The madness of Hanoi’s Old Quarter is overwhelming. Well, overwhelming for someone from a humble village home to more cows than people, that is. But on a busy Sunday night – with the embers of a hangover burning – I was about ready to give up on finding the month-old Taiwanese joint, One More Bowl, and let the heaving crowds trample me to death.
Before I could do anything rash, my partner Amanda gave me a well-deserved verbal slap and pointed out that we’d made it to 30 Hang Vai Street and found the place.
Like any good street food spot, it seemed to have appeared out of nowhere – ready to feed anyone walking past with a spare buck in their pocket.
While One More Bowl does serve Taiwanese street food it doesn’t look like your average street food eatery. Forget tiny stools. Forget sidewalk chaos. And definitely forget ‘interesting’ smells. One More Bowl seems more like a trendy bar that the average street food restaurant, with shiny metallic counters and a fake brick wall in place of crumbling plaster and cheap, plastic tables.
From the floor to the roof One More Bowl is sleek and sexy, something decidedly uncommon in most Hanoi establishments. The sharp lines, plethora of bright lights with metallic shades and wall decorations made of gears and tools gives the space a distinctly intertwined minimalist and industrial look.
As we took a seat I began to wonder if the term street food was being used liberally. I thought to myself, the cost of rent in such a prime location must mean I’d end up paying much more than I would in a market in Taipei. However, this is far from the case. With my pork vermicelli soup and Amanda’s sticky rice and Taiwanese sausage, the damage was a mere 45,000 VND ($1.98) each.
Sweet Rice, Sour Song
Satisfied that One More Bowl was street food in name and nature I tried to call a waiter over to order our food, only to be beckoned up to the counter. After I ordered and paid, all within a minute, I realised One More Bowl has the best of both worlds. The food is tasty, cheap and filling, all the best bits of street food – minus the look and smell of an open sewer.
Of course some would say less than hospitable conditions are part of the charm of street food. Luckily One More Bowl’s has a large order window facing onto the street, which should satisfy the purists’ desire to eat on the street or on the go.
Our food arrived as 21 Savage’s ‘Bank Account’ blasted out of the restaurant’s speakers. The honey-smooth yet graphic lyrics another reminder that this isn’t an ordinary street food place. While my vermicelli and pork soup was satisfying and hearty, the sticky rice and sausage stole the show. The combination of sweet rice and savoury sausage was a delight to the taste buds – like 21 Savage’s soothing voice combined with bold lyrics was a joy to my ears.
Food finished, I steeled myself to re-join the madness of Sunday night Hanoi and reflected on the fact that One More Bowl was a street food restaurant I’d actually enjoyed for something other than the food – a real rarity across Southeast Asia.