Dare for snake blood in Vietnam ?

Footsteps in Vietnam – Hanoi is well-known for its snake restaurants — restaurants that serve every body part of the snake.If you’re lucky, the snake will be a cobra; if you’re the guest of honor, you’ll be served the heart.

I could not imagine a better adventure in Hanoi!

Hanoi Backpackers Hostel runs trips to Snake Village most nights.  For $15, you get to visit a traditional snake restaurant on the outskirts of Hanoi and enjoy the full snake dining experience.  There’s a snake buffet, plenty of rice wine, and since it’s organized through the hostel, you know that there will be a great group of people.

Also…

You can help kill the snake.

You drink the snake’s blood and bile.

And if you’re truly adventurous, you can bite the heart out of the living snake, feeling it beat in your mouth for a few moments before you swallow it.

BEYOND badass!

When we arrived, we chose five snakes.  These wouldn’t be the ones we would eat, but they would definitely be the ones that we killed.

The snakes were killed one by one by inserting a knife just underneath the head.  Each snake was sliced open lengthwise, which gave these guys easy access to the blood and bile.

I initially wanted to eat the heart myself, but I couldn’t get myself to do it. Even I have my limits, I guess.  Someday.

My friend Dave, however, did splendidly.  He later told me he wasn’t sure whether he felt the heart beating in his mouth or if it was just his imagination.

Next, the blood was squeezed into glasses filled with rice wine.  How amazing is that picture?!

The bodily fluids were poured into shot glasses for us.

On the left: snake bile and rice wine.  On the right: snake blood and rice wine.

Down the hatch!

Honestly, it tasted more like rice wine — which tasted like whiskey — than anything else. But simply knowing that it was blood, blood that had been flowing through an animal only moments ago, was an insane rush!

We then feasted on a snake buffet.  No part of the snake was overlooked — we even ate the bones!

To answer your imminent question, snake kind of tastes like chicken.  Doesn’t everything, though?

Two of the best dishes:

Snake wrapped in seaweed.  So juicy and tender.

Snake spring rolls!

We toasted, again and again, with shots of rice wine.  (A word to the wise — rice wine is extremely potent.  Treat it like liquor, not wine.  Don’t do all the shots you’re offered.)

To conclude, I doubt PETA will be inviting me to hang out anytime soon.  And I wouldn’t be surprised to lose a reader or two over this.

But I don’t care.  My experience of drinking snake blood and bile was nothing short of extraordinary — and one hell of an adrenaline rush!

You can see my friends agreed!

Next time, I promise you, I’m going for the heart!

Source: www.adventurouskate.com

Street food Hanoi

Footsteps in Vietnam – Hanoi: Old versus new, rural versus urban, East versus West. Despite these conflicting elements, Hanoi is a city of harmony and equilibrium. The character of Vietnamese cuisine is the balance between sweet and spicy, hot and cold, fresh and cooked. Ishai has 24 hours to taste and enjoy the various foods of the city and maybe even find his own sense of inner balance! During the episode, Ishai will try the famous Pho dish, meet with Chef Bien Duc Nguyen, and hell brave a taste of some fascinating snake liquor.

Source: National Geographic TV

Hoi An – A town of food

Footsteps in Vietnam – The ancient town Hoi An (also known as Faifo) was one of the most busy habours in the area from 15th to 19th century with it’s residents originated from Vietnam (almost), China, Japan and India. Hoi An city now is famous for it’s beauty and the uniquely peaceful atmosphere. Travelers enjoy Cua Dai beach in the morning, a glass of draught beer under the shadow of a tree and tons of traditional food spreading all around the streets of Hoi An. These are some food that you  should NOT ignore.

MI QUANG (QUANG NODDLE)

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Photo: Tinh Thien

This is the popular country dish in Hoian and Quang Nam. The noodle is yellow or white in color and made from rice flour. It is mixed with shrimp, pork and vegetables, and topped with grilled rice paper and spices. Similar to rice noodle and chicken or pork soup (Hu tieu), My Quang is a variety of Pho (rice noodle soup), because the noodles are made from rice and covered with soup as serving.

Where to eat? 

On the street! Following the local people is a good way. ~ 20-30,000VND per person

COM GA (CHICKEN RICE)

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Photo: Tinh Thien

On the night of the old town, across the block, under the roof of the ancient roof moss, under shimmering lantern, you cannot ignore the chicken boiled silk show up on a disk, first fragrance attractive flight from the chicken rice restaurants. Want to make delicious rice and chicken also choose to have that experience.

Where to eat? 

These are some welknown places: Cơm gà Bà Buội (26 Phan Chau Trinh Street), Cơm gà Bà Hương (Sica alley), Cơm gà Bà Minh, Cơm gà Nga … ~ 30,000VND per person

CAO LAU (MIXED NOODLE)

Cao Lau is the foremost traditional Hoi An food. Visitors to Hoi An always remember Cao Lau, which was considered by Quang Nam people as a special symbol for Hoi An.Cao lau noodles are carefully made from local new sticky rice. Water used to soak rice must be taken from wells in the Ba Le Village; noodles thus will be soft, enduring and flavored with special sweet-smelling.

Where to eat?

You can find a lot of Cao Lau store on the streets or look for some following addresses: Cao lau Ba Be, Cao lau Trung Bac (Tran Phu Street)

UNIQUE “VÚ NÀNG” SNAIL IN CU LAO CHAM ISLAND

Look like oyster but it is not. Just the name alone,”Vú nàng” – women breast, this unique species of snail has led many to curiosity.“Vú nàng” is actually a conical snail which has a small knob which looks like women breasts nipple, protected by a black gray shell.

Because of the limited quantity, only skilled fishmen dive in water for hours, using a flash light and a sharp knife to split each snail out of the rock. The “Vú Nàng” snail is best served when grilled on charcoal or prepared with pig skin and other vegetables as an unique salad. Not as fat as pork, not as strong as oyster, it’s flavor is distinct and unfogettable.

Where to eat? 

“Vu nang” lives only on Cu Lao Cham Island so you should take a 1-day tour to Cu Lao Cham Island (~20km from the mainland) and enjoy the snails on a white-sanded beach there. ~$25-30 per person (1-day tour fare).

BLACK SESAME SWEAT SOUP

Chè mè đen, also known as chí mà phù, was imported to Hoi An from Fujian Province in China when Chinese traders came to this city long time ago. The sweet soup has various ingredients such as black sesame, coconut, rice flour, sugar, sinh a (Radix Rehmanniae) and thc a (Rehmannia glutinosa). So, it is not only considered a delicious dessert, but also a good medicine.

Chè mè đen is cooked in a metal pot and is usually sold by hawkers. This sweet soup is the tastiest when it is served hot.

Where to eat? 

On the streets, again. ~10,000VND per person.

BANH BAO – BANH VAC (HOI AN DUMPLING)

It is a type of shrimp dumpling made from translucent white dough bunched up to look like a rose. Many people like these cakes not only for their delicious flavor but also for their beautiful appearance. The Colonial French gave it the name of “white roses”.

Banh bao – Banh vac is basically comprised of two small 2-inch diameter rounds of rice paper, with a dime-sized lump of meat filling right in the center. When the rice paper is steamed, the edges get soft and chewy and warp a little, making the dumpling look like a white flower. They are presented about 15 on a plate, topped with crunchy bits of toasty garlic and served with a sweet dipping sauce. When prepared well the texture is soft but slightly chewy, sweet from the sauce and crunchy/salty from the toasted garlic, savory from the shrimp meat filling. The translucence of the flour along with the color of the shrimp meat gives it the appearance of a white rose petal.

Where to eat?

A good place is White Rose restaurant (Nhi Trung street) where you not only taste the flavour but also see the process of making the Banh bao – Banh vac. I call it a taste of culture.

BANH DAP/ HEN XAO/ CHE BAP

Cam Nam Village, just a stones throw from the heart of Hoi An’s Old Quarter, typifies the sort of gastronomically experience available to people not afraid of straying from the uninspired menus of the lollipop cute cafes dotting the river’s banks.

 This tranquil spot, at the lower section of the river, is home to dozens of little restaurants. The one thing they all have in common is that they all serve great local rustic fare. Everyday, Cam Nam rice paper village welcomes hundreds of guests, including western travelers and people from the neighborhoods.

