A plan is being studied to establish a one-stop food street for vendors in the Old Quarter area of Ha Noi.
|Bia hoi corner: Foreigners enjoy cheap beers on Ta Hien Street, a corner in Ha Noi's Old Quarter popular with both foreigners and locals. — VNS Photo Thai Haby Hoang Anh|
While the idea is only in its formative stages, it is understood it could eventually resemble highly popular food streets in Singapore, Hong Kong and Bangkok.
It is the first phase in a comprehensive project by the Hoan Kiem District People's Committee to transform the Old Quarter area into a more attractive destination to all visitors - foreigners and Vietnamese.
The committee has chosen Dong Xuan Joint Stock Company, managers of the Dong Xuan market, to study the idea and come up with a proposal.
Do Xuan Thuy, director of the company, said the Old Quarter was already a good place to eat, but it was not always easy for visitors to find the places that are so popular with Vietnamese.
Many did not even know there was such a variety of stalls and restaurants hidden away in the network of streets.
"However, some issues need to be resolved," Thuy said. "These include the disorganisation of food vendors."
It is believed that one of the models for the proposed entity would be the collection of street stalls brought together at Quan An Ngon in Phan Boi Chau Street.
Thuy said another problem that needed solving was the practice of restaurants using waiters to urge passers-by to eat inside.
"The establishment of a proper food street would also enable better management of surrounding restaurants and provide customers with better service," he said.
Last year, Ha Noi was ranked first in the top 10 list of destinations for street food on the loneyplanet.com.website.
Ha Noi has also been ranked among Asia's 10 greatest food cities by CNNTravel.
The latest move is not the first time attempts have been made to set up a major food street in the Old Quarter.
Tong Duy Tan Street, at the tail end of the Old Quarter, was upgraded during preparations for the 1,000th anniversary of Ha Noi four years ago. It was intended to become the city's main food street.
Despite some investment in infrastructure, the street as Ha Noi's destination for food leaves much to be desired.
Vietnamese restaurants there often fail to impress visitors because of their prices and overbearing attitudes.
The quality of the food is often good, but it is limited in variety. Menus are full of hotpots, medicinal herb chicken soup, sticky rice, fried rice, and rice porridge.
Hygiene is another issue in the hidden pocket of restaurants. The gutters are often full of waste fluids from kitchens.
Food is often prepared and cooked next to parked motorbikes and rubbish bins.
Two tourists from South Korea, Lee Do - hoon and Kim Chang - hoon, said they were concerned about the sanitation in Tong Duy Tan.
They said during their two-day stay in Ha Noi, they only ate pho noodle soup because everything was boiled!
However, Peter Gong, a tourist from the Netherlands, while quite happy with the food, said he was bothered by the waiters.
"I like to make my own decisions where to eat and sometimes the waiters here can be pushy," he said. "Why don't they all have a menu stand outside each restaurant with pictures and prices for the dishes?"
A couple from New Zealand said they only found the area by accident after walking for hours looking for a place to eat.
"It is such a nice place. Why is there no information on it anywhere?" they said, "We would have come here sooner if we knew about this place."
Better organisation, better information, better hygiene and more variety - including dishes from other regions of Viet Nam, would be part of any new food street.
Nguyen Manh Hung, owner of the Ky Dong restaurant in Tong Duy Tan, has spent years in the restaurant trade.
"The ultimate question is whether the food street is a place to serve food or a place to showcase the culinary art of a city with a thousand years of history," he said.