It had been a tense few days before Amanda and I even entered Little India. The night before I had almost crashed into a man driving the wrong way down the street, prompting me to scream “Over there!” as I gesticulated at the other side of the road, steam coming from my ears. “Okay,” he smiled.
Constant heat and humidity have reduced better men than me to violence, and a viscous beating seemed around the corner all weekend, who would be receiving was the only question.
The general atmosphere of the time only made visiting Little India in Hanoi’s old quarter more daunting.
For many of us from the British Isles, the Indian restaurant experience is usually coupled with copious pints, chanting and testosterone, so before leaving I chugged icy beer to prepare for the inevitable bloodshed.
Exiting the taxi close to the backpacker district put me on higher alert, for after living here for a while drunken Essex boys, huge bunches of balloons and those damned fidget spinners make the blood boil.
The evening resembled the nervous build-up to a riot less and less upon entering Little India. Relief from the heat. Smiling staff. Trippy, 3D cubic wallpaper. I felt the adrenaline seep out of my body.
The intimate setting also helped sooth me, with only a few of the big tables common at British Indians used to seat stag dos, rugby dos and other reprobates.
Time to Dig In
After perusing the extensive menu and realising the Halal restaurant didn’t serve alcohol, a blessing in disguise, my unflustered companion and I were ready to order.
We settled on paneer pakora and chilli potatoe bhajjis to start, with chicken do piazza and chicken jalfraize on the waiter’s recommendation, as the chickens had been bought and slaughtered that morning.
If the world were just I would have followed the chicken’s lead, having managed to argue with and alienate my companion, hissing that I knew how to order Indian better than her, “I’m a straight while male dammit, I know everything!”
My biggest bones of contention were ordering basmati rice instead of local rice, a conviction born not of loyalty to an adopted home but to tight purse strings, and a cheese naan.
My wiser companion gently explained how the sticky local rice wouldn’t go as well with rich, flavourful curries and how no, cheese with Indian was not an affront to any deity I could name.
As it turned out, much like Jon Snow, I knew nothing, she was right about our carbohydrates of choice, which complimented the meal perfectly.
The spicy bhajjis, presented to look like bananas much to the delight of a newer member of staff, sated my intrinsic desire for potatoes, while both chicken mains did the job, flavourful and spicy without conjuring up fantasies of chilled toilet paper.
As I gently drifted off in the taxi home, all concerns over imminent fisticuffs had melted from my body, replaced by the wholesome glow of a man full to the gills with curry.
Little India, a Curry Oasis
Peter is a Northern Irishman who washed up in Hanoi, discovered he couldn't teach and hasn't looked back since. He enjoys long walks through rice paddies and is still learning how to dress himself properly.
Halal Indian, Malaysian and Chinese restaurant
One of the pioneering restaurants serving Indian, Malaysian and Chinese food in Hanoi.
32 Hang Tre, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi