When in Hanoi, one has to of course, go to the many many cafes dotted around the city that embraces the coffee culture unlike any other South East Asian countries. While the traditional drip coffee is still king around here, there are increasingly more and more fancy modern cafes as the economic status of the country progresses.
Gardenista, French Quarter Hanoi
While walking around the Hoan Kiem Lake Park, a place anyone would surely visit while at Hanoi, we took a rest as this beautiful cafe that is Gardenista for a spot of coffee and a bit of rest after a long walk around the lake.
black coffee, extra milk coffee, coconut ice cream coffee
The cafe itself is almost half green house & half cafe, with plenty of plants both on the floor, the counter, and even hanging from the ceiling. The interior is separated into three distinct areas, with another outdoor section to boot. I think this place can easily house over a hundred caffeinated souls.
ambiance is as important as taste when it comes to cafe
We tried their standard long black, extra milk coffee that’s got a bit more milk than your usual latte, and my favorite – the coconut ice cream coffee. These were pretty good coffee, but I do think that the ambiance is what anyone is really here for. Would love to revisit and spend an afternoon with a good book (nay.. phone and data plan).
When it comes to Vietnamese food, pho usually gets all the glory, and to be fair, before I stepped foot on Hanoi, I too did not know the existence of this arguably superior Vietnamese dish – Bun Cha.
Bun Cha Dac Kim, Hanoi
For those who aren’t familiar, bún chả ( is a dish consists of grilled pork with rice vermicelli, bún stands rice vermicelli, and chả is pork.
My first taste of this wonderful dish came at Bun Cha Dac Kim in Hanoi, a rather famous joint for this dish and coincidentally situated near where we stay at Ancient Lane Hotel (pretty decent room and situated right at the morning market)
bun cha comes with plenty of vegetables
At this place, bun cha comes with freshly grilled pork and ground pork soaked in the dipping sauce (or broth) which is made of fish sauce, vinegar, and sugar. The vermicelli is served separately on a plate, and of course there’s plenty of herbs & raw vegetable, as well as those yummy spring roll with crab filling.
You can eat this dish by dipping the vermicelli in those broth and then mix with the pork & vegetable, or alternatively, wrap it the Korean bbq style, either way is not wrong.
mom loves the accompanying spring roll, so did I
The version at Bun Cha Dac Kim was really good, especially with those super spicy chili padi that they have too. We ordered 2 portions for the three of us and that turned out to be plenty enough. If you find yourself at Hanoi, do make sure to treat yourself with Bun Cha!
The weekend prior to Hari Raya, we went up to Penang for a little staycation getaway at Rasa Sayang Resort and Spa. The trip was quite a special one for me for reason that may be different from most. Close to two decades ago, I worked at the very same hotel as a casual worker and used to think “what if I was a guest there one day…”, and that day came true.
The Spice Market Cafe at Rasa Sayang, Penang
I will write about the hotel and our experience staying there next, but today let’s talk about their huge dinner buffet at Spice Market Cafe located at the Garden Wing (the “right” side).
seafood on ice, baked salmon
Dinner starts at 6:30 pm to 10:30 pm every evening and it’s the all you can eat affair. Priced at RM 185 nett for adults, it is also the buffet that offers one of the biggest selections of dishes on the island.
You have a choice of indoor seating that requires fewer steps to get to all those dishes, or alfresco dining area right next to the unique free-form swimming pool surrounded by their huge garden complete with giant rain tree by the beach.
Indian & Malay cuisines, selection of salad
The dishes include authentic ethnic cuisines from diverse cultures – including Chinese (with chef from China doing freshly made “knife slice noodle”), Indian, Nyonya, Japanese, Thai, Malay, and Western.
freshly made noodle, slipper lobster, local dishes, juices
Some of the must-tries are the slipper lobsters either as-is, or covered in sauce, sashimi, roast beef, and snow crab. We also really enjoyed their selection of cheese, but the number one favorite for all three of us for the night though, was their deep fried soft-shell crab, it had just the right amount of seasoning that reminds me of some of the best banana leaf side dishes I’ve had the pleasure to taste.
desserts, ice cream, fruits, and even roast beef
If you just try a spoonful from each dish, you’ll probably need at least several visits to sample everything, the selection is huge. Unlike most buffet places that only serves water, there are also a selection of juice to go about.
mom, Haze, KY & Kit the F&B guy at Rasa Sayang
If your wife or girlfriend can’t decide what to eat, this is not a best place to be. There bound to be something that’ll tickle her senses. I know my mom was more than satisfied.
Address: Spice Market Cafe Rasa Sayang Batu Ferringhi Main Road, Kampung Tanjung Huma, 11100 Batu Feringgi, Pulau Pinang GPS: 5.478865, 100.254181 Tel: +604-888 8888
Over the CNY break and in conjunction to having my whole family staying over, we decided to bring mom to Khunthai for dinner, since Thai food is one of mom’s favorite cuisines aside from traditional Chinese fair. It turned out to be a pretty good decision.
Khunthai at Klang with my family
Khunthai is located at a rather remote area in Klang via KESAS highway, but fortunately it is rather simple to navigate to since it is just one straight long ghetto farming road to the rather lavishly built restaurant in the middle of nowhere. Forget about going there if a low-riding sports car is your only mode of transportation, but otherwise you’ll get there just fine after cursing at how bumpy the road is for about 5 minutes.
The menu is pretty extensive and covers all bases when it comes to Southern style Thai food. The restaurant is also pork free.
For the 5 of us, we ordered miang kham, chicken feet salad, and raw prawn salad to open up our appetite.
For those who’re not familiar, miang kham is a type of traditional Thai appetizer where you wrap a bunch of ingredients such as crushed peanut, shallot, ginger, lime, and so on with a Piper sarmentosum leaf. If you haven’t had this before, it is definitely something to try.
Raw prawn salad and chicken feet salad were both pretty spot on as well.
raw prawn salad, lala, kangkung belacan
To go with rice, we also had Thai style lala, kang kung belacan, and seafood tomyam. While the kangkung belacan was perhaps a little too oily for my liking, lala & tomyam did not disappoint. One thing to note though – have your lips prepared for how hot the food can get.
safe to say we enjoyed ourself really well at Khunthai
To be fair, there are other comparable Thai restaurants in the city with better access and similar pricing, but there’s always a bit of fun to travel to a god forsaken place from time to time for a dining experience that is just slightly different from the ordinary.
While many Penang hawker dishes such as char kuih teow, hokkien mee, and laksa are famous all over Malaysia, wantan mee is always a bit of an odd ball. Being a traditional Cantonese dish in a predominately Hokkien area, wantan mee was sort of adopted by the islanders.
the wantan mee stall at kedai kopi seng thor
Like languages and culture, food that is separated geographically from its place of origin usually evolve and adapt to the local taste. This is evident in the case of wantan mee in Penang as well.
sambal goes very well with wantan mee
A prime example is the wantan mee at Seng Thor kopitiam at Carnarvon street. The dry version comes with both deep fried and boiled wantan, vegetable, charsiu (bbq pork), and the all important Penang style sambal belacan.
While the chasiu isn’t nearly as good as those you usually find in Klang Valley (for some reasons charsiu in Penang is usually dyed and not nearly as flavorful), I like the extra dimensions offered by deep fried wantan, and of course, the sambal belacan makes a huge difference, pretty much transformed the entire dish like how chili pan mee is different from normal pan mee.
If you love sambal and food in general, you should try wantan mee here (and many other stalls in Penang).
of course, you shouldn’t miss the best ochien in town
Of course, if you are already in this kopitiam, don’t forget to order the fried oyster omelet here. One of the bests ever.