Archive for the ‘Viet Food’ Category

A dear friend of ours is going to Hanoi this Autumn and we were keen to list our ‘must eats’ and ‘must drinks’, afterall anything you need to see is on countless guidebooks right?

So here is a rundown of the places we recommend for supper and drinks in Hanoi.

1.Quan An Ngon

In a word: Heaven. Set in a stunning ex colonial villa this restaurant is regular haunt for overseas Vietnamese and tourists from Asia.

The inner rooms of the villa have been gutted to house ample dining rooms, while in the courtyard street food from all over Vietnam is prepared right under your eyes. For a more convivial experience try to grab a seat on one of the long tables in the yard and chat to your neighbours (also a good way of choosing what to order).

Service is slow, but most things are in Vietnam, so keep making orders to keep up pace.

Menus are only in Vietnamese so have a walk around the (crowded) perimeter of the courtyard to check out the various dishes on offer and their names. You can even see them being prepared right under your nose!

2. Au Lac

This one is simply romantic. Named after a legendary Vietnamese kingdom just north of Hanoi this restaurant is in the old school colonial style with vintage fans and the works.

Ask to be seated on the terrace and look out on the street below. Enjoy the peace (quite rare in Hanoi believe me!)

Service is attentive, not intrusive and a delight. Try the tamarind sauce at all costs- it’s gorgeous!

3. The Press Club

And we’re back on to the drinking (look it’s hot, you need to keep hydrated!)

The Press Club is an institution and a tradition and as a tradition I’d say it’s one worth honouring.

A stone’s throw away from Hanoi opera house (next to which in the Opera garden is a nice bar too), this is where the journalists used to hang out during the war. It has history and it shows as it feels like walking into the set of the movie Indochine.

4. Le Corner Café

This is a real little gem. Set up by a group of young entrepreneurial architects this little bar is beautiful and serves great drinks.

Set in a traditionally tall house you need to make your way up some very steep and windy steps to get to the first room. But unless you are on the water wagon you might want to stick to the downstairs bar so you don’t have to face the steps after a few too many of their delicious and ludicrously cheap cocktails.

How to get there:

1. Quan an ngon

Website: http://ngonhanoi.com.vn/

Address: 18 Phan Boi Chau, Quan Hoan Kiem, Hanoi

2. Au Lac

Address: 13 Tran Hung Dao, Hanoi

3. The Press Club

Website: http://www.hanoi-pressclub.com/

Address: 59A Ly Than To, Hanoi

4. Le Corner Cafe Hanoi

Address: 1A Trang Tien , Hanoi


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Forgive the unorthodox translation but that’s how this dish is known once it has been taken from the tropical shores of Bac Lieu and transplanted to Oltrepo’ Pavese.

Bà ngoại prepared this full table of delights for sunday lunch.

The idea is that you take a large salad leaf, put in mint leaves, sliced cucumber and then tear off bits of the pizza with your hands and make a little roll. You then dip the roll in fish sauce before you eat it.

The so-called pizza is like a large pancake filled with soy, soy beans, shrimp and mince meat.

Mince sizzling away and batter ready to make industrial quantities of pizza!

From the pan to the table…

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As customary on Easter Monday we are invited to lunch with our Vietnamese relatives. The meal takes place at ‘the officina’ or the factory where the hosts live and work. There’s plenty of space although it’s a bit different to have a feast among screws and sheet iron, metal shaving and machinery. Odder still when at two minutes to two the siren for change of shift goes off leaving you feeling that we all should get up and swap places like a turn at musical chairs.

Anyway, after being asked in Vietnamese and broken Italian to dish out the pickles and help lay the table (all actions that must be carried out  according to a particular ritual on pain of death apparently) and performing these actions after a while of toying with the words and trying to figure out what wanted going where we all sat down to eat the grilled meat in sandwiches called Banh Mi.

The home made pickles (very smelly by the way) that go in these sandwiches:

And my all-time favourite spring rolls:

And another crepe/dumpling concoction filled with prawn and dressed with some spring onion and lemon flavoured olive oil:

The puddings were extraordinary as usual. Two fruit salads with ice jelly (the black one is apparently made from the stem of a plant that is very good for you) and one that I would find practically impossible to describe! Extra linking to anyone that manages to tell me the full list of ingredients!


We had taken Ezzie with us so he could have a run in the garden while we ate. Unfortunately, egged on by the host’s fluffy mongrel (one of those dead vicious butter-wouldn’t-melt sort of fluff balls), he destroyed said dog’s outdoor bed with vigorous shaking and chewing. Mother in law insists it can be fixed, but aunty says we owe her 54 euro so all in all this was an eventful end to the Easter hols.

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Yet another blast from the past with this post about Hanoi street foods or really more specifically about street sellers.

One amazing thing about Hanoi that I realised is that it’s a bit like walking around in a great big communal kitchen. Outside many of the shops and houses little coal ovens are chucking out heat at all hours of the already sweltering day as the inhabitants cook on the street side.

This sense of communal eating is also evident in the many cafes and restaurants that line the streets with their little plastic chairs and seem to know no lull at any time of day and area always packed with customers sipping café da and foreigners sipping beer (served with ice by the way!)

The stoic grace of the street sellers making their way through an absolute inferno of zig-zagging scooters and cars is quite something. Here are some of the most elegant.

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Com bi (forgive my lack of appropriate accents) is a Vietnamese dish made with broken rice.

Served with your normal scented rice cooker rice the ‘topping’ is made of soy noodles (unappealing called ‘granddad’s hair’ by our family), finely sliced pork, coriander, fresh soy sprouts and chillies.

The thinly sliced pork and pork fat is fried lightly while the soy noodles are just dipped in hot water until they become soft. Meanwhile rice is cooked in a pan and then crushedand added to the mix.

Serve with fresh coriander, soy sprouts and chilli to taste and lashings of nuoc mam!

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Having trawled (and enjoyed) all the Vietnamese restaurants on Kingsland road in our London days, Mr Towers and I decided to try this more commercial Vietnamese haunt with location in Shoreditch, Westfields and just off Oxford Street.

Logistics meant that we opted for the Great Titchfield street restaurant near Oxford street.

By signing up to the website beforehand, and indicating your closest or favourite restaurant location I became a ‘Pho-natic’.

This gave me a 40% discount on my bill in exchange for my contact details – bargain.

With a chilies Saigon beer we tried two starters and two mains.


Fresh Spring Rolls- These were not made with both pork and prawn like our usual ones but just with prawn. They were nice, served cut in two as they usually do in restaurants and had carrot in them like the ones we’ve had in Hanoi.  Served with nuoc cham. Have to say they were ok but a bit bland compared to our usual.

Banh Xeo Tom Ga  (known in my house as ‘Chinese Pizza’)

weirdly crispy. Nice enough with its mix of meat, prawn, soy beans and mint but usually I’ve had this in a floppy floury version rather than crispy. All in all I was quite pleased with it though.

Pho Tai or Pho with steak.

It was served well enough with separate chilli, coriander and soy for me to add to my linking but it was also a bit bland. Not in spice terms but in tastiness terms.

The broth was dark but lacking in flavour. I love Pho but this was really just like any soup. Maybe it was an off night or the quarter of lime was not enough to give the massive bowl a bit of zestiness but I was not really impressed.

Service was good and friendly and the location very hip, but I do feel that more was done with appearances and marketing than with the actual food.

Pho Cafe

Atmosphere: Homely but well designed

Food: Not bad but it’s not going to cure homesickness for Vietnamese food!

Price: £40 for 3 people with 2 beers each, pretty good thanks to the discount!

Would we go back? Not so sure

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