Food Wonder Vietnam - Bia Hoi
The Vietnamese love me and want me to be happy If
you agree with Benjamin Franklin that Beer is a sign that God loves
us and want us to be happy, then one of the signs you'll quickly
becomes familiar with in Vietnam are those advertising 'bia hoi.'
Draft beer. At less than 25 cents for a liter you might be surprised
to know that while the brand varies depending on the region you're
in, the beer is always of good quality. Maybe that's just the beer
talking. . .
In the selfless pursuit of content for the website, Julie and I
continually found ourselves conducting research in these rather
ratty looking establishments.
As uniform as the quality and price of the beer is the similarity
in atmosphere and decor of the places that slosh it out* - blue
plastic miniature tables and chairs squeezed into tiny concrete
rooms or simply set out on the sidewalk giving the almost exclusively
male customers a perfect place to watch the world flow by. The only
thing lacking is my Vietnamese, which excludes me from the gossiping,
laughing, bonding and merriment going on all around us.
The beer is served either directly in chipped murky plastic cups
with ice, or in an even grubbier plastic bottle that serves as the
pitcher. In addition to the cheap beer and prime location for watching
street life, the 'bia hoi' establishments will often serve low priced
snacks ranging from steamed clams to spring rolls to 'pho'**. No
*there is one way to tell whether you are in Hanoi or Saigon. You
only see men topless in Saigon.
**another three letter word anyone travelling on a budget through
Vietnam will learn is 'PHO.' Pho shops sell steaming bowls of noodle
soup that are very filling and cost only fifty to seventy-five cents.