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Posts Tagged ‘Restaurants’

ms loan

cau lauHoi an has some great specialities.  In fact it’s one of the best places to eat great food in Vietnam.  There are tasty cheap eats down the market, upmarket Vietnamese places in old traders houses, Cafes, even places that serve some pretty edible pizza – but for me, this is the place to try great examples of the local food.

Ms. Loan is one of many almost identical places lined down the Khu am Thuc eating area.  The restaurants take turns feeding the customers who wander this far down, and I ended up being fed by the family here – lucky for me.

mi quangThe most famous dish from Hoi An is Cau Lau noodles – Thick, rough rice and wheat noodles, with lots of green herbs and lettuce is topped with a little broth, some roast pork, and finally some offcuts of the same noodles deep fried till crispy.  It’s one of my favourite noodle dishes.  Simple, and the pile of herbs and a squeeze off lemon give it a fresh light flavour.

white roseAnother noodle dish we tried was Mi Quang –  Turmeric coloured noodles with the same herbs, but a rich tomato and crab fat sauce, with braised pork and a quail egg.  Another great dish, Richer than the Cau lau, but still light because of the mix of green herbs.

won tonsWe also tried two other local dishes. White Rose is a steamed rice noodle stuffed with prawn, and topped with lots of crispy shallots – with a sweet vinegar dip.  The local wontons are flat triangles stuffed with a little pork mince, then topped with a great sweet and sour salsa of green beans, tomato and peppers – another winner, almost like a local plate of nachos!

So, If you’re in Hoi An, get down to Ms. Loan’s for some local specialties.

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Hue has some of the best food in all Vietnam.  As Imperial Capital and home to the ruling dynasty for 150 years, quality of food has resonated into the everyday meals of the people here. Unique to the town are the steamed rice cakes – many wrapped in banana leaf parcel which is peeled apart to eat and served with a spicy fish sauce.

Here are some of the few I tasted:

 

banh nam

Banh Nam – a steamed rice flour and rice cake, topped with a chopped shrimp meat stew.  One of the best, with a light texture and a rich flavour from the shrimp sauce on top.

 

 

 

 

 

banh ramBanh bot loc – A strange jellied texture from tapioca starch coats a piece of crispy pork belly and an unpeeled shrimp.  One of the weirder ones, but still good- once you get used to the sticky jelly and the crunch of the shrimps shell.

 

 

banh beoBanh Beo – or “water fern cake”.  My favourite, steamed rice flour dough in little soy dishes, topped with a kind of shrimp floss and piece of pork crackling.  Simply add some spicy fish sauce and loosen with a spoon – then pop the whole thing in your mouth.  mmmm.

 

 

banh 1Banh? – I actually didn’t find the name of this one, but basically its another variation on the theme.  A crispy piece of pork crackling is topped with a shrimp, then a really sticky rice noodle dough, and finally some more chopped shrimp.  My least favourite,they got stuck in my teeth, but still tasty.

 

 

banh loc

Banh Khoai – these are simple steamed fermented pork cakes.  They have a slightly sour favour and are found on tables at almost all the Pho/bun places around the city – They’re common for a reason!

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Street food in Hanoi leaves a lot to be desired.  Most of the food is bland and they don’t really have any condiments to jazz it up – unless you want saltless chilli sauce, or vinegar with garlic slices in it.  The staff aren’t to excited about serving foreigners either because of the language barrier – this is especially annoying when they only serve one dish.  Just give me what everybody else is having!!!  Oh,and they don’t have the price of anything on the English menu – is this an excuse to rip you off – prices vary wildly.

Luckily, there are a few exceptions  – Sadly exceptions rather than rules.  But one place where you can try a cross section of the nations street food is Quan An Ngon.  Its set in the courtyard of an old French colonial villa, the staff are attentive and friendly, the food is good, you can see all the food being prepared and it’s only a little more than the price of street food.  It’s also very clean – something that most places in Hanoi don’t seem to care about – you might say I can’t expect certain levels service and cleanliness in a developing country, I say go to Thailand and see how it’s done there – and it’s cheaper!!!

Anyway, At Quan An Ngon you get exactly what you expect.  I’m not saying it’s the best food in Hanoi, far from it.  It’s just really good.  And the choices are endless – Each dish being cooked in it’s own mini street food stall.  We go for a selection of rice paper rolls – Pickled pigs ear with crispy vegetables; Shredded pork skin; Sour pork sausage with green papaya and more pig skin; and finally the classic pork and shrimp roll. All text book rolls, fresh, tasty and coming with a dip specific to the filling.