 Three of the most common local dishes served up to punters are: banh dap (smashing rice paper), hen xuc banh trang (clams served with crispy rice paper) and che bap (sweet corn soup).
Image                                                  Banh dap. Photo: http://www.ivivu.com
Banh dap (Rice Cracker) or smashing rice paper derives its name from the action needed to produce the dish.
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                                                                   Com hen.
Hen xuc banh trang (minced clams) is a combination of clams and crispy rice paper. The clams are fished up from the Hoai River, which runs through Cam Nam village.
The clams are boiled and then fried with dozens of fragrant vegetables and spices, including onion, spring onion, pepper, chilli, ginger, sugar water and peanuts. When the clams are ready, crispy rice paper is set on the table, which is also used as a spoon for the dish.
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                                                   Che bap. Photo: http://www.ivivu.com
Finally the desert: che bap (corn sweet soup/pudding). Hoi An’s sweet and sticky corn is perfect for this soup. Locals swear that one bowl is not enough and visitors that return are the first in line, ready for another helping.
Where to eat? 
Whether this is true or not is a matter of conjecture. What is true, is that no trip to Hoi An is truly complete without sampling the culinary spectacles that small village’s like Cam Nam have to offer. ~30-50,000VND per person (for all three food)
Source: Tinh Thien’s collection
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A perfect trip to Vietnam

From the island-studded seas of the north to the meandering waterways of the south, Vietnam is a country defined by the diversity of its land and the resilience and generosity of its people. Lonely Planet Traveller magazine shows you how to take the perfect trip to Vietnam.

Halong Bay: best for coast

The mystical landscape of Halong Bay, where over 2000 limestone islets rise from the Gulf of Tonkin. Photo by Matt Munro

Once upon a time, a friendly dragon lived in the heavens above Halong Bay. With invaders from the seas threatening Vietnam, the gods asked the dragon to create a natural barrier to protect its people. The dragon kindly obliged, performing a spectacular crash landing along the coast – digging up chunks of rock with its flailing tail and spitting out pearls – before grinding to a halt. This scene of devastation is now known as Halong Bay – Halong literally translates as ‘where the dragon descends into the sea’.

Less exciting explanations of this landscape involve eons of erosion by winds and waves – but nobody disputes the splendour of the end result. Rising from the shallows of the Gulf of Tonkin are thousands of limestone islands – towering monoliths lined up like dominoes, some teetering at worrying angles. The islands’ names testify to the overactive  imaginations of sailors who’ve spent too long at sea – Fighting Cock Island, Finger Island, Virgin Grotto. Having largely resisted human settlement, the islands have become home to other creatures. From above, sea eagles swoop down to pluck fish from the waters, carrying their prey – still flapping – high into the air, and squawking congratulations to each other from their nests.

Hanoi: best for city life

Fruit seller heading to market. Photo by Matt Munro

It’s rush hour in Hanoi, and the streets of the city’s Old Quarter throng with hundreds of scooters. The pavement and the central reservation are fair game in the chaos; zebra crossings exist more as a personal challenge than a guarantee of safe passage. Hanoi is a city that refuses to grow old gracefully – a millennium-old capital of crumbling pagodas and labyrinthine streets, now undergoing a werewolf-like transformation into a 21st-century Asian metropolis. In the Old Quarter, ancient temples now neighbour karaoke joints, and dynasties of artisans ply their trade next to shops selling cuddly toys the size of grizzly bears.

Few have studied the changing face of the city as closely as Do Hien, an artist who has spent a lifetime painting Hanoi’s streets. He welcomes me to his studio, and idly leafs through sketches of city life – couples waltzing beside the willows of Hoan Kiem Lake, and alleyways where hawkers prepare steaming bowls of pho. ‘Hanoi is a place that runs in your blood,’ Hien says thoughtfully, sitting cross-legged among stubs of incense sticks and paintbrushes strewn across his studio floor. ‘Had I not lived in this city I might not be able to paint like I do.’

Sapa: best for walking

Ripening paddies near Sapa. Photo by Matt Munro

An evening fog hangs over Sapa. Clouds sporadically open up a bit to reveal a village, a chunk of a mountain, a patch of jungle, before obscuring them from view again, like stage scenery sliding into the wings. Eventually the clouds lift, and the Hoang Lien mountain range emerges. It is a landscape of extraordinary beauty – the Asian highlands half-remembered from childhood picture books and martial-arts films. Above are peaks thick to their summits with greenery. Below, rice terraces run down the hillsides at right angles, as neatly as the folds in origami paper.

