Number six - Bia Hoi and beer
Sugar at the bottom, as we Finns say. There is a little bit crowded on my best list here, this should also be number one because it was one of the reasons I came here. Seriously, we Finns are known as heavy drinkers and I would like to avoid being named as "the beer Finn" or "that beer boy from F").
Bia Hoi is a Hanoi's version of beer drinking. Of course you find "normal" beer from restaurants (you know the brands, Carlsberg, Tiger, 3-3-3 and Larue, but the beer in Bia Hoi is among the bests). Bia Hoi is a local place to drink very local draft beer and have food also. The beer is brewed in the area and it's sold in cups or jars. It is extremely cheap (I think "best" price I saw there was about 0,11€) and the alcohol level is quite slow (around 3%). It is made on daily basis, you know that it's always fresh and... and... if you think that there are no regulations and the product is not monitored by some authority, there might be a risk that "the fresh" is not a guaranteed brand label. I try to find better photos, now we are with Ha Noi brand in the photo.
Luckily the servers of VT are in U.S, here in Finland we are so regulated that it's not allowed to advertise beer or alcohol and this can be considered as an advertisement!
- Food and Dining
Number five - Spring rolls
Springrolls stole my hearth also. These are served as starters in most restaurants and the procedure is simple (I have done it at home also, with great success :). Take a rice paper, wet it with water till it becames soft. Fill with vegetables, fist, meat, pork, shrimps or what ever your imagination is saying. Roll it and serve with dip as is or fry with pan or deep fry it and you get at least two Michelin stars from your friends and partner.
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Number four - Vietnamese coffee
As we Finns are really heavy coffee drinkers, it as a strong recommendation when I say that Vietnamese coffee is best in the world. It is dark, strong, characteristic and there is very light taste of chocolate behind. It is prepared just to you and you need a special filtering system which you can buy from market and it's very cheap (in the photo)
For Finns at home, please try at least once. Try to find Vietnamese coffee from our Eastern special shops (the best is: Trung Nguyen number three or four, package in the second photo). Use normal filtered coffee and replace one fourth part of it with Vietnamese and you understand what I mean.
This should be Number one tip here!
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Number three - Pho
Pho, Pho and Pho. That is a good list of menu during hot (or cold) days in Vietnam. It's the most local food and served in every kitchen, pop-up, streets and restaurants and it's not a surprise that is the national food of Vietnam.
Chicken, pork, vegetables and it is easy to make your own selection (for example in your hotel's breakfast. Start with adding noodles to the pot, some pieces of chicken and continue with fresh coriander and some spices and finally pour hot soup the the pot and it's ready.
Drink water or beer (bia) with the pho but a short warning. Probably because of heavy consuption or poor fridges, some places would add ice to your beer. It's up to you if you would like to dring your beer cold or just beer.
- Food and Dining
Number two - Visit a barber
When the life is on the streets, it is on the streets. You might face a dentist working behind the window with patient's mouth open (never never seen that before), so this is more normal, barbers are on the streets. Of course you can find a hair stylist with higher prices, but my recommendation is to try these also. With a controlled operations if you think your hair is not growing back :)
And this is not all! Barbers might ask: "How about your ears"! There's a legend in Vietnam that earwax transforms to worm which digs to your brains. To avoid this, barbers clean your ears with a lint stick and you can smile again with your brains safe!
- Women's Travel
Number one - Street Food
I have been thinking what is the most special memory from Hanoi to me and the answer is simple, the food and specially food in the restaurants which just pop-up to street corners. When you wander around during day time you face restaurants and some street vendors but in the evening the scenery is different. These small food corners pop-up to every corners and at once they are full of locals. The food is really good, definitely worth of every penny, you can just walk and take your place and eat something, change place and eat more (and more).
- Food and Dining
Very local food
While hanging around obviously the local national dish of Pho is already mainstream food and good places are crowded with locals as well as tourists having Pho.
