HANOI’S UNUSUAL EATS
In addition to the traditional favourite street food such as bun cha and pho, it’s not uncommon to find dishes featuring goat, dog, rat, snake and porcupine. Ethically some readers may find this disturbing but the eating of animals is deeply entrenched in Vietnamese culture, and an invitation to share in the feast is to be considered an honour.
If you want to sample dog meat (thit cho), a northern speciality eaten mostly in winter and never during days one to ten of the lunar calendar month, then head out of Hanoi along the Red River dyke to Nghi Tam Avenue. There are dozens of stilthouse restaurants to choose from, though Tran Muc is consistently regarded as the best; alternatively, just head for the busiest. The dog meat comes boiled (luoc) or grilled (cha nuong) and served with green banana and tofu (rua man), and is washed down with rice wine.
Le Mat snake village – 4km over Chuong Duong Bridge in the Gia Lam District – is home to a slew of snake-meat restaurants, some of which play to the crowd with elaborate theatrics, including killing the snake in front of you. It’s then served up in every possible form, from soup and crispy-fried skin accompanied by rice wine liquors laced with blood and bile. The guest of honour gets to eat the still pumping heart – beware, it’s alleged to have amphetamine properties. Though not the cheapest of Le Mat’s restaurants, Quoc Trieu has a reliable reputation and leaves out the gory bits.