Sapa is a town where the weather seems to operate on random rotation – switching between brilliant sunshine, thick fog, driving rain and occasionally a dusting of snow, before coming full circle to brilliant sunshine, often all within the space of a few minutes. A hill station settled by Vietnam’s French colonists, Sapa now serves as a trailhead for hikers happy to run the meteorological lottery of a walk in these mountains. ‘We have four seasons in one day here,’ explains Giang Thi Mo, my guide, shimmying along the edge of a rice paddy as a rain cloud approaches. ‘There’s no way to predict the weather – just be lucky!’

We pass through a village, and Mo points to bamboo irrigation systems that send trickles down the hillsides and into rice pounders that see-saw with the current. ‘There’s a Hmong saying that “we flow with the water”,’ she explains. ‘It means we don’t worry too much, and take things easy.’

Hoi An: best for food

Le Hanh gives a demonstration at her cooking school, Gioan. Photo by Matt Munro

Hoi An is a small town that likes a big breakfast. As dawn musters strength on the horizon, a small army of chefs sets to work on Thai Phien street – firing up gas cookers and arranging plastic furniture on the pavements. Soon, the city awakes to sweet porridges; coffee that sends a lightning bolt of caffeine to sleepy heads; sizzling steaks; broths that swim with turmeric, chilli and ginger. In Vietnam, street food is a serious business – a single dish prepared day after day by the same cook, perfected and honed by a lifetime’s craft.

‘Food in Hoi An is about yin and yang,’ explains Le Hanh, a young female chef scrutinising vegetables at the morning market. ‘It’s about balancing hot with cool, sweet with sour, salty with spicy.’ True to Hanh’s philosophy, cooking in Hoi An goes big on contrasting flavours; food that plays good cop/bad cop with the palate. The sharpness of fish sauce blends with the subtlety of fresh herbs; cool lemongrass makes way for the eye-watering panic of accidentally chomping on a red chilli.

Mekong Delta: best for river life

Watermelons being offloaded at Cai Rang floating market. Photo by Matt Munro

A heavy rain is falling on the Mekong Delta, flooding the footpaths, swilling in the gutters, turning riverbank mud from light tan to a rich coffee colour. A tangled network of rivers, tributaries and canals, the waters of the delta criss-cross the lowlands of southern Vietnam, before emptying out into the South China Sea through mighty, yawning estuaries. For centuries, life here has ebbed and flowed in tandem with the current of the Mekong – an all-in-one launderette, bathtub, highway, toilet, dishwasher, larder, social club and workplace for the communities surrounded by its waters.

‘If you live on a river island with twenty other people you have to learn to get along with everyone,’ explains Mrs Bui Nguyen, beckoning strangers to shelter in her bungalow beside the Cai Chanh canal. ‘That’s the reason why people in the Mekong are so friendly!’ A 77-year-old who attributes her longevity to a lifetime avoiding doctors, Mrs Nguyen wistfully reflects on the delta of old – in days when the only artificial light came from peanut oil lamps dotted along the riverbanks; an age long before roads had reached the villages. Times have changed. However, human life still instinctively congregates on the water’s edge. Lining the riverbank nearby are grocers’ shops, cafés, a gym, a billiards club and a blacksmith’s. Floating markets, too, are still held every morning at nearby Cai Rang – with creaking barges from across the delta bashing into each other as they offload cargoes of watermelons, pineapples and turnips.

Source: http://www.lonelyplanet.com

10 Reasons to Try Bia Hoi in Vietnam

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Footsteps in Vietnam – It’s a foamy, light-alcohol beer found mostly in northern Vietnam. Made fresh each day with few preservatives, the dregs are chucked down the gutter at close of business each day.

This quick turnover and easy brewing means it’s exceptionally cheap — about 20 cents a glass, though Vietnam’s rapid inflation may see that rise before publication — and the establishments that serve it are also relatively basic.

1. Bia hoi is cheaper

Far, far cheaper  than its Czech-inspired counterpart. Though both cost peanuts compared to most places back home, there’s a certain satisfaction in knowing your dozen beers cost only US$3.

