the Garden City.
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