I was just making my way to the Museum of Vietnamese Revolution when something caught my eye. It was brown, succulent-looking and if I didn't know any better, I thought it was a suckling pig. You know, a baby pig roasted whole, served normally in Chinese restaurants. Only one thing looked odd, why was the tail not in a curly twirl but sticking out like a sore thumb?
Favorite Dish: Read on to find out more..
This is a classic case of curiosity killing the cat. Ok, so my curiousity got the better of me! Here I was, in a busy Hanoi eatery , staring at a suspicious dish and trying to snare a waiter. And when I did, i just had to ask,
" THIT CHO?"
The answer threw me off balance.
Doggoneit, this was real thing! Fido roasted to a well-done crisp!
I can't explain it dear reader but I could feel my bile rising to my throat. Perhaps, it was because I had pet dogs all my life and the thought of roasting them was akin to bloody murder. I smiled weakly, told the waiter that I didn't want any a la carte doggie and left hurriedly . Somehow, the curious cat within me was feeling queasy and I went to the nearest drain to puke.
Note: I used to own 3 Pekingnese dogs at one time and trained them for competitions when I was younger.
Favorite Dish: How does one even start to eat this dish, i wonder, from the spiky tail end or the drumstick?
Where to eat this revolting thing:
I don't advocate eating this dish but if you have stronger stomach than me, you can look for this food court is at the side of the Museum of Vietnamese Revolution. It's not too far from Hilton Hanoi where I was staying.
Have you ever read Jerry Hopkin's "Extreme Cuisine" ?If so, then you would have seen the gorgeous pictures of the fried scopions and other creepy crawlies. Well, I was inspired by Hopkins as well as another VTer, Kimmov, to try go on a dastardly binge on these things. Along the way, I also had a safer dish, "Cua Rang Muoi" or crabs sauteed in salt. Afterall, aren't crabs a distant cousin of the scorpion? They look somewhat the same with those legs and all.
Favorite Dish: Well, the crab of course. The scorpion tasted like musty version of a crab and the black shell was too hard to crunch.Also, the beady orange eye took some getting used to. Sigh, should have taken Kimmov's advice to eat them in HCMC. He mentioned that it tasted like popcorn over there.
Where to try this revolting thing:
At the side of the Museum of Revolution. They have an English Menu, thank God.
216 Pho Tran Quang Khai
Hoan Kiem District
You're missing out a lot if you haven't tried the street desserts of Hanoi. Nose your way around the Old Quarters and join the locals as they munch on glutinous rice balls made with coconut, sesame seed in sweet gingery soup.
Where to find it
This photograph was taken at 7, Hang Giay Street, not too far from Phan Tai Hotel. A bowl costs 4000D.
Favorite Dish: Note to Singaporeans:This is a spicier and tastier version compared to the one found at home
Note: My sincere thanks to Globe_Trekker who recommended that I should try Banh Cuon while I was here.
Banh cuon is a popular breakfast dish for Vietnamese and it's not difficult to see why. The translucent silvers of rice flour rolled around grilled meat,shrimp, mushroom and lightly sauteed garlic and onion are delicious. Complement it with a special fish sauce flavoured with the perfume glands from a beetle and voila! You're looking at the best dish in Hanoi.
20,000D for two plates of Banh Cuon
Important Note : The price has since doubled/tripled/quadrupled since I put up this recommendation for God knows what reason. It shocked me to think there are actually idiots out there who printed my little recommendation and showed it to the stall owner for proof that the price should stay the same! For crying out, pls don't do that, it's a known fact that blogs are only accurate from the time of the entry.
Favorite Dish: This dish is a northern specialty so it's better to try it when you're in Hanoi. If you're thinking it's the Hanoian equivilent to the Chinese rice roll (Chee Chong Fun ) , you're sadly mistaken, this rice roll is softer, more fragrant and more delicious.
Where to find this: This shop is located on the same street as Cha Ca Va Long, the famous fish hotpot shop. Give the fish a miss and eat this instead.
This is an eye opener for me. In Hanoi, food sellers carry their entire cooking utensils and food stuff with them. Even little tables and chairs ! They will pick a spot somewhere in the streetside and cook there and then. And if you want to eat the food, you just sit on the little stool and can eat together with them. Here, eating is more communal.
Favorite Dish: This is a bowl of hot steaming noodles with chicken meat, minced pork with mushrooms, cooked with lots of green vege (alot of scallions). There is also fresh sweet & sour chillie sauce to accompany the meal.
That meal cost me 3000 vietnamese dong or 20 cents USD.
The next time you're in Hanoi, try eating their specialty , "Bo Cau Quay" or roasted pigeon. The Hanoians think nothing about serving the whole bird to you, beak, head, ass and all so you'll need to breathe deeply before eating this. Plus, the bird will be served in a " Don't eat me! Don't fry me!" position. Well, say a prayer at best and eat it. You won't regret it.
Note: The head is supposedly the best part but the beak was bloody hard. Prefered the drumsticks... Pity the bird is so darn small, it was delicious!
Favorite Dish: You can find roasted in a street stall not too far from Phan Tai Hotel at Hang Giay St. It's the one crowded with loads of well-dressed teenagers. Yes, you need to sit on those darn small stools while you're eating.
Welcome to the eerie floating worlds of Hanoi. Earlier, you saw a floating gecko. Now you'll see a bear's paw floating in a mixture of wolfberries. Reputedly, drinking this paw wine will enhance a man's sexual powess and make him as powerful as a bear in bed.
