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Malaysian Food Blog, Travel, Diving & More

Tag / Vietnam

Vietnam probably has the most mature coffee culture in all of South East Asia, when we were in Hanoi earlier this year, we definitely took advantage of visiting some of the more quaint cafes in this capital city.

Hanoi House Cafe, Hanoi
Hanoi House Cafe, Hanoi

Our second cafe stop was probably named by someone who’s not overly imaginative, calling it Hanoi House. The first cafe was Gardenista.

St. Joseph's Cathedral, Hanoi
St. Joseph’s Cathedral, Hanoi

Well, it is located in Hanoi, but more specifically, right across from the beautiful St. Joseph’s Cathedral, which was constructed way back in 1886 as one of the first structures built by the French colonial government. The church was closed down after Viet Minh took over North Vietnam, and wasn’t reopened until closed down until Christmas Eve of 1990, which… is already almost 30 years ago… (how time flies!)

It is open for public and for mass, and we were lucky to get in and have a peek on a Sunday morning.

Vietnamese Coffee, thick and aromatic
Vietnamese Coffee, thick and aromatic

The cafe itself is situated on the first floor of a shop lot which also happened to have some permanent inhabitants. Interior itself smells of antiquity, while also being rather cozy. If you’re lucky, grab a seat by the balcony and you’ll have a great not-quite bird-eye’s view of this small segment of the city.

a lovely place to unwind
a lovely place to unwind

We had the standard hot coffee with condensed milk (32,000 vnd, equal to RM 5.70 at time of writing), and like with many other places in Hanoi, they’re thick, aromatic, and  has an effect of lifting your eyelids immediately. I love it.

If you want to live a little, they serve alcohol too, but I thought it was perhaps inappropriate with mom around, and the fact that it was 11 in the morning.

hanoi house at Vietnam, map

Address:
Hanoi House
47A Lý Quốc Sư, Hàng Trống,
Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam
GPS: 21.029161, 105.849447

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
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
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
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).

gardenista cafe, hanoi, map

Address:
Gardenista
2 Lê Thạch, Tràng Tiền,
Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam
GPS: 21.027078, 105.854083

One of the reasons I’ve been to Vietnam 9 times prior to this trip was due to work. Back then, we were developing a pretty complicated web based program with a team of programmers based in Ho Chi Minh City, and the team lead for that project was none of ther than Trinh, a friendly local chap whom I’ve developed a friendship over the years.

Quán Lẩu Cá Kèo Bà Huyện is the name of the restaurant
Quán Lẩu Cá Kèo Bà Huyện is the name of the restaurant

So on this trip, I took the opportunity to catch up with Trinh again after not seeing each other on flesh for the past 9 years or so.

Haze and I was on a rented scooter, following Trinh on his bike heading to District 3 towards Quán Lẩu Cá Kèo Bà Huyện 2 restaurant for dinner involving fish. A place I have visited in my previous trip, courtesy of another Vietnamese colleague’s introduction. I actually consulted the same person for address, too bad she was not able to join us over the holiday season.

fish is as fresh as they come, they're alive!
fish is as fresh as they come, they’re alive!

What we came here for was Keo fish, a type of freshwater goby/mudskipper measuring some half a feet or so (scientific name – pseudapocryptes elongatus). According to Trinh, this delicacy is only available in South Vietnam.

The fish is usually served in two different ways – grilled, or in soup.

The grilled version is served on a stick not entirely different from shishamo in Japanese cuisine, but of course with plenty of vege on the side, and some fish sauce based condiment on the side.

grilled keo fish vs steamboat version, Trinh & me
grilled keo fish vs steamboat version, Trinh & me

The soupy version though, came in a hotpot with even more vegetable and a side of vermicelli noodle as well. The texture is smooth and it also has a naturally sweet seafood flavor.

We didn’t know how fresh the fish were until Trinh ordered additional fishes when we ran out. They came to the table ALIVE! The waiter then carefully dump the live fish into the hotpot and close the lid real quick to spare us the death scene. A few minutes later, we were enjoying some of the sweetest and freshest seafood, the taste is not overly different from marble goby, in fact.

If you’re into some special type of seafood, this place would offer quite an experience.

