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Archive for the ‘Vietnam’ Category

Happy belated New Year, everyone!

I spent the last week of 2013 doing a whirlwind tour of Vietnam, where we crazily took 5 flights within 8 days just to cover Ho Chi Minh in the south to central Vietnam’s Da Nang and finally up north to Hanoi. An ambitious itinerary to please everyone (I wanted Hoi An; they wanted Ha Long Bay) and I’m glad we did it!

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Of course, every meal was planned and I’m incredibly happy with my choices (yes I dictated where to eat)! Our favourite restaurant throughout the trip was our first meal in Vietnam: Cuc Gach Quan in HCMC — we loved it so much that we headed back for one last meal before flying back to Singapore. The friends raved about the caramelized pork while I couldn’t get enough of the soft shell crab in tamarind sauce. Homemade tofu with lemongrass was also a winning dish! We were so impressed by the food that the waiter had to stop us from over-ordering on our second visit (he failed) lol.

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We affectionately referred to Cuc Gach Quan as “the brad pitt place” because Bradgelina once ate here. Were they seated at this cool vintage four-poster bed?

Cuc Gach Quan
10 Dang Tat, Ward Tan Dinh
Ho Chi Minh City, District 1, Vietnam

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I have to admit, I wasn’t interested in food photography on this trip. Most of the time, I was hungry and I just wanted to eat. Only a token effort was made, and usually before all our food arrived haha. Like the second day in HCMC where we were absolutely starving (not exaggerating, I swear) after a long day out at Cu Chi tunnels. Lunch was served at 5pm (!!) at May Restaurant, where we gorged ourselves on heart of palm salad, fried lemongrass tofu (now that I think about it, we had tofu everyday!), grilled pork belly, barbecued mackerel, butter garlic mushrooms, omelette, sweet and sour soup, pork in claypot, black sesame and pandan ice cream and I can’t remember what else haha.

May
3/5 Hoang Sa
Ho Chi Minh City, District 1, Vietnam

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I had high expectations of the famous soft shell crabs at Quan 94 because of the many positive reviews online and also partly because it reminded me of the legendary Raan Jay Fai in Bangkok. This turned out to be the most meh meal — the crab rolls and battered crabs were pretty good but the tamarind crabs at Cuc Gach Quan were definitely much better. Highlight here was actually the superb avocado juice!

Quan 94
84 Dinh Tien Hoang Street
Ho Chi Minh City, District 1, Vietnam

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BFF told me that she wanted to eat banh mi (Vietnamese sandwich) so I made sure to include it in the itinerary. First meal in Hoi An was at Madam Khanh – The Banh Mi Queen, and it was one of the most fabulous breakfasts ever. Delicious banh mi, nice coffee (got to mime “less condensed milk”), and the lovable elderly Madam Khanh even served us complimentary cups of green tea at the end!

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I had a vegetarian version while the rest had the full works — all sorts of cold cuts and pork pate with egg, tomato, cucumber, herbs, butter and cream cheese stuffed into a warm soft baguette. Proof that this was really really good? 1) I polished the long roll off; 2) K’s comment to me: “wa first time I see you eat so much bread!!”; and 3) we went back for another round before leaving Hoi An the next day!

Madam Khanh – The Banh Mi Queen
115 Tran Cao Van Street
Hoi An, Vietnam

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Truth be told, Hoi An was initially on my list solely because the Ancient Town is recognized as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. I didn’t even think it is pretty when I was researching for the trip. How wrong can I get, huh. Hoi An is beautifully quaint and you just can’t see that from photographs imo. You need to be there.

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While strolling along the streets lined with well-preserved houses and souvenir shops, we came upon many makeshift food carts and stalls. Chinese-style chicken buns, grilled “satays”, banana fritters, sweet potato green bean cakes (I like!), black sesame paste (a.k.a. “xi ma”)…

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… and sweet beancurd with gingery syrup, which we slurped down while sitting on portable roadside plastic stools #likeaboss!

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At Morning Glory, we indulged in more Vietnamese classics such as freshly made banh xeo (crepe topped with pork and prawns), cao lau (Hoi An style noodles with pork and greens), salads (I seriously love the fresh and tasty salads in Vietnam!), grilled meat, sautéed pumpkin, fried tofu coated with sticky rice, caramelized fish in claypot and seaweed soup. Interestingly, the beverage list contains home remedies to ease a sore throat or brews to strengthen the body etc. BFF asked me to remember the ingredients for her awesome hot kumquat drink so she can replicate it at home but sorry I forgot haha.

