I was expecting good things from Hanoi. It all however stared very bad. I really have an aversion to taxi drivers, and the guy who took us to our hotel,decided to ride around town for a bit to extract as much money from us as possible. I had heard that Hanoi has this reputation, which is a shame as the rest of Vietnam is fantastic.
We stayed at a hotel in the Old Quarter, which is great and atmospheric, apart from the massive amount of moto's, taxis and cyclos around. Making life a little dangerous at rush hour.
Food is everywhere, people from Hanoi have a montage of foods to choose from. It is easy to find a good Pho shop, as I always say if it's busy then its good. Had some fantastic Pho Bo and Pho Ga. We had Pho everyday for breakfast, really does set you up for a busy day of sight seeing. I wonder if Uncle Ho had Pho everyday.
We also got to have for lunch one day, Bun Cha. Barbecued pork, served in fish sauce and complemented with noodles and salad leaves. This really blew me away. I smelt the pork being cooked from a couple of streets away. Bizarre thing was the wind was blowing in the opposite direction. Somehow my nose homed in on it. Seated on small plastic chairs only fit for children in England. Biting into that delicious pork was pure heaven. I am a sucka for anything bar-b-q'd, as my obsession with it back in England can tell. Although I call myself an amateur compared to the folks at www.barbecuebible.com ... They are really obsessed. The whole combination of pork, fish sauce, salad leaves and noodles is a real mind blower. Why we only had this once, is beyond me, but time and other foods to seek out kept us away from this little street corner.
A lot of the food in restaurants in the Old Quarter are really designed for tourists. So the food has been dumbed down, to one place where it really had no taste at all. How can anyone make duck with 5 spice powder taste of nothing is beyond me, but they succeeded.
We didn't really have to search high and low for fantastic food, it just entailed a slightly longer walk than normal. We revisited Quan Ag Ngan, the same place where we had eaten in Saigon. Exactly the same great food, same layout, just as packed. I just love the way they cook either chicken, pork or shrimps in lemongrass and chilli. It has a real edgy bite to it. Lina opted this time, as she tried to have in Saigon, was the steamed mudfish. It comes with rice paper and salad leaves for you to roll your own. It was a good meal for 2 or even 3. But we did see some guy having it to himself. So greedy, but respect is due. The fish was so delicate, that anything else but steaming it would have killed the taste. Also no chilli dip was served, just leaves. Really fantastic. We did start t panic, as we always do not take large amounts of money with us, so we were panicking a little, until we got the bill as to wether we had enough money to pay for it. The fish was per kilo, and it was a big fish, but it came in just under a kilo. Phew. That will teach Lina to be so greedy.
I had walked past Quan Com Pho, it did not look anything special, but something attracted me to it. So had a look inside. Full of local workers munching on some great looking food. The owner invited us in to eat, but as we had just had Pho, was not up to more food just yet. But I remembered the spot where it was, and we returned a day or so later for lunch. So glad we did. It would have been a crime to miss it. We never had that much, we just fancied some beers and something to eat whilst we were drowning our thirst. So we ordered some grilled squid in a honey sauce, and some clams in lemongrass and chilli. That combo again. To be honest we could of eaten everything on the menu. The squid had a real sweet taste to it, and it was a nice contrast to the citrsuy, chilli tang to it. Divine is the word we both kept saying afterwards.
I had wanted to do a cooking class in Hanoi, but time and sight seeing kept me away. It would have been at Highway 4, if I managed to get my arse in gear in time. We did however eat there n our last night in Hanoi. The menu is a lot different from the normal places we had eaten at in Vietnam. Very French influenced. As you climb the stairs to the roof tp terrace, you can view all the activity in the kitchen. I like places that show off the kitchen, it says to me, that we are claen and we do not mess around with your food.
As we had eaten lunch, we decided on just the man course. Which to be honest, would have done a small dinner party rather than just the two of us. We had stir fried chayote with garlic and chilli, and a dish of pork leg simmered in some local wine (which I have forgotten what it was). It was melt in your mouth stuff. The fat was creamy and unxious, the sauce was thick and sticky and clung to the pork. This is my kinda food. Instead of rice to go with, they suggested bread to mop up those juices. Fabulous recommendation. Half way through I had to take a break and rest for a while before I made the final assault. We left a little bit of fat, didn't want to be see as really greedy gits. Even though we are.
All in all Hanoi has some really good food, it's just unfortunate that a lot of people who got there, never get to eat this.....