But when having beer with the locals on the street bar you are expected if not to drink like the locals (beers on the rocks) at list eat like the locals, and this is what we got. (see picture)
Don’t ask me what exactly it was wrapped in the banana leaves ;)
Do you feel coco loco? Then go to the dam between West Lake and Truc Bach Lake. It is here where numerous street vendors offer fresh coconut juice to drink directly from the fruit. Sitting on small blue plastic chairs, you get your coconut, have its top cut off and a straw put in. Preparations finished, drink ready!
- Food and Dining
The primary method of transportation is the motorbike. They are everywhere and serve both as personal transportation as well as cargo transportation.
I've seen enough motorbikes everywhere. They carry everything in this kind of transport, unbelievable!
My first experience of seeing someone using a bike for transportation was here in Vietnam who had carry dogs crammed into a wire cage on the back of their bike (poor dogs)
It's not usual to see a whole family riding on a single motorbike, but here they do
Families with small children behind the bikes, it doesn't seem very safe for small kids in the motorbikes
- Family Travel
Vietnamese temples are curious places to visit. Visually they are very similar to their Chinese counterparts but contents tend to differ due to the personas worshipped. Usually it is not Buddha and most likely there are going to be two or three of them - generals, kings and so on. So far so good until a bizarre element comes into the picture when the deity or deities in question are pampered and revered with the help of fake money. Vietnamese dong is the currency of the country but this does not mean that this is the currency preferred by the deities. They seem to have a weakness for fake US dollars so they receive tonnes of them. Probably because prosperity, carnal and spiritual, has only one message and it goes: “In God We Trust”!
- Historical Travel
Typical Dishes for Vietnamese Tet
Tet is the biggest and most important holiday to Vietnamese. It is the chance for family union and enjoy the traditional dishes. In this aticle, I would like to introduce you some typical Vietnamese Tet dishes. If you visit Vietnam on Tet holiday, don’t miss the chance to enjoy and make it for yourself to wholeheartedly experience the atmosphere of Vietnamese Tet.
1. Chung cake
Banh Chung" (Chung cake) is a traditional and irreplaceable cake of Vietnamese people in the Tet Holidays.For the Vietnamese, making "Banh Chung" is the ideal way to express gratitude to their ancestors and homeland. In the ancient conception, the Earth is square, hence Chung cake's shape is square, too, to reflect the Earth shape. Besides, it emphasizes the important role of rice and nature in water rice civilization.. Main ingredients are sticky rice, pork meat, and green beans wrapped in a Dong leaves that will give the rice a green color after boiling. Making Chung cake is time-consuming and requires the contribution of several people. In making bánh chưng, all members of the family gather with different tasks, from washing the dong leaves, mixing the pork with spices, preparing the green beans and most important wrapping all ingredients in square form . Boiling the cakes takes about 6-8 hours. When sitting around the warm fire, all members in the family tell one another the past stories and are ready for a New Year with wishes of best things. It is always the typical memory to each Vietnamese about Tet.
2. Vietnamese sausage (Gio Cha)
Gio Cha is a very traditional fine dish of Vietnamese cuisine. Although culinary taste differs from the North, the Middle and the South of Vietnam, people have a common dish on a traditional Tet menu. Gio Cha is a must have item. It is served along with Chung cake in almost dining table of Vietnamese families
Vietnamese sausage is made from very simple ingredients but in fact it requires lots of experience to select the finest ingredients.
3. Vietnamese Pickled onions ( Hanh muoi)
Picked onions is the dish sour, fresh and low-calorie to balance among the various dishes on Tet. And for many Vietnamese generations, pickled onions have been a cannot-be-missed dish during Tet holiday. Vietnamese pickled onions also serve as a natural medicine for better digestion after high protein meals. The typical aromatic, crispy and sour taste of pickled onions going with fat jellied meat and tasty sticky rice cake awakens the Tet atmosphere in every family dinner.
4. Vietnamese Dried pig skin (canh bong)
It is a kind of soup in Vietnam which is made from dehydrated fried pork skin soaked in a broth sweetened by dried mushrooms, prawns, and fresh vegetables.
5. Spring roll (Nem ran)
Since long time ago, Spring roll has been a familiar dish on the menu at all household during Tet. Its ingredients comprises mince pork, sea crabs, eggs, vermicelli noodles, mushroom, dried onions, pepper, salt, fish sauce. The mixture is then rolled in flat rice cakes and fried in a pan until crispy. Spring rolls are eaten hot with fish sauce is diluted slightly with a splash of lime juice, sugar, chilies and garlic. Papaya and a few fresh scented vegetables are added.
6. Dried Bamboo soup
It is an indispensable dish during the feast for Tet of people in northern Vietnam. The dish shows the culinary cultural features of Vietnamese people who often make dishes from materials found in the forests and mountainous areas.
7. Candied fruits- Mut
Mut Tet (Tet jam) is not a food to serve in a meal during Tet holiday, but more like a snack to welcome guests in this special period. Mut is always kept in beautiful boxes and placed at the table in the living room, and it is the main food for the owners and guests to taste when they’re talking, enjoyed over a cup of tea.
- Food and Dining
Tasting Vietnamese Salad Roll
Goi Cuon is a Vietnamese appetizer that translates to salad roll. These soft, uncooked rolls make a refreshing change to deep-fried spring rolls. Nutritious fillings including shrimp, fresh vegetables and aromatic herbs are wrapped in delicate rice paper sheets and served cold with a traditional Vietnamese dipping sauce. This classic snack is known by many names, Summer Roll, Salad Roll, Fresh Roll, Vietnamese Roll, ... Whatever you want to call it, it's delicious, healthy and one of my favorite things to eat.
The most common ingredients included in Vietnamese salad rolls are carrots, lettuce, bean sprouts and cucumbers. Each of the vegetables is either chopped into smaller pieces or sliced to make long strips that fill the length of the roll. In addition to the vegetables, very thin rice noodles also are included. The noodles need to be pre-cooked before being placed in the rolls and are sometimes tossed, while still hot, with the vegetables and some sesame oil to warm the ingredients.
Meats, proteins or seafood are part of most Vietnamese salad rolls. This traditionally includes fried pork and prawns, although just about any meat can be used. Strips of fried firm tofu, shrimp, lobster, chicken and beef can all be found in various recipes. Whatever is used, the protein is cut to size so it will fit inside the roll, but it is not finely diced. Instead, thin strips or bite-size chunks are more common.
Assembling Vietnamese salad rolls starts with the rice paper wrapper. These are usually sold in flat, dry, cracker-like sheets that must be reconstituted in warm water for a few seconds. After they are moist, some recipes call for a layer of hoisin sauce or hot chili sauce to be spread in the center of the rice paper. The vegetables and rice noodles are placed in the center, followed by the meat and fresh herbs such as cilantro or basil. The rice paper is then folded and rolled until it forms a tight envelope around the ingredients, which will be visible if they are touching the paper.
Salad rolls are extremely popular with the Vietnamese, especially among students from secondary school through collage. Gỏi Cuốn are meant to be eaten by hand and dipped into the sauce of choice, typically using quite a bit of sauce per bite. Usually sold per piece in Vietnam, the price for each can vary from roughly the equivalent of 10 cents to 40 cents US, although the cost may be much more in high class restaurants. While not overly pricey, like most meals in SE Asia they are never as inexpensive when served in the west.
Goi Cuon is now a regular part of meals served at most Vietnamese restaurants, and while the ingredients have certainly changed somewhat in order to better suit Western palates the basics are still more or less the same as the original. It’s these fresh ingredients which create the flavor that make Gỏi Cuốn the favorite that it is.