Morning Glory Restaurant
106 Nguyen Thai Hoc Street
Hoi An, Vietnam

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After a morning tour of My Son (another UNESCO site checked, yay!), we went to Miss Ly Cafeteria (humbly named but technically a restaurant) for lunch. Miss Ly was highly recommended by my new lady boss and after trying the food here, I could understand why she had all her meals here while in Hoi An. The specialties include fried wontons with prawns and pork, banh bao vac “white rose” (imagine har gow topped with fried shallots and diced chillies) and fresh spring rolls (NamNam should be banned from selling their disgustingly chewy version of rolled up rice paper sheesh)~

Miss Ly Cafeteria
22 Nguyen Hue Street
Hoi An, Vietnam

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Up to Hanoi we went and the designated place for our first dinner was thankfully near to our hotel as it was already past 10pm. Dong Thinh Nha Hang Mien Luon (don’t ask me to pronounce this) only has six items on its menu and all of them revolve around one thing: eel! K raved about the glass noodles used for the famous mien xao luon (noodles with fried mini eels) and while I couldn’t appreciate how glass noodles can be that good, I loved the crispy eels so much that I ordered a bowl of it! Kind of like eating A&W curly fries haha.

Dong Thinh Nha Hang Mien Luon
87 Hang Dieu
Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi, Vietnam

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When we first decided on Vietnam as our annual trip, BFF sent a text saying that we must try cha ca la vong and I was like “cha what??” lol. Turned out that this is Hanoi’s iconic dish! Simply meaning “grilled fish”, cha ca la vong consists of marinated catfish pan-fried with heaps of raw dill, herbs and greens – all cooked in front of you! Once it’s done, slap it over pho (rice noodles), drizzled with fish sauce mixed with chillies, and garnish with peanuts for a crunchy texture! There’s an original Cha Ca La Vong restaurant but I read that it’s becoming a tourist trip so we went to Cha Ca Thang Long, another cha ca specialty restaurant offering only cha ca la vong on its menu. It’s quite pricey (USD 6 per person) for not that many chunks of fish but for the experience and taste, I’d say it’s worth a visit!

Cha Ca Thang Long
31 Duong Thanh Street, Old Quarter
Hanoi, Vietnam

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How can we be in Vietnam without coffee? Trung Nguyen and Highlands Coffee are everywhere and both are (to my amateur palate) very good imo. Trung Nguyen does a Legendee drip coffee at a scandalous price of VND 150,000 (almost 10 bucks!) and I found my favourite cinnamon-tinged coffee there! Another love is the classic jelly freeze at Highlands Coffee, a fancy frappe with coffee jelly. For an unconventional coffee experience, we headed to Ca Phe Pho Co, one of Hanoi’s oldest café with a gorgeous view of Hoan Kiem Lake. To get there, we walked through a silk shop, placed our orders at a courtyard, mounted a narrow spiral staircase and finally made our way up to the 4th floor, phew. That’s where we tried two unique drinks: ca phe trung (egg coffee) and ca phe sua chua (yogurt coffee). Too good; why aren’t these in Singapore?!

Ca Phe Pho Co
11 Hang Gai
Hanoi, Vietnam

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Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and Temple of Literature later, we had an early lunch at Chim Sao before Hoa Lo Prison. The menu features funky stuff like tortoise, pigeon, frog and water buffalo but we skipped all that for “safer” chicken/pork/fish dishes ha. Started with fried sliced sweet potatoes and omg I swear our food took ages to come (soup and rice and eel and fish and pork and egg and tofu and salad; we ordered a lot, I know, but still). That said, I’ve still got a good impression of Chim Sao because it serves the best salad I’ve tried on the trip: banana flower salad! Extremely well flavoured, lots of white sesame seeds and crunchy fresh greens~

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Oh yes, and the fried tofu with salted eggs was so moreish that we just had to get one more plate before leaving… Zi Char places in Singapore should sell this!

Chim Sao
65 Ngo Hue (135 Pho Hue, turn right)
Hai Ba Trung District, Hanoi, Vietnam

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Didn’t have good pictures of our last lunch in Vietnam (see, told you that I can’t be bothered to take food photos) but I think Quan Bui deserves a mention for being the most affordable meal with generous portions!

Quan Bui
8 Nguyen Van Nguyen, Tan Dinh Ward
Ho Chi Minh City, District 1, Vietnam

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