Hanoiiiii Pt V: Eating in Hanoi

Pt I: Introduction [Planning]
Pt II: SIN-KUL-HAN [Flights]
Pt III: Essence Palace Hotel [Accommodation]
Pt IV: Hanoi Sights [Sightseeing]
Pt V: Eating in Hanoi [Dining]
Pt VI: Bloom Microventures Tour [Activity]
Pt VII: HAN-KUL-SIN [Flights]
Pt VIII: Epilogue [Review]

Hanoi Eats

One word to describe our meals in Hanoi: awesome!

Ying had painstakingly researched on the food places to eat in Hanoi and came up with a list before our departure.

We managed to tick off most of them in our short time there and even added some more to the list.

Our tactic was to order a portion of each dish to share between the two of us; this way we were able to sample more dishes before getting too full.

Food generally was affordable (most mains were between 20k and 65k VND or between 1 and 3 USD) by Singaporean standard and the portions were mostly generous. While I observed that most eating places had a steady stream of local diners, I thought that the prices must be rather high on their salaries.


The eating places and their approximate locations

FRIDAY DINNER

Xoi Yen
Address: 35 Nguyen Huu Huan
Spent: 21,000 VND

We had xoi yen or sticky rice for our first meal in Hanoi. We weren’t quite sure what and how to order; somehow we ended up with a sticky rice topped with fried scallions, duck fats and pork floss.

Roaring business

Xoi Yen

The food wasn’t bad at all but on hindsight we could have ordered more stuff such as mushroom or minced pork to go with the sticky rice.

Cha Ca Thang Long
Address: 31 Duong Thanh
Spent: 175,000 VND

When I first visited Hanoi in 2006, my mom and I went to try out Cha Ca La Vong and it managed to leave a deep impression on us. Ying didn’t try that in her last trip (how could she?) and was determined to try the famous Hanoian dish this time round.

The online reviews revealed that there was a cheaper and better alternative at Cha Ca Thang Long and it was where we headed for the second part of the dinner.

Cha Ca Thang Long

We were there slightly after 6pm and the restaurant wasn’t full yet. It would be full by the time we left.

We shared one portion (120k VND) of fish and ordered some drinks. The male staff came over and set us up with the food.

Pieces of fish under the mountain of dill

Cooking it

Close-up

After the food was cooked, the staff helped us to mix them with rice noodles and the garnishes in the small bowls.

Only the chilis and fish sauce were missing

It was delicious and I especially loved the greens. Like most Vietnamese food, this dish had lots of flavours and textures. For Ying, the crunchy peanuts were her favourite.

We were able to prepare our own after seeing the staff’s demonstration. A satisfying meal although I wished that there were more pieces of fish.

SATURDAY DINNER

Bun Bo Nam Bo
Address: 67 Hang Dieu
Spent: 120,000 VND

Bun Bo Nam Bo was Ying’s favorite dish on her previous trip to Hanoi and there was no chance of us skipping it. We made our way there after our day tour on the second day and found the place rather deserted slightly before dinner time.

Bun Bo Nam Bo

While waiting for our noodles (65,000 VND), we were entertained by a bickering tourist couple. They were still at it by the time we finished our meal.

Bun Bo Nam Bo

What thing that stood out for Vietnamese cuisine was the flexibility that it offered. You can choose how much fish sauce and chilli sauce to add for Bun Bo Nam Bo. We were very happy with our mix at the end. Our conclusion that there must be something special about the broth which made the meal so appetising.

We also order some fish cakes (gio in Vietnamese, 6,000 VND per roll) to go along. It was cold and tasted like non-spicy otah but it did grow on me by the end of the meal.

Gia

There were more tourists than locals who were at the shop during our visit; this shop was definitely firmly on Hanoi’s tourist circuit. Made me wonder if the locals are priced out in shops like these.

The Moose & Roo Pub & Grill
Address: 42B Ma May
Spent: 350,000 VND

We only ended up at this place because this place had EPL on telly. I wanted to watch the match between Sunderland and Liverpool but none of the channels in our hotel room was showing. A quick Google search revealed that Moose & Roo could be the place and it was only 10 minutes’ walk away from our accommodation.

Food and drinks were definitely expensive by Vietnamese standard. We ordered a fish and chips (245k VND) and an Asahi (55k VND) to share. I would order a draft Carlsberg (50k VND) after the Asahi was finished.

Fish & Chips with Asahi

The portion was substantial but it wasn’t the best fish and chips that I ever had. The service was quite good although it took the staff forever to switch the channel where my match was showing (and I missed the only goal of the match). The staff proactively offered disposable raincoats to customers who had to leave in the rain and I only realised that smoking wasn’t allowed in the premise when I was leaving. Definitely a plus.

SUNDAY SNACK

Quán Kem Xôi Thu Nga
Address: 8 Hai Ba Trung
Spent: 20,000 VND

After our visit to Uncle Ho, Ying suggested that we headed for French Quarter to try some kem xôi or ice-cream with pandan-flavoured sticky rice.

