Last weekend, we visited one of our favorite street food spot in Hanoi: Ta Hien street. If there is an ultimate Hanoi street food tour, this should be one of the first thing on the itinerary.
About Ta Hien – the street food and cheap beer paradise
Ta Hien is known as a “pho tay”, or foreigner/backpacker street. Situated not too far from Hoan Kiem Lake, the street is within walking distance from many hotels and hostels. Pubs and bars started to pop up on this street to add to the nightlife scene.
Eventually, the street attracts more local customers as well, thanks to its cheap beers and snacks. The atmosphere is lively to say the least, with large crowds gathering every night, sitting elbow-to-elbow on little plastic stools. Quite a common scene when you go out for street food in Vietnam.
While a night out in the US often entails endless drinking, in Vietnam, a drinking spot is not completed without the food. And Ta Hien does it well.
From regular cheese sticks to fried milk
So back to our weekend adventure, we showed up to this street at an unusual hour in the afternoon. Often, Ta Hien is associated with nightlife. The street is busiest after 8pm on weekend. Since both of us started to work super early shifts, we found ourselves no longer part of the late night goers.
When the crave for some fatty fried goodness hits us though, the weird hour doesn’t deter us. In fact, it is kind of nice to have more room to sit down at the snack shop without elbowing anyone else.
We started with what we came for: cheese sticks. Or known as Mozzarella sticks in the states. The taste is quite similar, just hot crunchy batter on the outside, and cheesy, melted goodness inside. Yum!
Most snack shops in Hanoi serves their snacks with skewers so you can pick up the food, dip it in sauces (ketchup and hot sauce) without dirtying your hands.
Then we order some fries, but with a twist: These are shaken fries:
As you can guess from the picture and the names, these fries are “shaken” in some cheese powder to give it a slight sweet, salty and cheesy taste. Imagine the orange cheesy powder you normally find in a Cheesto’s bag. Instead of crunchy cheesto pieces, the powder covers hot fries instead. Perfect for Hanoi’s chilly weather these days.
Then to completely sabotage our diet with more carb, we order a skewer of twisted potatoes. Or also called tornado potato. It’s a potato that is sliced by a machine into a spiral cut. The whole thing is deep fried with some added salt and flavorings. This place added some cheese powder and some sugar for a sweet and salty taste.
Then it is not Hanoi if there is nothing wacky on the menu, is it? So we went down the long list of fried items and found this latest addition to Hanoi street food scene: Fried Fresh Milk.
Say what? Fried milk? Sounds weird and unappetizing, right? So we ordered it anyway.
The order came out looking like little battered cubes like so. Turn out, the milk is mixed with some flour in a “secret” recipe, gives it a soft jelly-like texture. Almost like silken tofu, but with a very slight hint of sweetness. The batter of course is hot and crispy.
Usually, these fried goodness will go down nicely with a glass of cold beer.
Since we arrive in the afternoon, we decided to order other drinks instead:
We ordered a Green Milk tea, which is green tea powdered mixed with some condensed milk. The tea flavor was too subtle, and the milk was a bit too sweet. The ice helped to cool everything down though.
Then came our second drink order: a Yogurt Cocoa Drink. They added cocoa powder to regular yogurt and some ice on the bottom. You mixed it all up and made your own cocoa yogurt drink. This is one of my favorite, as the cool, tardy texture of the yogurt combines with the sweetness, fragrance of the cocoa, creating a weird, but delicious combination. Again, this went well with all the fried stuffs.
The best part? All these food, plus two additional drinks that we did not photograph, add up to about 270,000 VND, or less than $14. Four of us stuffed ourselves and left with full bellies.
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