Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Vietnamese Food

VND10,000 = USD0.45 = MYR1.50

Day 1 (15 May 2014)

My first taste of Vietnamese food was Bun Bo Nam Bo. NTHA told me that this place was famous for this noodle dish and we went there for lunch. It was the only type of dish offered and it was good. Rating: 8/10.

After lunch, NTHA asked me whether I wanted to go to another place for a drink. I had no problem with that and at Avalon Cafe Lounge, I ordered Nem Cuon Tuoi besides a glass of smoothies. It looked pretty but the taste was below my expectation. Rating: 3/10.

That evening, I was hoping NTHA could finish her work early to join me for dinner. She could not come early. I was already tempted by the Nem Ran being deep fried outside Thanh Hop Restaurant. Inside, I saw Bun Cha on the menu, the dish that NTHA kept on recommending. So I went for both, yet making sure that there was still room in my big belly for the second round of dinner with NTHA. Rating: 8/10 for both Nem Ran (VND25,000) and Bun Cha (VND30,000)

She joined me eventually but only for a drink at a restaurant at West Lake.

Day 2 (16 May 2014)

I was going to visit Halong Bay today. I went out early for breakfast but few restaurants had opened before 6:30 a.m. I did not find any street food that I fancied and I ended up at the Pho Bo stall on the same Trung Yen Street where I was staying. It turned out that the Pho Bo here was really excellent, just as NTHA told me yesterday. Rating: 9/10.

From Halong Bay, I arrived back at Hanoi late. NTHA could not join me for dinner. I went back to Thanh Hop Restaurant for Nem Ran and to try out other dishes. I chose Bun Thang. Rating: 6/10 (VND35,000)

After dinner, I walked around the area and saw a stall selling the famous French baguette, known as Banh Mi locally. For the filling, the girl asked me what I would like to have. I wanted all. The same stall was selling steamed bun or Banh Bao too. I asked the girl when the daily opening time of the stall was. She replied saying it opened at about 7:00 a.m. Rating: 9/10 for Banh Mi (VND25,000) and 4/10 for Banh Bao (VND50,000).

The Banh Mi was so good that I was hooked.

Day 3 (17 May 2014)

I would be going to Tam Coc in Ninh Binh today. Again, I went out early for breakfast. Most street vendors were offering noodle soup. Though they had many customers, they did not appeal to me. In the end, I went for Bun Dau Mam Tom. What appealed to me was the fried Nem Ran and fried Tofu. Rating: 7/10 (VND25,000 with additional Nem Ran)

At Tam Coc, lunch was provided as part of the tour package. It was buffet lunch at Duc Tuan Hotel and Restaurant, which was right across Tam Coc Wharf. Overall, the food there was satisfactory.

Back at Hanoi from Tam Coc, I went for dinner alone. NTHA would be bringing me my return train tickets to Lao Cai later. I went for a quick bite of Bun Cha at Thanh Hop Restaurant again. I would also be buying takeaway Banh Mi for my mid-night snacks in the train. On the way to the Banh Mi stall, I bought some unidentified fried dumpling. Rating: 2/10 for the unidentified fried dumpling; 9/10 for the Banh Mi (VND50,000 with all the ingredients available for the baguette filling)

Day 4 (18 May 2014) - Sapa

The density of restaurants in Sapa was very much higher than Hanoi. This was expected in a tourist town, to cater to the many tourists around. However, I found that most restaurants have few or no customers, even during lunch or dinner time. I wonder why. I had Pho Ga for brunch. That evening, I had Com Chien and a mixed of different Nem for dinner. Rating: 5/10 for Pho Ga (VND40,000); 5/10 for Com Chien (VND40,000); 5/10 for Nem (VND40,000).

Day 5 (19 May 2014) - Sapa

I was up early this morning to go trekking to Cat Cat Village. Near the market was a Banh Mi stall. Banh Mi has become my favorite Vietnamese food by now. For lunch, I had Pho Bo. Rating: 9/10 for Banh Mi; 5/10 for Pho Bo.

After arriving at Lao Cai from Sapa for the night train back to Hanoi, I stopped at a stall for what else, Banh Mi again. This was Kebab Banh Mi. I had some reservation about the freshness of the Banh Mi and was a little worried about food poisoning but what the heck. I must have my Banh Mi. Rating: 9/10 (VND25,000).

Day 6 (20 May 2014)

Back in Hanoi, today would be my food day. I have no other programmes today. I would be exploring the Old Quarters and eat as many different Vietnamese food as possible, with Cha Ca La Vong and Banh Cuon on the top of my list. I have Cha Ca La Vong waypoint in my Garmin eTrex 20 and I would not have any problem finding it.

So far, I have not come across a Banh Cuon stall yet. While looking for one, I came across a Bun Mien stall. The Bun Mien was quite good, except that it was another noodle soup like Pho Ga. Rating: 7/10

After Bun Mien, I continued to look for Banh Cuon, and finally I saw this stall. I ordered a plate. From my table, I observed how Banh Cuon was eaten by two girls at a table in front of me. Rating: 6/10 (VND20,000, with a few pieces of Cha Lua added)

As I continued exploring Old Quarters, walking from street to street, I found myself at the Nem Chua Ran waypoint. There, I had Bun Dau Mam Tom again. Rating: 7/10.

Cha Ca La Vong Restaurant would be opened during lunch time. I would be going there as this place was a "must eat" place in Hanoi. If I did not go there, I was sure I would regret it for life. It was so famous that the street where it was situated was named after this restaurant. NTHA could not join me as she had an appointment.

The restaurant was on the first floor. The dining area was very small and unpretentious. Almost all the seats were taken. Being alone, I was given a saucepan with just a wee bit of fish and a stove. The server poured the vegetables into the saucepan and stirred it for a while. I continued with the stirring. It was fish and vegetable in oil.

With such a long history, the dish from this restaurant must be good. Unfortunately, my Malaysian taste bud begged to differ. Rating according to my taste bud: 5/10 (VND170,000 or about USD8/ MYR25, by far the most expensive meal I ate in Hanoi)

That afternoon, I continued my stroll through the Old Quarters. Then, I came across two stalls close to each other. One was selling fried pastries and the other was selling roasted pork. How could I resist the temptation!

I ordered one piece each of the fried stuff I fancied. The "Samosa" and the "Curry Puff" did not contain curry dhal but glass noodle and some other stuff, similar to the filling of the Nem. Rating: 3/10 for "Samosa"; 3/10 for "Curry Puff"; 5/10 for Nem and 5/10 for Youtiao (also known as You Char Kuay in Malaysia)

For the roasted pork, I ordered VND40,000 and got myself a small bundle of the goodies. It was really good. Rating: 9/10

That evening, NTHA came. After visiting the historical Long Bien Bridge, she brought me to have Pho Cuon and Pho Chien as promised. The Pho Cuon was served first. I asked her how I should eat it. She said I should use my fingers to pick the Pho Cuon, dip it into the fish sauce and pop it into my mouth. Then I asked her how come the couples on the next table were using their chopsticks. She smiled embarrassingly, defending herself saying that they did not want to get their fingers dirty. Rating: 6/10 for Pho Cuon; 6/10 for Pho Chien.

Day 7 (21 May 2014)

I would be leaving Hanoi this morning. My taxi would be picking me up at 6:30 a.m. I just stopped at the Pho Bo stall on the same block as Camellia Hotel 6 and had Pho Bo.