Juicy: Bánh cuốn Mễ Sở style offer special pancakes with chopped pork only, not available on the streets of Hà Nội. Photo https://shopee.vn
by Nguyễn Mỹ Hà
During the first two weeks of social distancing in Việt Nam, it almost seemed difficult securing enough food at the market to feed families.
Smaller street vendors, who usually took their homegrown produce to markets for sale every day, were ordered to stay at home. Only supermarkets were allowed to open.
Switching to online shopping was a must for millions of housewives living in cities like Hà Nội and Hồ Chí Minh City. The best people were hoping for was a basic meal; nothing special or sophisticated.
But I was wrong.
Many people have turned to small online food suppliers to deliver their food.
I was surprised to find special rice crepes from Mễ Sở, a suburban town in Hà Nội, were available to be delivered to your door by ordering online.
In a normal situation, Hà Nội is saturated with its own great food stalls. Little town delicacies like this tiny bánh cuốn (rolled crepes) from Mễ Sở now have the chance to rival the great eateries found on every street corner.
You can find all styles including steaming hot crepes with chopped pork and mushrooms, different dipping sauces Cao Bằng style, and the cold crepes from Thanh Trì, and even the crepes with charcoal-roasted pork like bún chả from Hà Nam.
I found out about the cold crepes from Mễ Sở thanks to one of our neighbours who's from the area. She used to buy a couple of hundred of them to share with us as our kids grew up together.
Now in the city's complete lockdown, you can order these tiny rolls, wrapped in fresh green leaves, made only for the day at VNĐ25,000 for ten or VNĐ35,000 if you want more meat.
The same affordable price goes for bánh tẻ, the steamed rice cakes filled with chopped pork and wood ear mushrooms at VNĐ35,000 for ten or VNĐ45,000 if you want more meat. It's perfect for breakfast if you order for a family of four or five and you're set back less than VNĐ100,000.
Flavourful: Imagine your favourite noodles from Đà Nẵng delivered to your dining table while you're isolating at home. Photo courtesy of the house
For lunch, when you're at home working online, you tend to cook your own meals to reduce costs. But after a week, maybe not just you, the rest of the family may want a change, both in the food and the style of making it. It's become natural for many closed restaurants to switch to online delivery because they have the staff, the menus are tried and tested, and they have the staff to do the cooking. Deliveries rely on ride-hailing services like Aha or Grab.
Bringing the best of online restaurants to your dining table has never been easier. We decided to try the Mỳ Quảng noodles for a change from Vị Quảng, a restaurant that specialises in food from Huế and Đà Nẵng.
Vị Quảng offers authentic noodles for those who want to make their own, and also ready-made meals (VNĐ65,000 per bowl). We tried both and they were delicious, though it felt a little strange having these fresh delicacies at home.
Vị Quảng also offers combo of vegetarian noodles, mushroom tempura and a sweet dessert for VNĐ200,000 (2 pax). It was delicious, filling and practical if you are the only vegetarian in the family because you don't have to cook a full veggie meal.
When you start clicking on sponsored sites to order food, more similar business links pop up. I've also found a wholesale dim sum place, who said they were supplying wontons and dumplings (between VNĐ9,000 per wonton to VNĐ14,000 per portion of sticky rice with chicken) to all major five-star restaurants in Hà Nội. Now you can order them online and have the quintessential Chinese art of making small dumplings in the comfort of your home.
It's convenient to order wontons and dumplings from An Khánh Foods, not only for your little family, but also for your parents or in-laws, especially when your folks love the flavours and won't be able to either make them or go to a restaurant.
The salesperson at An Khánh Foods chatted to me about an offer for free fresh noodles made by a Hong Kong master chef who has 25 years of experience in the game. I was happy to try them out, but maybe my cooking was not at its best because my family said they preferred the egg noodles from Lương Văn Can Street in Hà Nội more.
Following lockdown, something good and new has been ushered in. Hà Nội's world famous Cafe Giảng, which serves the famous egg coffee, says its online delivery went up from only 6-7 per cent to 30 per cent during April.
Now the Government has allowed restaurants to reopen, and as businesses slowly return, this column shall also be back on its feet reviewing restaurants. But we cannot close this temporary column without saying a little thank-you to all those small entrepreneurs and bigger enterprises who helped along the road to make Việt Nam safe and healthy once again.
In his briefing on May 6, Deputy Prime Minister Vũ Đức Đam said: "We are now in a shallow rice field. Out there, the storm has ravaged other lands and floods have submerged their fields. Here we need to strengthen our dykes to protect our fields."
Truly the statement of a leader of an agriculture-based country. Being independent means being able to feed your people and keep them healthy. Kudos to Việt Nam, you've done great so far! VNS