by aengelson | May 2nd, 2010
The other day I got together with a correspondent who works for AFP here in Hanoi to chat. And where did two writers go to talk? A bia hoi joint, of course.
For those who don’t know, Hanoi is filled with bia hoi–”fresh beer”–places. It’s where men (and some women, accompanied by male friends) go to drink beer on tap and eat an array of snacks. Some places are simply a cold keg, a few tiny plastic chairs and tables and bowls of peanuts. More elaborate places have indoor and outdoor seating and a huge menus of fried goodies, from tofu to chicken to greens and veggies. Dried, salty squid is a popular accompaniment.
Bia hoi is an integral part of Hanoi life. And while beer is served in other parts of Vietnam, the bia hoi phenomenon seems most concentrated in Hanoi. The beer itself is one of the local brands–Bia Hanoi or Halida, usually. It’s served icy cold in small plastic cups, and it’s crisp, hoppy and refreshing. It’s not Redhook ESB or Full Sail IPA, but on a hot day with a plate of fried tofu, some roasted peanuts and a dish of cucumber slices, it sure hits the spot. Beer in Vietnam tends to have less alcohol than the American and European brands, so you can lift a couple cups without getting too tipsy. Although, judging by the flushed faces and loud conversations all around us, folks were drinking than just a couple cups.
In total, the six beers, tofu, cucumber, and peanuts we had came to a whopping $3.50.
Did I mention I love this city?
You can read more about beer in Vietnam in this recent New York Times feature.