If Balinese cuisine gave me foodgasmic highs then Vietnamese food is definitely in the same league, if not better.
Hanoi’s old quarter is a bustling marketplace dotted with noodle shops, restaurants and cafes. There is clearly no dearth of places to relish some of the local delicacies. While Vietnamese food got popular with phở, the cuisine got a more international appeal when Barack Obama and Anthony Bourdain chatted over simple noodles in a nondescript food stall in Hanoi’s old quarter.
In my recent trip to Hanoi, I had some really delicious Vietnamese food and here is an account of some of those that are worth sharing –
I am not a coffee person, I am more of a tea girl. But when in Hanoi, you ought to have at least a cup of its famous Egg Coffee! They sell egg coffee everywhere in the old quarter – from tiny shops to cafes – just about everywhere. The legend has it that in the yesteryears when Vietnamese people couldn’t afford milk (for its scarcity or high prices or both – I am not sure), they came up with this unique concoction of replacing milk with egg yolks in freshly brewed coffee. Egg coffee is mild in taste and trust me it’s not gross and has no eggy taste! Surprisingly it was quite yummy and if someone didn’t tell me there was egg in it I wouldn’t even know. So next time you are in Hanoi – do give it a try.
Vietnamese Spring Rolls
Whoever has eaten Vietnamese food, must have surely tried its spring rolls. But to have them in Vietnam, well that’s the real thing. We ate spring rolls in quite a number of restaurants and tried the fresh ones, the deep fried ones as well as the DIY ones. Vietnamese spring rolls use rice paper wraps with fresh herbs, shrimps, carrots, cassava, banana flowers, peanuts, fried onion as well as roasted pork. DIY Spring rolls in Duong’s Restaurant, Old Quarter (close to St Joseph’s Cathedral) was really good. It is one of the best we had.
For main course, Bun Cha or grilled pork dish served along with rice vermicelli is a must try. This tender grilled pork dish is simple in taste and yet so fulfilling. I tried Bun Cha at a couple of different restaurants. At Duong’s Restaurant, they grill the pork on sugarcane sticks, giving it a unique flavor. I tried Bun Cha at Madam Yen restaurant in Old Quarter too. This place also has a wide range of local dishes and their western dishes are also quite amazing. Check their review here>>>
Last but not the least, the most popular Vietnamese dish is Phở! The dish is so widely eaten outside Vietnam that it has almost become synonymous with Vietnamese cuisine.
Phở is a clear noodle soup consisting of broth, rice noodles, herbs, and meat. The meat of choice is often beef or chicken. I have had phở in Singapore and found it very average in taste. But the phở in Hanoi was sumptuous – it was so comforting. Although I tried it in a couple of places, I would highly recommend phở at Duong’s restaurant. I would also suggest that you try the roadside noodle shops – some of them are really good and won’t cost a pretty penny.
If I’ve to sum up in one sentence – Vietnamese food was refreshingly light, easy on the palette and very well balanced. You would definitely keep coming back for more.
Tips for Vietnamese Food
- Food is very affordable in Hanoi. Even good restaurants won’t be very expensive.
- Drink Bottled water.
- Most restaurants will accept credit cards. But keep cash handy.