2. People are friendlier

It’s a rare night you’ll spend with friends clustered round the low-slung plastic stools of a bia hoi where some blinking, red-faced bloke won’t lurch up to your table to repeatedly grasp your hand and yell, “Helloo! Hello! Helloh?” then invite you to join his mates for some rounds of cheap, rice-based spirits.

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3. You can relax

Smoking, slurping, dumping chicken bones on the floor — all are acceptable behavior here. Nay, they’re encouraged.

4. The food

Some bia hoi’s serve execrable rubbish, but plenty serve excellent, freshly prepared dishes for very little cost. Banana flower salad (nom hoa chuoi), barbecued chicken (ga nuong) and fried rice (com rang) are stalwarts. Just watch out for the mixed hotpot (lau thap cam) or pig stomach (da day).

5. Interesting local spirits

Vodka Hanoi (cheap, rice-based vodka with a slightly greasy aftertaste) is a standard but many places also stock ruou ong den — rice wine infused with the whole bees’ nest, not just the nectar — or ruou dua, rice wine left to ferment in a coconut shell (it tastes a hell of a lot better than Malibu, believe us).
The hangover’s never worth it, mind.

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Photo: offexploring.com

6. Street life

Usually these beer barns are open-walled and tables and chairs often spill onto the street. You may get a lungful of motorbike exhaust with your fried spinach, but you get a nice view as well. Others back onto lakes or parks, or the Mausoleum.

7. Watery, weak, but unique

It’s rare in the south but unheard of in the rest of the world. Fresh, brewed daily and cheaper than any other beer, anywhere. That has to count for something in a world of generic, international brands. And it’s no more watery than Bud or Coors, anyway.

8. Colonial heritage

Think of this: the French colonial oppressors brought bia to Vietnam to stop people wrecking themselves on dodgy rice spirit.  This is where bia hois originally came from. The pilsner beer halls are a result of people studying in former communist nations back in the days when everyone still knew the words to the Internationale.  But the leftovers of colonial rule — the bia hois — are still working men’s brew halls while the results of the egalitarian international brotherhood are there mostly for the rapidly emerging middle class.

9. It’s egalitarian

Bia hoi gets more egalitarian yet. A bia hoi can be nothing more than a tiny grandmother sat roadside with a table, chairs, a keg and a few glasses.  Using technology no more complicated than a rubber pipe she sucks some frothy beer from the keg, so you can usually have a drink morning, noon or night. As Vietnam modernizes, beer for breakfast has become less common, but it was once a grand tradition.

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Photo: anninhthudo.vn

10. No hangover

Though some drinkers will vehemently disagree, bia hoi doesn’t usually leave you with a pounding hangover. It’s low alcohol content means it takes a concerted effort to get drunk enough to feel dreadful the next day. Most problems come from people getting a stale batch, something you have to watch out for. Drinking at busy places is a better idea.

Travel tip shared by ngocvht

Source: http://www.traveldudes.org

CHEERING OVER BIA-HOI ON A HANOI STREET CORNER

Footsteps in Vietnam – Sitting at a street corner in Hanoi old quarter with a beer glass, chatting with your freshly made friends while watching people pass by might be one the most memorable pages in your travel journal.

It is said that the word “Bia-hoi” is third in importance only after “Xin chao” (Hello) and “Cam on” (Thank you) when one learns Vietnamese. In the severe heat, not many things can beat a glass of cooled draught beer.

The good news is that draught beer is a popular refreshment drink in all over Vietnam. The bad news is that it is way too affordable that you may have to restrain yourself from going for a fourth glass (each glass costs you 20-30 cents!).  Ta Hien street is one of the hot spots for beer hoi. And because it is such an enticing gathering place, you will be likely to run into many tourists and local alike, ready to converse over the weather or some latest gossips in town.

While taking your sip, mind the life evolving around you- of shops selling books and pirate dvds; ; of elderly strolling by in peace and of course different vehicles flowing freely. This seemingly chaotic picture can be both intriguing and entertaining, if you are sitting and watching over a beer glass.

Travel Tips:  
* It is customary for Vietnamese to have beer with boiled or roasted peanuts. Try it and love it!
* There is likelihood that street vendors will corner you off to sell postcards, chewing gums and who-knows-what. A determined “no” will do the job if you don’t want to buy anything and get yourself into further trouble.
* Be aware of pickpockets whenever and wherever you are.

Source: http://www.vietnamonline.com