After this we had a huge Banh Xeo.  A crispy rice flour pancake stuffed with beansprouts, herbs shrimp and pork belly slices.  This was Amazing, so fresh, the way I imagined Vietnamese food.  we also had spicy chicken wings,which weren’t the same standard as the rest of the food, but you can’t win them all.

On a second visit we try the shrimp hash steamed on sugar cane, another winner.  Steamed shrimp mousse with a great fresh taste, and an interesting presentation, like some weird drumsticks.  The waitress then cuts the mousse into wrappable pieces which you match with what I can only describe as pieces of rice noodle pancake.

This time we also eat a crispy salad of papaya, banana flower, mixed herbs and strips of dried sweet beef – This is dressed in the usual sweet sour light dressing common in Vietnam and dusted with some extra crunch in the form of crushed peanuts.  When I eat salad as fresh and crispy as this I always wonder at how something so simple can be so tasty, so good. Why cant the creators of limp flavourless salads taste stuff like this – maybe then I wont have to eat soggy lettuce again.

All in all a great meal, and if you’re in town definitely get yourself to this place.  Or try eating at every stall in town till you find something decent.

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Obviously we all come to Siem Reap to visit the huge temple complexes outside of town – But when it’s raining?  Really, its pretty hard to appreciate the temples when its pissing it down.  Sadly on my last trip we found that it rained pretty much all the time – so we learned a little about the town.

Anyway, my little list

1 boys fish spa1. Get a fish spa – A little bit tickly at first, you soon get used to it and 30 minutes later all the dead skin is gone from your feet.  And at $2, with a free beer, it’s a bargain.

7 crocs2. Visit the Crocodile Farm. With more than a thousand crocodiles, it keeps you busy for at least 30 minutes – and it’s only $7 to feed them a live duck!

8 rice cake3. Eat – There a literally hundreds of options in Siem Reap for food.  From local food down the market, to upmarket French – And everything in between.  Fresh morning pastries at The blue pumpkin are my personal favourite.

10 happy herb pizza4. Have a happy herb pizza – It’s pizza, with herbs that make you happy – what else is there to say?

11 mantis brekkie

5. Do nothing – Just kick back on your balcony and relax – and hang with the praying mantis as we did.  Sometimes it’s good just to have a rest from all the people trying to sell you stuff, take you on tours, have you eat in their restaurants……Don’t forget you’re on holiday

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For the first couple of months I had no clue exactly what Tim horton’s was.  Maybe a coffee shop – but what’s the point, there’s plenty of starbucks and blendz coffee everywhere.  Burgers?  Doesn’t look like it.  So What is it, I asked myself.  What can this chain of stores, stuffed with merry customers be selling?

IMG_0159Eventually a bit further down the line I made my first venture into one of their many outlets – and what did I find.  Cheap filter Coffee and a massive selection of tasty donuts – stuffed, glazed, cream filled, jelly filled – any way you want it.  I went straight for the Maple glazed,cream filled, Canadian – when in Rome….

I’m now at the stage where I can barely pass a store without buying a little treat – and its only $2.35 for a coffee and donut.  But its only been recently at the recommendation of my head chef at RCG that I should try the sour cream donut – super sickly sweet, crumbly texture and of course its got that sour cream yogurt thing going on.  It is an epic donut.

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So i’m at work the other day and we’re doing steak tartare for our monthly Market monday thing, and all of a sudden I get a craving for more raw meat specifically what is problably Ethiopias most famous dish – Kitfo,  not quite like your average steak tartare.

So after a morning looking at cars in second hand yards I head down to commercial drive, Vancouver’s multicultural melting pot, to Harambe.  A local Ethiopian joint with lots of praise.  Inside the whole place is  covered in kitschy, colorfully dyed cotton, and surprisingly catchy Ethiopian Reggae is playing on the radio.  The waitress, the only other whitey there, brings the menu – but I already know what I want.

Kitfo is made from freshly chopped beef mixed with warm butter and an Ethiopian dried chilli powder called mitmita.  A little cardamon and seasoning and its good to go.  The main issue people have with this dish is the warmth of the Raw beef.   It really is a strange feeling in your mouth – I love it.

