Eel Overkill

Hanoi Travel Blog

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On Sunday I met Mau and An, who were introduced to me (via email) by Lee Ann and Gordon, whom I met a few months ago in Nikko.  Mau and An live in Hanoi, and offered to take me to lunch when I was in their neck of the woods.  Several weeks ago Romana told me she had fantastic noodle soup topped with fried eel in Hanoi, and that it seemed to be a favorite among locals, and that I should be sure to check it out.  So naturally I mention this to Mau, figuring if anyone can show me where to snag a favored dish in Hanoi, she'd be the prime candidate.

So my casual "oh I heard eel over noodle soup is a favored local dish" apparently was interpreted as "I am an eel FANATIC, let's eat as much eel as we can possibly get our hands on!"  Holy cow did we eat eel.

First up was eel soup.  No noodles to be had, or anything else for that matter.  Just eels in broth.  (It was hideous and cringe-inducing; there was no denying you were shoveling through a bowl teeming with eels.)  Tasted like chicken soup.  Which is odd; I've never identified eel as tasting chicken-like before.  Then there was eel ground up to resemble ground beef and flavored with garlic and chilies, which you scooped up and ate over very thick, crunchy rice crackers.  One long eel cooked (baked?) inside a bamboo shaft, over an aromatic bed of diced garlic and basil, its head still attached.  Eel wrapped around molten I don't know what and deep fried, similar to how southerners wrap everything in bacon.  And pumpkin greens sautéed with plenty of oil and tossed with -- you guessed it -- more eel.

It was pretty tasty.  Everything was new to me, and everything had its own flavor, which is always a plus.  If I could have had two bites of everything I would have been happy.  But that would have been rude; poor Mau had gone through the trouble of ordering half the menu and all the best dishes, exclaiming that most foreigners won't touch eel and how unusual it is that it's my favorite.  I tried to explain that I merely heard it was good and wanted to try it, but I certainly wasn't going to rain on her parade, after extending such hospitality.

I tried to stop eating no fewer than three times, my stomach was bursting.  (Ugh, to think of all that eel!)  But she was having none of it, I guess maybe thinking I was trying to be polite.  So Mau, An, and I sat there shoveling down every last bite.  Good lord that was a lot of eel.  It sat in my stomach like a greasy rock for the rest of the day.  Needless to say, I skipped dinner.

I think I'm good in the eel department for the next decade.  Maybe two.
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It would be nice if I could write a proper update, I know.  I've sat at the computer with this goal for oh, four hours now.  I've got nothin'.  Utterly lacking the ability to focus, apparently.

Updates soon.  Promise.  In the meantime it's shower, bed, and hunt for the Superbowl in the morning.  And perhaps something culturally worthwhile like Ho Chi Minh's mausoleum, but really, who am I kidding.

Anyone know where I can catch the game in Hanoi??
sylviandavid says:
Relax.... have a beer.... go catch a game.... sylvia
Posted on: Feb 08, 2010
photo by: mario26