Enjoy Hanoi delicacies through sketches

Hanoi food looks even tastier in beautiful sketches of members of the Urban Sketchers Hanoi.


Staying at home in the social distancing period, food lovers can still enjoy the favorite dishes of Hanoi through… mouth-watering pictures, thanks to the idea of the Urban Sketchers Hanoi (USK Hanoi).

 The bun dau mam tom (noodle with fried tofu and shrimp paste) by Xuan Hien

While all restaurants are closed this time, the USK Hanoi launched the challenge of drawing Hanoi’s food and restaurants. “We miss cups of coffee, glasses of beer, and the street food of the city so much, besides gathering to take photos and draw together,” architect Tran Thi Thanh Thuy, lecturer at Hanoi University of Architecture, leader of the USK Hanoi said.

“Therefore, we open the challenge to satisfy our nostalgia and create a playground for fine art lovers and our members to practice drawing every day,” she added.

In no time after the launching of the challenge, the group received more than 100 diverse drawings of familiar dishes such as Pho, bun oc (noodle with snail), bun dau mam tom (noodle with fried tofu and shrimp paste), banh cuon (steamed rice rolls). Even after the challenge was closed, drawings kept being sent to the contest.

 The banh mi Nhu Lan by Sutien Lokulprakit (Thailand)

“It’s a very interesting idea. It inspires us to draw like when we met and shared our passion for Hanoi before the pandemic. I drew almost one picture every day,” said a member of USK, Le Phuong.

Another painter, Ha Phuong, a student of Kim Giang Secondary School, Thanh Xuan district, impressed the group with sketches, including one about pho cuon (pho spring rolls). Pho cuon is one of Hanoi’s most popular and favorite specialties of the local people, like Phuong. It is known as another version of Pho in terms of ingredients, including Pho sheet, beef, and herbs, especially coriander. But it differs in the way that instead of a bowl of hot soup greatly for winter, pho cuon is served in fresh rolls with fish sauce, ideally for summer. 

 The pho cuon (pho spring rolls) by Ha Phuong

Joining the group in 2019, Phuong has joined many field trips to Mu Cang Chai, Pu Luong, Hue City, Cuc Phuong Forest, among others. Unable to travel now, she draws Hanoi’s dishes based on her memories from past journeys. “I hope the Covid-19 pandemic will end quickly so that I can meet group members again and enjoy these delicious dishes in the Hanoi Old Quarters,” she stated.

Not only people from Hanoi but also those from other places and even abroad have participated in the challenge. While Truong Giang from Ho Chi Minh City contributed great pictures of Hanoi’s Pho; painter Sutien Lokulprakit from Thailand sent his sketch of banh mi Nhu Lan, a popular brand of Hanoi sandwich, and fried sandworm.

The dishes not only look very tasty but also arouses the flavor. “These are my favorite plates from Hanoi. Although we have insect and worm food in Thailand too, the fried sandworm here is very unique and tasty,” painter Sutien Lokulprakit told The Hanoi Times.

 The bun oc (noodle with snail) by Le Kim Phuong

Particularly, besides dishes, architect Arki Mark from the Philippines also depicted restaurants and eateries during the quarantine period through his sketches, from street bia hoi (draught beer) to Pho restaurants and snack and dessert shops in the Old Quarters.

“It’s very quiet now, so different from other days which were always crowded with people and vehicles. It’s a special moment for the peaceful beauty of the typical old houses and deserted streets,” Arki said.

“All the pictures are very interesting. Each shows the talent and angle of the artist,” architect Thuy said, “The best ones will be compiled in a book about Hanoi’s street food.” Not only introducing delicious food, but the book will also tell the stories of eateries, restaurants, and longtime merchants in the language of sketches, she added.

Even during the pandemic, Hanoi is still beautiful with its rich culinary culture through emotional drawings which evoke love and nostalgia.

The Pho Bo (fresh rice noodle with beef) by Dang Truong Giang

The USK Hanoi was founded in 2016 by a group of local architects with the aim of preserving Hanoi’s beauty and spreading their love for it to the community through sketches.

With more than 7,500 members, the group has organized trips to draw the streets, old buildings, and craft villages, contributing to preserving and promoting the values of Hanoi’s heritage and culture.

Before the social distancing period, the group regularly held drawing sessions of Hanoi’s street food every Sunday afternoon. Since the quarantine, the members are sketching online about the bustling Hanoi in their memories. With a large number of members of different ages and professions, they have contributed diverse and beautiful pictures for exhibitions and books like “Hanoi’s old apartment building”, “Hanoi Old Quarter – Sketches and Memories”, and “Hanoi’s Impression from Sketches of Old French Buildings”.

The nom bo kho (papaya salad with dried beef) by Dang Truong Giang
 The Banh cuon (steamed rice rolls) by Dang Truong Giang
 The Xoi ba Thao (Madamme Thao’s steamed sticky rice)