Feast your eyes on street food

Amer­i­can cou­ple uses In­sta­gram han­dle @ viet­nom­nom to fea­ture colour­ful, mouth­wa­ter­ing eats in Hanoi.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - LIVING - By EMILY PEtSKO

NOEY Neu­mark sits on a minia­ture blue stool – Hanoi’s clas­sic throne – ad­mir­ing the bowl of banh da tron ( flat noo­dles) she or­dered from a food ven­dor.

“Viet­namese food is just so pretty,” she says. “It’s very pho­to­genic.”

As if on cue, she hands the bowl to her boyfriend, Peter Pe­tracca, who stands up to pho­to­graph their meal, oc­ca­sion­ally shift­ing to get the per­fect an­gle and light­ing.

Un­fazed by the in­quis­i­tive stares they at­tract, they up­load the photo to In­sta­gram, where their 5,400plus fol­low­ers can feast their eyes on their lat­est culi­nary find.

Us­ing the In­sta­gram han­dle @ viet­nom­nom, the Amer­i­can cou­ple has suc­cess­fully tapped into the so­cial me­dia sphere by giv­ing peo­ple the eye candy they want: colour­ful, mouth­wa­ter­ing meals, with clever cap­tions and ad­dresses de­tail­ing where to find the food.

The cou­ple now hopes to hand off their In­sta­gram ac­count to a new suc­ces­sor. They re­cently moved to Thai­land and will move back to the United States later this year. But they will con­tinue to post new con­tent on In­sta­gram through­out March.

In Viet­nam, food- order­ing web­sites like eat. vn and viet­nammm. com have proven pop­u­lar for dis­cov­er­ing new restau­rants. But street eats have largely been uncharted.

In­sta­gram has emerged as a cre­ative crowd­sourc­ing tool for find­ing food ven­dors by click­ing and sift­ing through hash­tags like “# Viet­name­se­food” and “# feast­a­gram”.

“For for­eign­ers who don’t know what things mean – all th­ese Viet­namese words that de­scribe the noo­dle type, or things that are in it, or how it’s made – hav­ing a look­book of all the de­li­cious foods in any given place is nice,” said Pe­tracca.

Hanoi- based travel blog­ger Sarah At­t­away, 24, said she fre­quently searches for “# Hanoifoodie” on In­sta­gram to find off- the- beaten- path restau­rants through­out the city. She said In­sta­gram is an easy way for for­eign­ers to learn the lo­cal cui­sine, es­pe­cially in Hanoi, where some of the best food ven­dors es­chew menus.

“I think street food is kind of in­tim­i­dat­ing, es­pe­cially for an ex­pat. So it’s nice to have some kind of a ref­er­ence point,” said At­t­away, who hails from Ari­zona, the United States.

“As a West­erner, you’re trained to find places that look good ac­cord­ing to the decor, or the menu, or the vibe of the place. Which is so dif­fer­ent from here,” she said.

While their In­sta­gram page is pop­u­lar among ex­pats and tourists get­ting ac­quainted with Viet­namese cui­sine, they have also amassed a con­sid­er­able lo­cal fol­low­ing.

Hoang Van Thai Duy, a 21- yearold law stu­dent from Chau Doc city in south­ern Viet­nam, is a fel­low food In­sta­gram­mer (@ hoangth­aiduy) and an avid fol­lower of viet­nom­nom.

“I think viet­nom­nom is one of the most amaz­ing ac­counts I fol­low,” he said. “For­eign­ers are in­ter­est­ing to fol­low be­cause they ex­pe­ri­ence Viet­namese cui­sine in their own style.”

Duy said he be­lieves In­sta­gram is quickly be­com­ing a trusted re­source for find­ing de­lec­ta­ble dishes.

“I al­ways use In­sta­gram for find­ing street food when trav­el­ling,” he said. “It can help us to find the best and most ex­otic street foods, wher­ever we go.”

Neu­mark and Pe­tracca, both 26, hail from Cal­i­for­nia. They met while liv­ing in New York City. Both worked with food – Neu­mark in restau­rant pub­lic re­la­tions, and Pe­tracca as a restau­rant pho­tog­ra­pher – and both knew they wanted to con­tinue work­ing in that ca­paci- ty when they moved to Hanoi in Fe­bru­ary 2015.

Ac­cus­tomed to just the two op­tions of pho or banh iì at Viet­namese restau­rants in the United States, they were sur­prised by the di­ver­sity of dishes when they landed in Hanoi.

“Viet­namese food tastes dif­fer­ent in Viet­nam, too,” Pe­tracca said.

“They have to adapt to the lo­cal in­gre­di­ents ( in the US). Here you have all th­ese herbs. They’re all lo­cal. And they’ve been used in the fam­ily for gen­er­a­tions. That’s why it’s so good,” Pe­tracca said.

“In the US, they have to adapt recipes. In the same way that Mex­i­can food in Cal­i­for­nia is in­cred­i­ble, but dif­fer­ent from Mex­ico.”

Among the cou­ple’s favourite dishes are pho cuon, tofu in tomato sauce, and fried pork ribs from Bia Hoi. While they en­joy most meals, silk­worms and con­gealed blood in soups are among the few foods they are “not a fan of ”, Neu­mark said. The cou­ple works in free­lance mar­ket­ing, writ­ing, and video pro­duc­tion. And they take their In­sta­gram side pro­ject se­ri­ously, carv­ing out sev­eral hours per week for food ex­cur­sions.

Much of the food they fea­ture comes from street food stalls they stum­ble upon. As a rule of thumb, they scout for places crowded with Viet­namese din­ers.

They work as a team, with Pe­tracca tak­ing the pho­tos and Neu­mark craft­ing witty cap­tions like “a bánh mì chay fit for a tay” and “grouper ther­apy”, de­scrib­ing a plate of fish.

“Viet­namese food is usu­ally very fresh,” Pe­tracca said. “With the street food places, it’s nice that there’s one place that makes just one thing re­ally well.”

Neu­mark added, “My big­gest hope for ( our In­sta­gram feed) is to show peo­ple out­side of Viet­nam how beau­ti­ful and var­ied Viet­namese food is – just show it off.”

Viet­namese street food is colour­ful and pretty. — Pho­tos: ANN

Neu­mark ( right) and Pe­tracca were sur­prised by the di­ver­sity of dishes when they landed in hanoi.

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