Do you believe that crap? Well, here's some news for you if you buy that bull ****.
Asian Sun Bears are endangered creatures and in my opinion, the person who did this to him should suffer the same fate. Same goes for those idiots who force a bear into a tiny cage, and use the bear as a ketchup-bile dispensar.
Favorite Dish: Anything else that does not belong to a bear or any endangered creature.
Iif you're thinking that might be a gecko staring at you from the bottle, you're right. This is an honest-to-God true photograph and not a Jerry Hopkins infused nightmare. That small ginny in the bottle has been bottled for being an Aphrodisiac.
And I'll repeat what I mentioned in my HCMC instalment. Vietnamese men drink this for a little ooh-la-la and no, this reptilian Viagra is not patented by Pfizer yet.
If you are a big fan of Mr Extreme Cuisine aka Jerry Hopkins, you would eaten a lot of things you wouldn't dream of eating in Vietnam.
Now, take a good look at the bug, would you eat him? Probably not .
But I am quite sure you would eaten juice squeezed from this particular fella. And unknowingly too. Most Vietnamese are fond of nýớc_mắm cà_cuống which means fish sauce seasoned with belostomatid essence. Yes, they take this little fella, squeeze its perfume gland for the said essence to perfume the sauce to be served to you.
Favorite Dish: You're probably dying to know whether I have taken the sauce. I did and unknowingly too! But reader, it is the most fragrant sauce I've ever tasted in my life! When I first tasted it, I couldn't quite place it, it was a cross between saffron and cinammon but a hundred times more fragrant.
Sauce is commonly found in Bun Thang, a noodle dish and Banh Cuon (Rice Flour Steamed Rolls)
Despite it's infamous reputation for a biker's HQ club, Highway 4 does have an extensive menu for traditional rice wine and vietnamese street desserts. And all dishes are reasonably priced too.
Favorite Dish: Try Soi Vo, gultinous rice with mung bean, peanuts and garlic. It's a delicious and light snack that is available only after 10pm. It cost about US1 or so.
If you're ever in doubt and fear that a dog might land on your plate , look at the menu and order a plate of Bun Thit Bo Nuong (fried noodles with beef )and a big pot of CHE (tea). It makes a cheap and satisfying meal.
Favorite Dish: Where:
This picture was taken at the eatery situated at the side of the Museum of Revolution. They have an English Menu, thank God.
216 Pho Tran Quang Khai
Hoan Kiem District
After I toured the touristy street of Pho Nha Chung and seen St Joseph's Cathedral, hubby and I settled down at the nearest coffee joint called Student Cafe. Aptly named, this joint was crowded with students who parked mopeds at the side. Both of us had Ca Phe(Coffee) Sua(Milk) Nong(Hot) and were entertained by a chap who spoke fluent Taiwanese Mandarin. We were impressed, this was so far the only fella who did not "konnichiwa" us!
Favorite Dish: I hate to say this, but Hanoian Coffee pales in comparison to Saigonese Coffee! While it is still acceptable and way better than the international mermaid-brand coffee, it is less heady and missing a bloody strainer! I miss that tin filter, let me wait 1/2 hr for my coffee please.
Cost : About 6000D per cup
Food stalls can be found at literally every corner. It'll take a little courage to eat in some of them as the food looks uncommon if not strange or inedible - but you'll most likely be satisfied afterwards. Basically all of them have their "menu" visible on a large plastic sign. If you plan to eat in food stalls, it might be a good idea to learn the most important dishes or their ingredients. For instance, pho (pronounced like fur) is a very tasty noodle soup that you will find almost everywhere. Dishes with chicken are called something plus ga, dishes with beef include the word bo (pronounced almost like boar). In case you're willing to try dog meat, you should know that it's Thit Cho in Vietnamese.
It's literally impossible to describe and recommend one food stall - many of them are worth a try, while others are an offense to your stomach. Nevertheless, I will try to do so. Back in 2004/2005, when I worked in Hanoi, I ate lunch at a specific food stall daily. Their specialty was Com Rang (pronounced kerm saang), i.e. fried rice. Unfortunately, the place closed down a year or so ago as a new road was built - the golden age of Com Rang is over... :(
Here's what it was like back then:
"Com Rang is fried rice and you'll find it many places all over Hanoi. The best, the ultimate Com Rang, can be found in a small food stall near the south entrance of Bach Khoa university. If you leave the campus, cross the sewer and go on for some 150 metres. On the right side, you'll see an Aretha-Franklin-like looking woman who is enthroned on a chair, preparing food for the guests of this small food stall. Don't be too shocked by the hygienic conditions - the rice is fried in very hot fat, so all bacteria will be killed! By the way, the piece of paper on the wall, that is almost unreadable, is the health certificate.
Order "Mot Kerm Saang" and you'll get what you want. To prove that the rice is good: I've eaten there almost every day! Com Rang costs 5000 VND, other dishes are available, too and also quite good."
Favorite Dish: Com Rang, Pho Bo, Bun Bo, Nem Chua Ran, Pho Cuon...
This is a food stall at Cho Hom Market where we tried fresh spring rolls and green papaya salad. The lady serving the spring rolls was embarrassed by the pictures I was taking of her. Our host Claire told her that I was taking the pictures because she was so beautiful!