Sunday, May 24, 2015
I had one full day in Hanoi, and I really wanted to eat some traditional Vietnamese food.
Perusing the internet I found Vang Cong Tu, author of the blog “Vietnamese God”, who gave highly recommended food tours. Excellent. I emailed him before I left for my Ha Long Bay Tour, but given the short notice, I had a feeling he would be all booked up.
And sure enough, he was 🙁 But he did give me some great suggestions.
So I thought….
Why not make my own tour?
With his suggestions and a few others from the web I made this walking tour:
Start = Hanoi Backpackers Hostel, The Original
- 67 Hang Dieu
- 14 Hang Ga,
- 42 Quan Thah
- 34 Hang Than
End= Around the Hoan Kiem Lake and back to the hostel
I left my hostel around 10:30 am….
Stop 1: 67 Hang Dieu
Dish: Bun Bo Nam Bo
Cost: 60,000 VND
This dish is a vermicelli noodle dish served with grilled marinated beef, fresh vegetables, some pickled carrot, and the Vietnamese ‘nuoc cham’.
Wow. I was expecting this to be delicious but I wasn’t expecting such an explosion of flavors and textures. There were so many components; the soft noodles, tender beef, fresh vegetables, pickled carrot, crunchy onions, the perfect sweet/sour/salty nuoc cham sauce. But together they worked in perfect harmony. I was only planning on eating half, but that plan went right out the window after my first bite. I easily could have eaten a bowl of Bun Bo Nam Bo a day, or maybe two bowls 😉 If only I had more time in Hanoi!
The next stop was only a 5 minute walk away, and since I ate my whole bowl I needed time to digest. So what did I do?
Find a coffee shop 🙂
I ordered Saigon coffee (essentially strong coffee and condensed milk) and watched the street corner.
Stop 2: 14 Hang Ga
Dish: Banh Cuon
Cost: 35,000 VND
Banh Cion is made from a thin, wide sheet of steamed fermented rice batter and filled with seasoned ground pork, minced mushroom, and crispy shallots. Nuoc cham is served as a dipping sauce.
Talk about a hole in the wall. You could easily walk by this restaurant and have no idea that they are making something epic.
Outside the restaurant you can watch them make the rolls.
The exterior was somewhat slimy, but the texture was balanced with the pork-mushroom filling and the crunchy onion topping. The nuoc cham added an essential layer of flavor. My chopstick skills are improving but I am still a novice, so the whole dipping-slippery-roll process was VERY DIFFICULT. I am pretty sure everyone was watching the “funny white girl”, but oh well, I managed to always get the roll in my mouth 🙂
Ok, so now I was really full. Since traveling I have been sticking to 2-3 small meals a day, so with these two stops behind me I was getting pretty close to my normal food quota. But obviously, I needed to keep eating.
Some sights along the way to the next stop…
Stop 3: 42 Quan Than
Dish: Pho Ga
Cost: 30,000 VND
Obviously I needed to have some Pho 🙂 I really wish I hadn’t been so full, because this Pho was excellent. The broth is the key to a great Pho, and this broth was just the right level of flavor and saltiness. It would have been a great breakfast!
The next place was barely 2 blocks away and there was NO WAY I could eat anything else. I really wanted to find another coffee shop, but all I could find was a Lotteria (their version of McDonalds), so I ordered a water, and urged my stomach to digest/expand.
After several games of solitaire, I was still pretty full, but I really didn’t feel like sitting in the McDonalds-Like restaurant anymore. It was time to push forward.
Stop 4: 34 Hang Than
Dish: Bun Cha
Cost: 35,000 VND
Bun cha is normally grilled fatty pork served with rice noodles and herbs.
I am SO glad I didn’t skip this stop. After eating one bite I thought, “This is my new favorite meal ever!” I really thought Bun Bo Nam Bo from Stop 1 was going to be the winner, but, NO WAY. I avoided the noodle, I just couldn’t handle anymore noodles, but the pork with the fresh herbs/lettuce was absolutely sublime. The pork was a mixture of fatty pork meat and pork patties, sitting in a broth that tasted similar to nuoc cham. The flavor was smokey, sweet, and salty. Ugh. So perfect. Writing about this is making me salivate. I would give anything to have a bowl of Bun Cha from 34 Hang Than appear in front of me right now.
So in about 4 hours I had eaten the same amount of food that I normally consumed in 2 days. I was stuffed, and I needed a break, because I had one more place I wanted to hit 🙂
Trying to walk off the calories, I wandered around Hoan Kiem Lake and made my way back to my hostel. At the hostel, I showered (Hanoi is SO HOT AND HUMID), took a nap, and worked on the blog.
Walk to the hostel….
By 8 pm, I wouldn’t say I was hungry, but I was excited to try my last place.
Dinner: 21 Duong Thanh
Dish: Cha Ca
Cost: 140,000 VND (with water)
Cha Ca is fillets of flaky white fish marinaded in turmeric and galangal, fried, and served with generous topping of dill on a sizzling hot plate.
Think fish fajitas with a TON of dill!
The cooking process….
The final product…
Herb explosion! This fish was soft with a hint of spice from the turmeric, the dill and green onions kept the dish bright, the basil added flavor along with the sweet dipping sauce, and the peanuts added crunch.
SO FREAKING GOOD.
After eating all this food I declared a three-way tie between…
- Bun Bo Nam Bo
- Bun Cha
- and Cha Ca
I would die happy if my last meal consisted had the epic flavor combination of Bun Bo Nam Bo, the smokey BBQ of Bun Cha, and the herb explosion of Cha Ca.
Do I really need to go home?
I guess I will need to figure out how to make these dishes myself….
Love always, Arianna the Wandering Pipette