Saturday, 11 November 2017

A Walking Food Tour In Hanoi Old Quarter

It must have been after my first trip to Vietnam more than a decade ago that I started developing a penchant for Vietnamese food. The aroma of that drip coffee with condensed milk, the flavours of that delicious Chả lụa (meat roll), the appetizing Gỏi cuốn, (Vietnamese spring roll) and other specialties I tried lingered on for years. I have since patronized many Vietnamese restaurants in my home country but nothing is like eating Vietnamese food in Vietnam. This is now my 4th trip to Vietnam and food definitely tops the list of things in my mind.

Since we were just transiting in Hanoi and we didn't really have many things to do, we decided to go on our own walking tour in search of some authentic Vietnamese food. We have marked only the famous restaurants located within a 2 to 3 km walking distance from our hotel in the Old Quarter and here's the list of things we ate.

1.Bánh Cuốn Gia Truyền Thanh Vân.
This restaurant is super famous and has been nominated the No1 restaurant for bánh cuốn or rice rolls in Hanoi. It is located at 14, Hang Ga street. Besides bánh cuốn it sells a number of other delectable cuisines.
It was a little messy holding a map and walking in the rain but happiness is successfully locating the restaurant after a wet walk.
We were excited to be in restaurant but these girls who were stationed near the entrance to prepare the rolls obviously exuded a different type of sentiment. They must have been rolling out hundreds of bánh cuốn since morning so the apathetic look on their faces was rather understandable.
We ordered a few side dishes to go with our bánh cuốn and together with the tangy spicy sauce it tasted heavenly. I don't mind even walking through the storm to eat this.
The bánh cuốn is a resemblance of the Hong Kong chee cheong fun we get back home but the taste is authentic especially with its toppings of crispy onions and cilantro and its sauce.

2.  Bún Bò Nam Bộ
This restaurant which is famous for 'bún bò nam bộ' is also called Bún Bò Nam Bộ. It is located at 67 Hang Dieu Street in the Old Quarter. By the way bún bộ means beef noodles and 'nam bộ' means southern. This dish is said to have originated from the southern part of Vietnam. 
Business appeared brisk and we were fortunate to find an empty table even though we had to share it with other patrons.The entrance area is where all the food is displayed and prepared and the dining hall(s) are spread over more than one floor. The place was quite packed when we arrived.
The menu is limited to just a few varieties with the beef salad noodle being the signature dish and the others, the side dishes or 'extras'.
The 'bún bò nam bộ' is called beef noodle salad here probably because it is served with a good helping of salad vegetables. Each plate is 60kVND which is said to be more expensive than other stalls selling the same thing but there was a very generous helping of beef. This dish is unique and it is something I don't get to see back home. It tasted good to me but Ronnie felt it was an excellent meal.
We made friend with a local guy sitting next to us and he treated us to the Nem chua (sour meatball) and Gio (pork roll) which he had ordered in bulk to go with his bowl of 'bún bò nam bộ'. That was lovely of him but we didn't find these 'extras' that tasty. 

3.Quán Phở Gia Truyền
Phở, a Vietnamese noodle soup consisting of broth, rice noodles and beef or chicken  is the most popular food in Hanoi. It can be considered Hanoi's staple food being more widely sold and eaten than rice. Eating in Hanoi would thus be incomplete without taking a good bowl of phở. 
You can get phở at practically every nook and corner, at roadside stalls, small eateries, big restaurants and hotel restaurants. We had ours at the top rated phở restaurant in Hanoi which is Quán Phở Gia Truyền at 49, Bat Dan Street.
This restaurant has really made a name for itself and a long queue which spills over to the sidewalk is a norm. We went slightly earlier than dinner time to avoid the crowd and were indeed spared the queue and the wait for an empty table. This eatery has a very modest setting furnished only with small plastic tables and chairs at the five foot way and very seasoned wooden tables and chairs inside. We had to order our noodles from the couple who were were preparing it, pay on the spot and wait. When done we were notified to collect the bowls of phở ourselves. It was a self service kind of eatery here and you don't see any hospitality but who cares when you  are eagerly waiting to dig into that flavorful bowl of broth.
Well deserving of its excellent rating, this bowl of phở didn't disappoint. Great tasting yet not too savoury or overpowering is probably what suits the palate of most diners.

4. Bun Cha Ta
Another authentic Vietnamese dish is the bun cha which is believed to have originated from Hanoi itself. Bun Cha is a dish of grilled meat patties served in a tangy tasting broth and eaten together with white rice noodle (bún). There is often an accompaniment of raw herbs and vegetables and a savoury sweet, sour and hot  sauce. It is a favourite lunch time dish among the locals and is available at almost every street in Old Quarter. There are a few restaurants especially famous for this dish. I had wanted to go to Bun Cha Huong Lien at 24 Le Van Huu Street but that is too far from where I stayed so I opted for another famous one, Bun Cha Ta which is a short walk from my hotel. By the way Bun Cha Huong Lien became really famous after being patronized by President Obama who went to eat bun cha with Anthony Bourdain. 
Bun Cha Ta at 21 Nguyen Huu Huan Street was easy to find and it was just a 5 minutes walk from my accommodation. This restaurant has a narrow frontage but is spread over 5 or 6 floors.
We ordered the full set of Bun Cha Ta (95k VND) which is meant for one person but which is actually too much for one person so Ronnie and I shared this as we had to reserve our stomach for other food. The broth with papaya and carrot slices floating on it and grilled meat patties dipped inside was lukewarm instead of piping hot. I learned that it is meant to be that way but I thought it would have been better if the broth was served piping hot. 
 Nevertheless it was a very tasty and delightful meal.
The menu at Bun Cha Ta is quite diverse and it sells a lot other things besides bun cha. We tried one of their sweet desserts, black glutinous rice in yogurt which is another authentic stuff here but which fare averagely I opine.

5. L'Amore
L'Amore is a cafe at 42 Luong Van Can Street and is one of the ad hoc eateries we went in just to eat this coconut ice cream. I am not sure whether this cafe serves the best coconut ice cream in Hanoi but its presentation is commendable. The ice cream is actually served in a coconut shell with its flesh scraped out and put over it as toppings. A piece of brown wafer and some roasted brown coconut on top of the shredded white coconut made it a perfect blend of two colours.

6.Nét Huế
To complete our food tour we went for supper at Nét Huế Restaurant at 198 Hàng Bông Street. Net Hue is a chain of restaurants in Hue and Hanoi which specializes in Hue cuisines. The menu has a good array of authentic food to choose from but we came only for its desserts and snack.
The 'ram-it" cake with mung bean and dried shrimp is an authentic Vietnamese snack worthy of trying.
This sweet soup with jelly and tapioca which came with a separate bowl of shaved ice looks nice with its radiant colours and is not sweet at all.
The Hue-style lotus sweet soup was fragrant and very flavorful. I love this most!

There is unfortunately a limit as to how much you can eat no matter how good the food looks to you but the food tour ended well and it did satiate our gastronomic longing for authentic Vietnamese flavours.

1 comment :

Minh Đức said...

Oh, I think you have tried a lot of delicious dishes in Hanoi! If you have some time you can try more dry cow dumplings, vermicelli, La Vong fish fry etc.If you need Free food tour, you can check Hanoi Free Tour program of GoAsiaDayTrip company.Well worth a try!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...