- Food and Dining
Salted or sugared dry fruits –a specialty of Hanoi
Ô mai” (Salted or sugared dry fruits) has always been recognized as a famous Vietnamese snack. It is favored by a lot of Vietnamese people, especially women. It is a perfect combination of the sour taste of apricot, the saltiness of sour, the spicy of ginger and the natural sweetness of liquorices. “Ô mai” is always used during Tết Holiday (aka Lunar New Year) and is a favorite gift for Vietabroaders. “Ô mai” has a lot of flavors to serve your preference.
Maybe, no where in the world can find the special nosh more delicious than in Capital city of Hanoi, Vietnam with “O mai”. For the past years, “o mai”, salted or sugared dry fruits, was a favorite not particularly with Hanoian. Time is passing through and this speciality is now becoming a popular snack and an expected gift for all Vietnamese people, Vietnamese oversea also.
The oldest and most famous type of “Ô mai” ever known may be apricots, following dracontomelum, star, tamarind, kumquat, pineaple, canari, lemon, mango. As increasing demand and different taste of customer, o mai makers are now adding more fruits from all regions to adapt from traditional recipe.
The variation of flavor of O mai from sour, hot, salted, to sweet has enchanted many visitors to Hanoi. Nowadays, coming to Hanoi, after a visit to Hanoi Old Quarter, you should get the Hàng Đường (Hang Duong) or Hang Ngang, Pho Hue where the most delicious and wonderful ô mai are sold. Interestingly, at these shop, you can feel free to tast all kind of o mai before paying for the most favorite. Ô mai is a delicious affordable gift for your friends each time you came to Hanoi.
- Food and Dining
Sandworm omelettee -a specialty of Hanoi in autumn
“Cha ruoi” ( Sandworm omelettee )- is a scarce specialty of Hanoi and North Vietnam, because the nereididae sandworm only can be found in a short season. “Cha ruoi” which is crispy outside, soft inside, greasy and the delicious smell pervades all the guests is often sold at O Quan Chuong, in Lo Duc st and Gia Ngu st.
Cha ruoi is not available all year round. Sandworm is a type of sand worm that can only be found from the end of September to the middle of October. The short season is why Hanoians regard Cha Ruoi as a special but expensive gift from nature.
The sand worm doesn’t live in Hanoi – it lives in the mangroves and wetlands along the coast. In the capital, cha ruoi is a delicacy this time of year – the delicious smell of it cooking is very pervasive, a temptation to passers-by. The combination of fried Sandworm and egg is irresistible. It is usually served with vermicelli, salad and fish sauce.
The cool change of autumn is coming, so it’s about time to taste Cha Ruoi and enjoy the sweet gift of nature.
- Food and Dining
Hanoi Traditional Dishes
Hanoi people are famous for the simple but subtle cuisine. As time goes by, the capital’s food is more and more affirmed its important position in Vietnamese culinary culture. Besides the variety, the cuisine of Hanoi still keeps its traditional feature.
The following introduce 10 simple and delicious dishes of Hanoi which are existed for a long time.
1. Pho - Hanoi Noodle
First thing to remember when talking about Hanoi is “Pho” or noodle soup. “Pho is a special gift ofHanoi, not just only in Hanoi, but because only in Hanoi that it is delicious”, Thach Lam wrote.
The traditional Pho of Hanoi is famous for the soft noodles, pure and sweet broth, the tender and flavor beef. There are many delicious booths of Pho in Hanoi, such as: Pho Suong - Dinh Liet St, Traditional Pho - Bat Dan St, Pho Thin - Lo Duc, Pho Cuong - Hang Muoi St…
2. Bun Cha (vermicelli with grilled meat)
“Bun cha” (vermicelli with grilled meat) is known as a particular gift which Hanoi sent to all over the country. It is the delicious of the well-grilled meats and the sweet-and-sour sauce that grab every guest’s footstep. Bun cha in Dong Xuan market lane, 14 Hang Than st, 81alley Lac Long Quan st or pavement at the intersection of Nguyen Du and Ba Trieu st… is some good address for this dish.
