“In Hanoi, that’s just normal” – capital city a mixture of “earthly and poetic” hinh anh 1The book “Ha Noi bao the la thuong” by Nguyen Truong Quy (Photo: VietnamPlus

Hanoi (VNA) - In the essays of Nguyen Truong Quy, the day-to-day eating and drinking habits of Hanoians become part of one’s soul and they bring dear memories wherever an Hanoian is.

The name Nguyen Truong Quy is likely be familiar to readers who love the thousand-year-old city. He is the author of several collections of short stories and essays on Hanoi. His 10th book – “Ha Noi bao the la thuong” (loosely translated as In Hanoi, that’s just normal) – is also a collection of essays inspired by the capital city.

A cup of tea a good start for conversation

For Vietnamese, especially those living in Hanoi, a cup of tea is a good way to start an exchange with others.

Quy’s book starts with a chapter entitled “Deep alleys, small shops”, peeking into the eating and drinking habits of Hanoians. An essay about the tea and beer drinking habits is the first in the series.

“In the past, many writers opened small restaurants or tea shops, partly as a livelihood but it is also a way to meet people. A woman selling coffee or tea used to be a typical character in literature,” Quy said, noting that this means amidst the daily hassles, one can still keep a small corner in his soul for romance.

“In Hanoi, that’s just normal” – capital city a mixture of “earthly and poetic” hinh anh 2Illustrative image (Photo: VietnamPlus) 

The other essays talk about typical dishes of Hanoi, such as Bun cha (grilled meat with rice noodle), snails and fried spring rolls, and the way locals eat them, which reflect their daily habits and more broadly, the local culture.

Such earthly things, fermented in time, have become unique romantic features of Hanoi.

Eating is just an excuse for meeting each other

Those romantic traits go with Hanoians when they leave the home city and go to all corners around the globe.

Once when visiting a friend in the US, Quy went with the friend to the local supermarket, where they tried some fruits, eating them skin and all. But returning home, the friend carefully peeled every apple when making an apple pie. Asked why, she said it was just her habit as a Vietnamese. The story was the aspiration for Quy to write the essay “An ca vo” (Eating the fruit skin)

“In Hanoi, that’s just normal” – capital city a mixture of “earthly and poetic” hinh anh 3The flavor of Hanoi’s Pho (rice noodle in soup) is loved by many (Photo: Vietnamplus)

Another story is about how Quy’s friends living in Bangkok cooked and ate Pho, a dish that has become well known around the world.

“When visiting each other, Vietnamese living abroad are most likely to treat their guests to Pho,” Quy laughingly said. “All ingredients have been prepared days before, each time shopping, they usually buy enough for cooking Pho for one week, possibly due to the habit of stocking things that had its origin in the old difficult time. So, if you stay at a friend’s house for three days, you will be eating Pho every day,” he said.

Quy recalled the time when he lived in Bangkok one year and a half ago. He and some friends gathered to cook Pho, and in order to make a bowl of Pho with beef in its original flavor, they took care to choose the right type of beef and herbs, though it was not easy to find the herbs in Bangkok.

“That is the way for us to find the feeling of the old time that have been deeply imbued in our mind, such as the weather of the home city, or the memories of the days we had to stand in a long queue for a bowl of Pho,” the writer said.

A dish could trigger various memories, and sometimes, eating is just an excuse to meet, he said.

“In Hanoi, that’s just normal” – capital city a mixture of “earthly and poetic” hinh anh 4Writer Nguyen Truong Quy

Writer Nguyen Truong Quy was born in 1977 in Hanoi. He graduated from the Hanoi University of Architecture. After working for some time as an architect, he decided to pursue his passion for writing. Quy mainly writes essays, and has reaped certain success in the work. He won a prize of the Bui Xuan Phai – For Love of Hanoi Awards in 2019. All his published works have the theme of Hanoi, where he was born and grew up. The “Ha Noi bao the la thuong” is his latest book, published in 2020./.