ng Buồm Hoàn Kiếm Hà Vietnam, 94 Mã Mây, Hàng Buồm, Hoàn Kiếm, Hanoi
By Beau Cadiyo
Back in 2000, I joined a cult.
It was a cult in the sense that later on, it was designated a cult by the US Attorney General or something; the founder was prosecuted for stealing money from the church he'd created. They called themselves Christian, and the main idea was that all other Christian churches had strayed from the original meaning of the Bible. In a very A. J. Jacobs way, they believed that everything in the Bible was meant to be taken literally, and they would strive do render unto the Government what was the Government's, and render unto God what was God's. They couldn't own slaves, for example, without breaking the law, so they had to (temporarily) ignore those parts of the bible regulating slave treatment. However, they could go out daily to try to convert people; they could grow their hair long, and not touch women who were on their periods, and avoid pork and wine.
The reason I joined was simple: I'd never really learned a lot about the Bible, and I figured the best teachers would be a bunch of people who believed in it completely. Also, I was friends with one of their stars in the church, Frank Evans. He was a New Zealand boy who joined the church after coming to university; his mother rejected the church, so he'd decided to have nothing to do with her or the rest of his family, such was his faith. He was an otherwise nice guy.
I don't know what precipitated it, but I once asked him what New Zealand food was like. "Oh," he said, "it's known all over the world! New Zealand is experiencing a bit of a moment for its food." At the same time, he explained, he didn't understand it, because the food was just about being "more" than everything else. "They take a burger, right, and they add a bunch of stuff that isn't normally on a burger, like spaghetti, and pesto, and an egg, and Brie, and some spinach, and hot sauce, and they serve it to you, and it is supposed to be like some grand dish, but it's just a burger with a bunch of shit on it, mate," he said. "If I want a burger, just give me a fucking burger!" I don't know what the bible said about cursing.
I was reminded of him and that conversation upon eating at Red Bean. I got the Red Bean Sandwich, with chicken breast, ham, lettuce, a tomato, mayonnaise, and cheese. It sounded like a pretty straightforward sandwich. When they brought it out, though, it was a monster: triple decker, with everything split in the middle by an extra piece of plain white bread. The filling, meanwhile, was exactly what you might expect from that description; however, it was somehow all, together, bland, in a way that I wouldn't have expected from a Vietnamese sandwich. I mean, a bahn mi is just incredible: the delicate interplay of so many different flavours and sensations, all in delicious bread. Why couldn't this have been similarly intricate and balanced? Why did it end up just being a whitebread sandwich?
The service was absolutely impeccable, though, and it didn't exactly break the bank. My banana flower salad, and the chocolate mousse dessert, were both delicious, and they had Tiger beer and Johnnie Walker Red, so I was a happy camper in the end. But if you're looking for a delicious sandwich in Hanoi, find a hut in the road with a charcoal fire, and pay the $2.50, and be happy.