3. Bun thang (vermicelli in chicken soup)
With nearly 20 ingredients, “bun thang” (vermicelli in chicken soup) is the dish that the cooking method requires the scrupulousness, care and sophistication of the cook, and also is one of the typical dishes containing innumerable quintessence of Hanoi’s culinary. Vermicelli is put in large bowls, ornamented on the surface with thin omelet, lean meat pie, chipped pork… then poured with hot consommé. Some recommended addresses: Hang Hanh st, Cau Go st, 11 Hang Hom st, 11 Ha Hoi st…
4. Cha ca La Vong (La Vong fried fish dish)
“Cha ca La Vong” (La Vong fried fish dish) is the perfect combination of typical Vietnam’s spices such as: saffron, fennel, shrimp paste and fish sauce. All of those mix together into a unique, incredibly delicious and attractive dish. Cha ca La Vong is always in the list of foods that can’t be ignored by foreign visitors once coming to Hanoi. The famous restaurant is located at 14 Cha Ca st.
5. Banh Cuon Thanh Tri (rice rolls)
“Banh cuon Thanh Tri” (rice rolls) is a traditional dish which is made of rice-flour. It has the very thin and light roll covered by a yellow fried-onions layers, dipped in the tasty sauce with some roasted cinnamon porks (“cha que”). Nowadays, you can eat “banh cuon” in everywhere, but those made in Hanoi, especially “banh cuon Thanh Tri”, still have their specific characteristics.
6. Cha Ruoi
“Cha ruoi” is a scarce speciality of Hanoi, because the nereididae sandworm only can be found in a short season. “Cha ruoi” which is crispy outside, soft inside, greasy and the delicious smell pervades all the guests is often sold at O Quan Chuong, in Lo Duc st and Gia Ngu st.
7. Banh Ran- (fried cake)
“Banh ran” (fried cake) is a popular cake in Hanoi, but “banh ran luc lac” or shaken fried cake is a traditional dish of Hanoi’s people. Its outer shell is made from glutinous rice flour, covered with roasted sesame. Especially, the filling made from sweetened mung bean paste is separated from the shell so that when you shake the ball cake, you can feel the rattled of it inside the shell. You can buy “banh ran luc lac” at 21 Le Dai Hanh st or 16A Ly Nam De st.
8. Bun Oc (Cold snail noodle)
Cold snail noodle (Cold snail noodle) is particular dish of Hanoi. It’s not easy to find the place where served this dish and not so many people can cook it well. Its consommé is a little sweet, fresh, sour and salty enough with the fragrant of ginger, the pungent of chili. You can find it at 202F Doi Can st or at O Quan Chuong.
9. Cha Nhai (frog omelette)
With Hanoi’s gourmets, “cha nhai” is a special food of Hanoi alone. The frog is chopped both meat and bones, crushed well, mixed with spices, chili, citronella, lime leaves… and deep fried in boiling oil pan. Then, we have a fragrant food that is a favorite dish of many people. The most delicious “cha nhai” is sold at Khuong Thuong st.
10. Com ( grilled green rice)
When the autumn wind comes is also the time that “Com” (grilled green rice) is appeared in many streets in Hanoi. “Com” is made from green sticky rice that is harvested in blossom period, roasted in many times, crashed and sieved. When eating com, you must eat slowly and chew very deliberately in order to appreciate all the scents, tastes, and plasticity of the young rice. Com is used in many specialities ofVietnam, including com xao (browned com), banh com (com cakes), che com (sweetened com soups), etc. You can find “com” everywhere in Hanoi, but the most delicious “com” is processed in Vong Village, where com making has been a professional skill for many generations.
There are many tasty dishes you should enjoy when visiting Hanoi. Come here, and feel the soul of Hanoi’ cuisine!
- Food and Dining