P/S: I believe it was something below 300,000 VND for the three of us for this meal.

map to ba huyen 2, ho chi minh city

 

Address:
Quán Lẩu Cá Kèo Bà Huyện 2
10 Nguyễn Thông, phường 7
District 3, Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam
GPS: 10.777475, 106.685398
Tel: +84 8 3930 0636

You can just about find a street food vendor near every busy intersections in Ho Chi Minh City, the set up varies, but more often than not they have these tiny tables and chairs seemingly set up for kids of kindergarten age. If you’re Vietnamese size, these will fit just, and fortunately for myself and Haze, our body size is within range.

street side food vendor outside Ben Thanh market
street side food vendor outside Ben Thanh market

Ben Thanh market is one of those “must-visit” places in Ho Chi Minh City, especially if you feel like getting slaughtered buying touristy or otherwise imitation goods. We went there only because it was almost a decade since I got my fake Nike jerseys there, plus we had rented a scooter so it was rather convenient to do so.

you want spicy? we've got spicy!
you want spicy? we’ve got spicy!

Anyway, there is this little bot chien & ha cao stall situated right outside the market manned by a middle aged lady with a frying pan and a metal small pot on clay stove. Street food is best sampled with the locals, so we made this our spot for afternoon in-between meal snacks.

Bột chiên - fried rice cake
bột chiên – fried rice cake

Bot Chien is the Vietnamese version of fried rice cake (25000 VND). While the base ingredient is similar to our “char kuih kak“, the execution is vastly different. The rice cake is fried together with egg in generous amount of oil, with the surface area all crispy while retaining the inner bits soft.

Soya sauce is then poured over and then topped with shredded green papaya and chopped green onions. If you like it spicy, there’s also chili sauce & sambal that can be added to the whole mix.

This dish was actually pretty good, the various ingredients complement each other well, and best consumed while the rice cakes are still crispy even though soaked in soya sauce. The green papaya also serve to cut through the greasiness of the dish as well, I’d recommend anyone to give this a try.

há cảo - shrimp dumpling
há cảo – shrimp dumpling

Ha Cao, as you may suspect, is the dish of the same name in Cantonese –  shrimp dumplings (25000 VND). You get the shredded greens as well as the sambal, soya sauce and fried shallots ala Vietnamese style, but otherwise they aren’t overly different from the Chinese version. It was still enjoyable, but if I had to choose between the two, bot chien would be my choice.

map to ben thanh market, Saigon

Happy food hunting!

Address:
Phan Bội Châu
Ben Thanh
District 1, Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam
GPS: 10.772582, 106.698676

Over the last year end holiday season, we spent quite a few days in Ho Chi Minh City, and I thought it’d be a good opportunity to sample the various street foods this biggest city in Vietnam has to offer and do a bit of introduction to you, so here goes.

Bun Bo Hue 31, at District 1, Ho Chi Minh City
Bun Bo Hue 31, at District 1, Ho Chi Minh City

This was my 10th time to Ho Chi Minh City, but previous 9 were all due to work and happened more than 9 years ago, I was greeted with a rush of nostalgia, so much of the city has changed, yet so much stayed exactly the same as when I first stepped foot here more than a decade ago.

Thankfully, part of the latter includes what Saigon has to offer when it comes to the rich variety of local cuisine.

Bún bò Huế
Bún bò Huế- spicy beef and vermicelli soup

We start off the introduction with Bún bò Huế. 

While Vietnamese pho gets all the attention, bun bo, in a way, is one that I find more interesting. Originated from Hue, a former capital city of Vietnam situated somewhere in the middle geographically, bun bo has a spicy soup base made from boiled beef shank, chunks of oxtail, and even pig’s knuckles, which gives it a sweeter flavor and a bit more kick.

Like most Vietnamese noodle soup, it also comes with a generous portion of vegetable on the side, including sliced banana blossom, green onion, bean sprout, cilantro, and more. Squeeze a slice of lime, and add some fresh green chili in the soup and you’re good to go. The vermicelli used is also usually the round & thick type, which I think is perfect for this application, simply beautiful and absolutely delicious.

spicy beef and vermicelli soup
spicy beef and vermicelli soup

I had my bowl at Bun Bo Hue 31 near the middle of the city, a shop frequent mostly by the locals with staffs who spoke almost no English. To order, you can simply point to the menu, or use the phone as a translator. Give it a try when you’re in Vietnam.

Bun Bo Hue 31 map

Address:
Bun Bo Hue 31
P. Q.1, 31 Mạc Đĩnh Chi, Đa Kao,
District 1, Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam
GPS10.784853, 106.699163
Tel: +84 8 3827 7257
Hours: 6 am to 9 pm