VietNamNet Bridge – “I have been living in Vietnam for three years but I can’t get used to the way Vietnamese people eating beside sewers,” says Alain, a Spanish who is working for a non-governmental organization in Hanoi.
Adam, the French manager of a French restaurant in Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi, says that street food in Hanoi is abundant and delicious but it is risky to try them.
Adam still remembered his experience with “pho cuon,” a Hanoi’s specialty, at a restaurant near the Truc Bach Lake over a year ago.
“At first, I was so excited because one of my Vietnamese friends said this cuisine has a long history and it is also a specialty of the people who live in the most ‘sophisticated’ area in Hanoi,” he recalls.
“I craved for it so I surfed the net for “pho cuon” before going to that restaurant. But when I saw how they made it, I lost my guts to keep on eating,” he adds.
Adam says when the waiter brought a dish of “pho cuon” to his table, he tried it immediately and found the flavor quite special. However, he was terrified of the way they made that cuisine.
“Vegetables were in the basket; the basket was put just on the way to the toilet. To go to the toilet I had to go through the kitchen. The toilet did not have a place to wash hands. The cooks were half-naked and sweating while they were cooking. Near their feet were pots of sliced beef. They stood in a puddle. I guessed there must be hundreds of people pass that way because every customer has to go to the restroom,” Adam says.
After that “discovery”, Adam advised his Vietnamese female friend to learn how to make pho cuon so that she can enjoy it at home.
Alain, a Spanish, who is working for a non-governmental organization in Hanoi, says when he first came to Vietnam, he was so surprised when food was sold everywhere, even near sewers and the food sellers both touched the food and washed the dishes in a small basin.
“A small basin of water is used to wash a lot of bowls,” Alain said. He was more surprising to see that unclean restaurants attract a lot of people. “They seemed to enjoy the food in a pleasant way,” he says.
“There are a lot of attractive cuisines but I don’t dare to try them,” says Alain. He also wonders how the food safety and hygiene is managed when the food stalls are moved to different places each day.
According to Alain’s observation, there is no big difference in food safety and hygiene between the fixed restaurants that have certificates for food safety and hygiene with those that do not have the certificate and mobile food stalls.
Although he has been living in Hanoi for 3 years and gets used to the living and eating style of local people, Alain says that he can’t get familiar to the image of people eating beside sewers.
Alain also notices that the Hanoian eat too much meat and are lazy to do exercise.
“Every meal is meat,” Alain comments. According to his observations, in restaurants, meat is also the main food, particularly red meat. This is different from the eating habits of the people in his country.
Alain’s observation also coincides with the scientific study of nutrition experts in Vietnam.
Research of the National Institute of Nutrition shows that on average, a Vietnamese eat 84g of meat per day and it is double for the Hanoian, with about 150 g/day/person.