These days, I get nostalgic every time I make a trip to Hanoi. This time around, it was about Vietnam’s street food scene. When I first came to Hanoi in 1986, my favourite eating place was at the corner of Ly Thuong Kiet and Pham Chu Trinh streets, where one could have bun cha on the pavement of the street, which was lined with numerous haircut booths.
In those days, the area around Ly Thuong Kiet was much less crowded and much more smoky. But the grey billowing pillars of smoke did not come from engines — they came from the wood-fired, open-air pits where petite pork patties and pork belly strips were being grilled. The wafting aroma of barbecued meat, the street noises and the continuous ringing of bicycle bells — all made casual dining in Hanoi’s nooks and crannies a very exciting pastime.