Foodie update ~ fish, eel, crab in Hanoi, Viet Nam

It’s quite obvious that we are going to have a problem writing this blog.  It’s going to seem as though we are doing nothing but eating…
Well, that in fact may be true, but it’s not our fault.  World class gastronomy is EVERYWHERE.
So rather than maintain chronological updates that will inevitably yield comments of “What? More food?”, we will start doing foodie updates. Those of you who think there should be more to life than food, please feel free to skip.  Those of you who are inexorably pulled into the abyss of Vietnamese culinary heaven, ENJOY!
First and critical cultural observation: We discover, and rediscover with great pleasure, a very Vietnamese concept of a “one dish” restaurant.  Gastronomic expertise here spans several generations and we find, daily, new food stalls that specialize in ONE DISH — and they do so well with that one dish, that they find no need to expand the menu.  Street food stalls or restaurants become known for the specific dish and reputation, in gastronomy-crazed Hanoi, is enough to last the family a life time, or two or three.
We bring you our favorite  such “one dish” restaurants (so far!)
#1 – One dish restaurant – Tofu
It seems like a simple noodle dish, but it’s not.  Floating on top of an inexplicably yummy broth, are morsels of fried tofu.  The jar in the foreground is filled with crushed peanuts.  On the left, limes.  This dish is  Peta’s favorite breakfast today.

#2 one dish restaurant – Cha Ca (grilled fish)


One dish indeed.  Cha Ca is a “broiled fish”that is brought to your table in a frying pan and put on a hot plate, with heaps of greens: spring onions, tons of dill (which here is a vegetable more than a herb), cilantro, peanuts  and tumeric and ginger for flavoring. Stir it all up, wait a few minutes, stir again, put on top of noodles and consume.
Cha ca cooked and ready to eat.

#3 One dish restaurant – “Banh Cuom” 

And now, drum roll, Peta’s absolute, no argument, single best bite in Vietnam to date.  Also from a “one dish” restaurant.  Every time we have come here (and this is now 3 or 4 times, the place is absolutely packed, not a seat available.  It’s simply a razor thin rice noodle “roll”, with wood ear mushrooms, shrimp, pork or chicken inside, dunked into a special sauce. Sounds simple and mundane right? NOT. An explosion of flavors, and different textures all in one bite.
 Banh Cuon. The rice paper pasta here is being filled with the mushrooms…
This restaurant owner is the third generation cook of this particular dish.  Her mom spent her ENTIRE life cooking it.  She died when this woman was just 18.  Of course, she took over the family “business” (more of a religion, really).  Oh, yes, we should point out that the secret ingredient (and we’re not kidding here) is … nah, you take a second and READ IT (trust us, it’s worth it!!!!)

Take a moment to read.  It will… “surprise you”…

Did the secret ingredient in the sauce put us off? Not in the slightest…  We read this, only after we ate our first bites but yet we went back next day to eat this delight for breakfast (which is the most common time to eat it.)
One plate of extremely delicious yummyness = 50,000 dong = $2

OK, moving on…

#4 not a “one dish restaurant”, but worth a mention – crabs (and beak!)

Ben is holding a head and a beak.  You can tell by Ben’s expression that he can’t wait to try this.

Taken to this family restaurant by new friends…. the restaurant brings LIVE crabs to the table,  (for insertion into a crab soup), with sprouts, greens, sauces and crunchy toppings and the ever present limes. There is also a platter of crispy chicken. Other than the live crabs, most interesting ingredient is the flower from the banana tree, which is sliced thinly.
This was not a restaurant, but a beautifully displayed rack of vermicelli and glass noodles at the local market.

#5 One dish restaurant/stall: crispy eels

Baby eels, also from a single dish stall.
The crispy eels are added to the glass noodles with eggs, fried shallots, cucumbers. This made a very yummy dinner on a corner of the sidewalk. Price: $2
Here is my favorite vegetarian, digging into the eel filled bowl on a stroll back toward our hotel (from a restaurant!!).  We can’t help it, really… there is just too much interesting food on our path…

#6 So we’ll close this gastronomic entry with the bravest move yet.  Crickets anyone?


2 thoughts on “Foodie update ~ fish, eel, crab in Hanoi, Viet Nam

  1. Chantal

    Pleaaaaaase settle down so I can come visit….Rumor has it through, vital L.A resources….that Spinach in Vietnam is out of this world and a must….please confirm as soon as possible…Popeye

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