My style of travel usually involves minimal planning with a few points of interests we’d visit, and pretty much winging it rest of the way. After all, it’s always more exciting to have a bit of surprises and a sense of adventure while at a foreign land, isn’t it?
Mien Luon Dong Thinh, fancy some eel?
This method of traveling was precisely how we ended up at Mien Luon Dong Thinh, we were basically walking around Hanoi looking for a lunch spot and thought whatever that they have right at the stall in this restaurant looked peculiar enough to warrant further investigation.
As it turned out, we landed on a rather notable eel restaurant! Yessss!
There are several options to choose from at this place, and luckily the menu on the wall did have English subtitle for all the half a dozen choices – vermicelli blend, fried eel, clear vermicelli soup, fried vermicelli, eel soup, and eel porridge. Each will cost between 25,000 to 60,000 vnd.
crunchy deep fried eel with porridge turned out to be rather good
We ended up trying the fried eel with vermicelli and the eel porridge. The eels were crispy and quite tasty, a very different taste from the boiled eel soup I had in Ho Chi Minh City, much easier to eat and not entirely too different from Japanese shishamo, but with sweetness of eel.
Of course, the vermicelli salad comes with fresh greens, nuts, and a healthy dose of fish sauce, as you would expect. The porridge also would make a very good comfort food on a cold day.
I’d recommend anyone with at least a mild sense of adventure to try this while at Hanoi.
One of the more improbable thing I heard about Hanoi (or Vietnam in general) while doing research about the place prior to visiting was this “free food tour” thingy, cos you know, in my mind, how can anything truly be free?
HanoiKids free food tour at Hanoi
Well, as it turns out, there is such thing. The many different “clubs” that offers free food tour operates under a similar motto – in exchange for their service, the tour guides, usually university students, get to practice their conversational English, and all we needed to do is to pay for the meals.
Our experience at Hanoi was provided by HanoiKids, we booked the service online through their website, and sure enough on the evening of our appointment date, our guides – Mint & Mok, showed up at the hotel lobby as promised.
Both these girls are students from Foreign Trade University located just a few kilometers away from here. In fact, they didn’t even know each other prior to this engagement, which I thought was a pretty interesting arrangement.
first meal – herbal chicken noodle
Our first destination was herbal chicken noodle, or My Ga Tan. This is not entirely too different from our version of herbal chicken mee suah, but with darker broth that’s almost half way to bak kut teh taste, and “instant” noodle instead of mee suah. The chicken was rather tasty and really soft, there’s also a side of salt & chili padi should you want to kick it up a notch.
Address: Mỳ Gà Tần 24 Hàng Bồ, Hàng Gai, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam
dry pho with steamed chicken
Next up was none other than the most famous dish in Vietnam – pho. In Hanoi this is usually served with chicken instead of beef, and the place we were brought to – Pho Ga Khanh Beo, has the more unique dry version.
The chicken was again very soft, with the overall flavor here more subtle than the beef version in Ho Chi Minh City, but does make for a good comfort meal as well. This isn’t entirely unlike dry version of kuih teow soup in Penang, but with more vege and nuts.
Address: Phở Gà Khánh Béo 22 Hàng Hòm, Hàng Gai, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam Hours: 5:30 pm to 11:30 pm
Grilled quail eggs at Nguyen Quang Bich Street
Moving on from those noodle dishes, we had this traditional street food that’s made of 3-4 quail eggs cooked with cheese, meat floss, fried shallots, green onion, sausage etc and served with tamarind sauce. It does take quite a bit for the lady to “grill” those tiny plates up but what you get at the end was quite a unique taste and experience unlike any other, now if they can just serve this at hotel breakfast egg station, my life would be complete.
Of course, no meal is complete without dessert, and for this purpose we were brought to this place by the name of Hoa Beo for a spot of dessert. We ended up having yogurt, fruit jelly, and even mixed fruits with condensed milk. While they aren’t exactly very sophisticated, it was a good sweet note to this rather awesome free food tour.
Thank you Mint & Moc for the wonderful hospitality. Do check out HanoiKids if your’e heading to Hanoi.
Address: Hoa Béo 17 Tố Tịch Hàng Gai, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam
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