Disclaimer: you may want to grab something to eat before reading this post!
Travis being a chef + our love of Vietnamese food meant that for the first time on our trip, we were interested on doing a food tour of a city. We’re not big on tours in general though, and we didn’t want a big group nor a cooking class. Through some internet magic, Travis found a nice couple to show us good food in Hanoi.
Our guides were Peter, an expat from Holland and his wife Nga, a lovely Vietnamese lady. She really knew her stuff and was incredibly patient as we asked tons of questions about ingredients and cooking methods.
Our first stop was Quan An Ngon restaurant, which specializes in street food from all over Vietnam. The place is a gem, and you could eat there days and days in a row without eating your way through the whole menu. We were glad to have Nga with us to help us go through the menu. Everything was delicious, and the setting was really lovely. After a quick walked around all of the different stalls, we then sat down to eat a massive amount of food. Pardon my lack of accents on the Vietnamese.
Left: nem cuon (papaya, pork skin and dried-cured meat roll) + Right: goi cuon (shrimp and pork roll).
Banh hoi chao tom cuon banh trang: Assemble it yourself rolls with shrimp meat on sugarcane.
Pho cuon: beef and noodles in fresh rice paper.
Left: watermelon drink + Right: crab nem (the best Vietnamese spring roll we’ve had yet).
Banh beo: tapioca cakes with shredded shrimps. These were ordered by mistake because the waitress misunderstood the words – Vietnamese is a very hard tonal language!
Banh cuon cha que: fresh rice paper with pork sausage.
Bun oc om chuai dau: braised snail soup with green banana. The banana skin was included in the soup; we learned that this is done to offset the sliminess of the snails. It works (and doesn’t taste bad)!
Bun gia cay: pork cooked like dog.
Banh xeo: Vietnamese pancake filled with shrimp, pork and bean sprouts. These make-yourself rolls were by far our favourite dish of the day.
Last but not least: nuoc cham. This was the best version of spring roll sauce I’ve ever had.
Full of food, we took a walk around town to help us digest. We stopped for a visit at the Hanoi Hilton (totally unrelated to food) and then hit the markets for extra info on produce. The sweet market I had discovered 5 years prior was gone, put parts of it remained. We also strolled through the same market we had found yesterday.
Since we were still full after our visit at the market, we decided to meet up later for dinner. We had to make our way to the restaurant by taxi, but it didn’t go so well without Nga and Peter with us. We got dropped off at the totally wrong place (in a pretty dodgy part of town) but thankfully we got hold of a phone and were able to reach Peter. He drove on his motorcycle to meet us and ensure that the taxi went to the right place this time.
The restaurant was totally different than where we ate for lunch. It was unpretentious and totally off the tourist radar. We sat outside and drank bia hoa, fresh beer, that was actually fresh this time. Here is what we ate – no Vietnamese this time!
Seaweed salad with shrimps.
Fried tofu salad.
Bamboo salad with fried garlic.
Tofu soup with eggs and tomatoes.
Clams sauteed with tamarind.
Ground beef wrapped in betel leaf.
We really enjoyed our day and ate and learned our fill. It was fantastic to meet Nga and Peter and to experience so much of the cuisine we love. Travis took loads of notes, so I hope that when we get back home, he’ll try his hand at Vietnamese food. In the meantime, we have definite plans upon our return to Hanoi in a few days to return to the restaurant where we ate lunch. It’s too good not to!
Peter and Nga, thank you so much for everything!