by To Nhu
Travel is all about street food these days, especially if you're visiting Viet Nam, a country where food is at the heart of the culture.
In Ha Noi, the capital, food is everywhere you look. Street food is a must-try for every traveler, and the best way to enjoy it is to sit down with the locals on the sidewalk and enjoy the fresh, fast and cheap food.
In 2002, the capital authorities renamed Tong Duy Tan Street and Cam Chi Alley "Ha Noi Food Street" in an effort to introduce Vietnamese street food to foreigners. But the street failed to become a major attraction.
Some 200 households in this area registered to serve food, but most of these eateries are closed throughout much of the day.
"For 65 years, my family has been making and selling banh cuon. When the Food Street opened, we expected that it would attract visitors and also locals, but reality proved the opposite," said Nguyen Manh Hung, owner of Ky Dong Restaurant on Tong Duy Tan Street.
Do Quoc Tuan, a tour guide in Ha Noi, said he never takes foreign visitors here.
"The street is famous for some kinds of food which are not deemed traditionally Hanoian at all," he said.
Tuan, who considers himself a foodie, said he never takes his family or friends here either.
The city authorities are now planning to build another food street in the heart of the Old Quarter.
Do Xuan Thuy , General Director of Dong Xuan Company, the contractor of the new street food project, said Tong Duy Tan Food Street failed because it was far from the city center and its cultural atmosphere.
"Most visitors want to learn about the life of the Old Quarter and enjoy food made in this area," he said.
So the new food street will be located near typical walking and shopping streets Hang Buom Street, Hang Giay Street, Luong Ngoc Quyen Street and Ma May Street.
According to a recent survey, 30 per cent of the shops along these streets serve food, but they generally fail to ensure food safety and hygiene, Thuy said.
He added that a resident poll showed that almost everyone living in the Old Quarter supported the idea of a new food street.
If a reliable company managed the street, food safety and hygiene would be assured, he said.
Architect Dao Ngoc Nghiem from the Ha Noi Urban Planning and Development Department said the street would help introduce Viet Nam's culinary culture to foreigners.
However, a few individuals expressed concern about the project. Giang Quan, a culture specialist, said that while such a project was essential, it would be difficult to manage hygiene in such a wide area.
"We won't be able to control prices, let alone food safety," he said.
An Old Quarter resident, Pham Vu Thang, shared the same opinion.
"If food providers do not take food safety seriously and relevant management agencies are ignorant on this issue, the project will fail just like the Tong Duy Tan project," he said.
Let's hope it's not so, and that Ha Noi's new Food Street will be a real attraction for visitors. — VNS