My next stop was Hanoi, Vietnam. The people here are really, really, really kind. I stayed at a little hotel in the Old Quarter which is quite a busy area. Crossing the street here takes a bit of faith. I just focused on a spot across the street, said a quick prayer and walked. Quickly. Didn't get hit once. Whew!
There's a lot to tell about Vietnam but too many to write in one post.
I want to tell you a meal I experienced one afternoon. In Vietnam there is a dish called 'bun cha' which is a lunchtime only dish that is easily found in northern Vietnam and a bit more difficult to find in the south. There isn't a lot to it, just some BBQ minced pork balls in fish sauce with vegetation and cold noodles. However, this is a dish not to be missed!
I sat down at a community table across from a man in his late 40's. They put a plate of raw vegetables and basil (yum!) in front of me along with the small plate of noodles, an empty bowl with a spoon, a bowl with the grilled meats and vegetable in a soup, another bowl with just the broth and the vegetable and small plate with a couple of fried spring rolls. I took a picture of it for you.
I started to eat my lunch and was immediately totally and completely focused on this meal. It was delicious! There were so many tastes and textures and colors to be mixed and played with. I watched the other patrons to figure out what could go with what and realized you can mix these ingredients in any way you want.
The platter of raw vegetables and basil was quite large. I kept reaching for the different ingredients and savoring every bite. All the while there was a stream of people coming in and going up the stairs to their tables. I was sitting fairly close to this stairwell and kept getting knocked in the back and the back of my head by their bags and elbows. Everything in Vietnam is fairly tight quarters so you just have to get used to it. To be honest I didn't care at all - everytime my head was hit and pushed forward I was in the middle of bringing my chopsticks to my mouth so the result was a mouthful of deliciousness. Would YOU complain?
The woman next to me got up to leave and her dishes were removed from the table. Another person immediately sat down in her chair and he was given the same set of dishes and food that I was given.
I then realized something.
There were 8 people at this table. There were 8 of the same meal on the table. BUT there were only 7 platters of the vege's and basil.
I had been picking from the platter in front of me not realizing that the platter belonged to the man sitting in front of me. The first few times I reached into the plate I noticed him look at me a little funny and smile but I thought it was because he realized I was a foreigner. Now I realized that it was because I was eating off his plate!
Oh. My. Gosh.
Not only had I been eating off his plate, I was using my fingers to pick the basil and reaching into it with my chopsticks using the end of the chopsticks that go into my mouth. When you are sharing with family this is ok, when you're eating with new friends or business acquaintences you should flip your chopsticks over and use that end to grab items.
But let's be honest, the main rule of thumb that really applies here is that you DON'T EAT OFF OF YOUR NEIGHBOR'S PLATE ESPECIALLY WHEN YOU DON'T KNOW THEM.
But did I stop eating off the plate? NO! Didn't I tell you that that was one of the best parts of the whole meal? He didn't seem to mind sharing so I apparently didn't seem to mind either!
I did start to flip my chopsticks over but I just kept on eating. I was hungry!
Mr. Rogers was right ~ Sharing really IS caring!