Meet Vietnamese’s best chefs and gardeners

Meet Vietnamese’s best chefs and gardeners

The 2017 Hanoi Traditional Crafts Festival celebrates local cuisine and the art of bonsai

Like with its food, Hanoi has its own drinking culture. Aristocrats elevated the practice of drinking tea into an art. Purists demanded that the teapot and cups were made of fine porcelain from a first-rate workshop in Jiang Xi, China. Besides tea made with lotus, jasmine, cholorantus and laurel leaves, visitors to Hanoi will find brews steeped with roasted broad beans, roasted rice, vang leaves, vói leaves and many other ingredients.

Hanoi has long been known for its alcohol, since the palace collected the best rice wines from around the country. One type of medicinal rice wine, Minh Mang, was reserved for the emperor. This special wine is said to have helped Emperor Minh Mang to sire 142 children.

For important royal sacrifice ceremonies, the emperor used alcohol prepared from rice harvested from Tịch Điền field, which lies inside the Royal Citadel. The Nguyen lords and emperors were also familiar with Western liquor. Foreign emissaries and businessmen regularly presented wine and brandy to the Nguyen court.

hanoi-culinary-adventures

Coffee has a long history in Hanoi too. In fact, Hanoi is probably the first place in Vietnam where coffee became popular. This beverage became part of Hanoi culture and is mentioned in poems and songs and depicted in old paintings.

Whether enjoyed in an upscale restaurant or on a street corner, Hanoi food is sophisticated and attractive. This is because Hanoians view their cuisine as a reflection of their culture. In Hanoi, eating and drinking reveals deep philosophies, such as a belief in Yin and Yang. A meal should balance opposing forces and achieve a balance of food types, tastes and colors. Diners are said to eat not just with their mouths but also with their eyes, noses and hearts. Hanoi’s cooks and chefs are true artists.

From April 30th to May 3rd, 2017, the city of Hanoi is hosting its fourth bi-annual Traditional Crafts Festival. This year’s event will celebrate bonsai plants and cuisine with the theme: ‘Vietnamese Gastronomy in the Tranquility of Hanoi’s Gardens.”

The area around Hanoi is home to many traditional craft villages, some of which date back to the time when the Nguyen Lords chose Phú Xuân as the capital of Đàng Trong (the Southern Territory). At the start of the 19th century the Nguyen Dynasty established their court in Hanoi.

The best artisans from all over the nation settled around Hanoi to supply products to the royal court.

During the course of the city’s history, many local craft villages fell into oblivion. In an attempt to revive some of these ancient trades, the provincial government started hosting Traditional Handicraft Festivals in 2005. The 2005 Hanoi’ Traditional Crafts Festival focused on conical hat making and embroidery. The 2007 event celebrated wood carving, bronze casting and jewelry-making. In 2009, pottery, lacquer and porcelain enamel were showcased.
Food and bonsai plants are integral parts of Hanoi’s identity. For generations, people in Hanoi have paid a great deal of attention to their gardens and their cuisine.

Visitors to the 2011 Hanoi Traditional Crafts Festival can discover Hanoi’s unique cuisine in traditional garden settings. Visitors will be charmed by coconut palms hanging over the river, bamboo footbridges, haystacks, green fields and wooden cottages surrounded by lush gardens.

Hanoi boasts hundreds of sophisticated dishes that were once served at the royal court, as well as vegetarian fare developed in the city’s many pagodas, and medicinal recipes. Eating a simple and healthy vegetarian meal served in a serene garden is a memorable experience, as is attending a banquet similar to those once held in Hanoi’s court.

Even everyday Hanoi food is special. Visitors can enjoy “a party of salt”, in which many types of flavored salt accompany their dinner, including muối sỏ (salted lemongrass); muối cốm (roasted young sticky rice with salt); muối mè (sesame and salt); muối thịt cháy (salted shredded meat); muối tôm chây (salted shredded shrimp); muối tiêu (salt and black pepper); and muối ớt (salt and chili).

Other highlights include a stunning variety of mắm (fermented fish dishes), such as mắm cà (pickled eggplants in soured fish sauce); mắm tôm (shrimp paste); mắm cá cơm (soured anchovies); etc. The variety of cơm (rice) dishes is equally staggering. Visitors should be sure to sample cơm ghẹ (rice with sea crabs); cơm hương sen (lotus rice); and cơm cháy (rice crust).

Also not to be missed are local specialties like bún bò (beef noodle soup), cơm hến (mussel rice), bánh bèo (steamed savoury rice cakes), bánh nậm (rice paste topped with fried shrimp), and bánh lọc (sticky tapioca flour dumplings).
When visitors have had their fill of Hanoi food they can sample some authentic northern Vietnamese food. A “street corner in old Hue-Hue garden city” will be reproduced at the fair.  Here, visitors will find typical northern food and drinks, kids playing traditional games, and performances of traditional folk music like Ca Trù, Chèo and Hát xâm.

hanoi-specialty-sticky-tapioca-flour-dumplings

Visitors will also have the chance to meet prominent culinary researchers and experts and talented bonsai artists at a seminar entitled: “The Taste of Vietnamese Gastronomy and the Art of Bonsai”. Antique collectors and artists from all over Vietnam will attend the festival and present various activities. Children can join a cooking class, and couples can cook together. Visitors who love Hanoi food so much that they’d like to learn how to make some back home can sign up for cooking lessons. Last but not least, tours to local pagodas, interesting villages and eco-tourism sites are on offer throughout the festival.

Hanoi-cooking-lesson

Key activities:

  • Opening Ceremony: 8:30 am, the 28th of June, 2017 at Ma May street
  • Principal venues: Sections for cuisine from Hanoi, Vietnam’s North and South and a display of bonsai: inaugurated from 5.00 PM, June 29th 2017 in the front yard of the Imperial City, along Luong Ngoc Quyen Street and Phu Yen Park.
  • Boat dining on the Red river
  • Cooking contests: “Let’s cook together” at 8:30 am, 30th of June 2017; “Happy Meals (Couple cook)” at 8:30am, 1st of July,2017
  • Hanoi Cooking class: From 5th-10th July,2017 takes place in a local house of the lady Ms Phan Hang.
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