The shop was at the junction of Hai Ba Trung and Phan Chu Trinh and the taxi ride from the Mausoleum cost us 50k VND.

We were the only customers beside a group of local boys who were playing some games together. Well I guessed that it didn’t make sense to Vietnamese to eat ice-cream at 10 degrees celsius. A kem xôi (20k VND) was ordered and it was to be shared between us.

Kem xôi

The sticky rice went surprisingly well with the ice-cream and the wafers although Ying mentioned that this wasn’t a dish that she would actively seek out back home.

Cafe Giang
Address: 39 Nguyen Huu Huan
Spent: 40,000 VND

Ying had an egg coffee or Cà Phê Trứng on our first night in Hanoi and had been wanting to try it again. Cafe Giang was recommended by the hotel manager and we visited it on a rainy Sunday.

Entrance

The cafe has seats on both ground floor and level 2 and each has a slightly different feel. While downstairs was kinda dim and strangely homely with the family portraits of the owners, upstairs was bright and definitely more boisterous.

Downstairs

Upstairs

Ying ordered egg coffee while I went for egg cocoa (20k VND each). Having them hot was definitely comforting (not exactly healthy) on a chilly day in Hanoi.

Egg cocoa and egg coffee

Cafe Giang has wifi and wasn’t a bad place to while away some time on a rainy Hanoi day.

The clientele were mainly locals and we were the only tourists until another group arrived just when we were about to leave.

SUNDAY LUNCH

Banh Cuon Gia Truyen
Address: 14 Hang Ga
Spent: 50,000 VND

This place was famous for its banh cuon, which was similar to the Chinese chee cheong fun. Although there were other dishes in the menu, we ordered a portion of one with shrimp filling to share.

I love the open kitchen concept of the Vietnamese food stalls. The chefs would prepare the dishes at the front, showing their customers that all the food served were freshly prepared.

Preparation by the banh cuon experts

The food didn’t disappoint. The rice roll was smooth and fluffy and the crispy shallots complemented it. It had to be taken with nước chấm, a dipping sauce made from fish sauce. Quite a perfect combination.

Banh Cuon

Bun Cha Nem Cua Be Dac Kim
Address: 67 Duong Thanh
Spent: 90,000 VND

Ten minutes’ walk away from Banh Cuon Gia Truyen, close to Bun Bo Nam Bo was a bun cha place Bun Cha Nem Cua Be Dac Kim.

Bun Cha

We got the set which came with grilled pork and two spring rolls to share between us (90k VND). Like cha ca and bun bo, we could choose the amount of noodles, greens and condiments to our bowl of grilled pork.

Bun Cha

The meat was beautifully grilled and I like the spring rolls. We saw local Vietnamese bringing their foreign friend to the shop so the food there must be pretty good by local standard too.

SUNDAY DINNER

Pho Gia Truyen
Address: 49 Bat Dan
Spent: 55,000 VND

We decided to venture off the list and looked for the best pho in Hanoi. Pho Gia Truyen kept coming as one of the contenders and we were part of the queue outside the shop on a Sunday evening.

Pho Gia Truyen

Queue = good food

The staff were gruff and didn’t acknowledge my presence when I came to the front of the queue. Well I guessed that this arrogance came from the confidence in their food.

I ordered a pho tai nam, not because I know what it was but because it was the most expensive item on the menu. I got a portion of quẩy or youtiao as well.

I accidentally spilled some soup onto Ying’s jeans when I brought it to our short table but all was forgotten when we tucked into this delicious bowl of pho.

Pho tai nam

I don’t know how to describe what makes this pho great but I know one when I taste it.

My best attempt would be that the chef created the dish with the perfect balance. Everything just felt right; the pho, the beef, the broth and the condiments all contributed to the great dish.

The youtiao was cold yet crispy and tasted surprisingly great after it was dipped into broth. I contemplated about getting a second serving but decided against it in order to leave some room for the next dish.

Pho Xao
Address: 47 Bat Dan
Spent: 65,000 VND

Next door to Pho Gia Truyen was an eating place selling pho xao or fried noodles.

Menu

We ordered pho xao bo (65k VND) and the portion was generous.

Pho xao bo (fried noodles with beef)

The dish wasn’t bad but it was probably the least memorable one for us in Hanoi. It tasted too similar to beef hor fun in Singapore. We reckoned that our stomach space could be used for something more interesting instead.

Joma Bakery
Address: 22 Ly Quoc Su
Spent: 85,000 VND

Joma Bakery is a cafe chain which operates in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia and serves western food to tourists like us. A slice of carrot cake and a mint drink cost us 85k VND.

Very obvious this is a carrot cake

The cake was decent and the place was pleasant. Quite a good refuge from the noise and chaos of Hanoi.

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