This is served with the traditional Injera pancake – with its distinct metallic flavour, bit like indian iddly – also a small side of greens and some of the sour/salty Ethiopian cottage cheese.   I washed all this down with a cup of spiced tea – which surprisingly had a sign reminding people to use fresh water.

After barely finishing I’m surprised how filling a plate of (warm) raw meat can be.  I only wonder if it’s as safe to eat in Ethiopia.  Can’t wait to try!

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Chips and cheese, I love it.  When I was a student, I was munching on this pretty much every two or three days – if not more, who am I kidding.  And it wasn’t long before I moved on to chips and cheese AND gravy.  A pretty intense combination and one enjoyed by many of my contemporaries at Glasgow College of Food Technology.  It all ended after too many gratinated chips, cheese and pepper sauce sandwiches at the restaurant I was working at – too much of a good thing is always a bad thing, especially if your pilling on the serious pounds.

In Canada though, they’ve changed what is essentially one of the worst for you dishes – think saturated fat, salt, loads of carbs-  into a national dish to be proud of.  Obviously its a little different over here with well made fries, peppery gravy and the big difference – fresh cheese curds.  They’ve even got a name for it – Poutine, not “chipsncheesengravy”.  Sophistication, no?  And I have to admit that it’s pretty damn good.

Obviously, it all depends on where you go to get your poutine.  You can get it everywhere from diners, to pubs, to pizza places.  But it’s the specialist places that really shine – If your going to open a shop specialising in something you need to do it properly.

So off I went to Fritz on davie street today where I had my best portion so far.  The chips – hand cut, crispy, skin on; the gravy – salty, peppery, a little spicy and just the right saltiness; The cheese curds – fresh, soft and not unlike fresh buffalo motz, the best part of the dish.  The cons – $4.50, come on.  Thats £3!  Why so expensive?  And this is a small, very small.  This is Vancouver I suppose.

The other stand out poutines for me have been at the Dover pub – Poutine with pulled pork, OMG, and any time your up the mountain snowboarding.

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I’ve certainly found my favourite, and it’s at the bottom of my street , In fact it was the first thing I ate getting back to Thailand – where am I going to go from here?

Duck noodles: rice vermicelli, lettuce, celery leaf, crispy shallots, braised duck and the best broth I’ve ever tasted.  Total perfection. 

Obviously it comes with the usual selection of condiments, dried chilli, nam prik, nam pla and sugar, but really I didn’t need any – it was just so perfect.  After my second time I did try to experiment a bit, with the soup tasting even better in the process.  I’m also adding a little sugar to the soup these days which I always though was strange, but the Thais always do it.  It really balances the sour taste in the vinegar – bitter in the celery. Sweet, sour, spicy, salty! Thats what its all about. Get it at the end of Samsen Soi 5, Bangkok

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Tunday Kebab

Amongst other things – most of which were just extra justification, we went to Lucknow for the kebabs.  And apart from Its famous architecture and the ruins of the residency its most well known as having some of the best meaty dishes in India.  The areas previous rulers, the Nawabs – of Persian descent – knew how to treat themselves to a bit of a feast and over the years this filtered down into the large muslim community – although i’m sure I seen a few people with tiki spots munching beef kebabs.

Anyway, if Lucknow is famous for kebabs, then Tunday Kebab is Lucknow’s most famous kebab restaurant.  Chefs cook meats out front of this place frying little rounds of Shami Kebab and Grilling tandoori chicken, while boxes and boxes of biryani are filled and sold at an amazing rate.

Inside, guys are stuffing their faces, while we get ushered into the family room to stuff ours in a more civilised manner – apparently.  From the concise menu we order shahi chicken masala and a plate of mutton Shami kebabs – boiled mutton pounded with chickpeas to make a intense flavoured pattie with an almost pate like texture.

Add that to some paper thin rumali roti and sheermal – a doughy paratha with saffron and you’ve a mighty fine Nawabi treat. It all goes down pretty fast, the texture and flavour of the kebabs is great, but the richness of the kebabs has our stomachs churning for a while – all this meat after two essentially meat free months maybe wasn’t the best idea. Oh, well.

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Ziya

Yesterday was my birthday and that meant going to the best place in town and having a slap up meal.  The latest and supposedly greatest in Mumbai is Ziya, opened by Vineet Bhatia in the same place where he was head chef before he left to move to London and become the first Indian chef to gain a Michelin star.

The whole modern Indian food thing has just arrived in Mumbai strangely.  You’d have expected the pretentious upper classes here to be desperate for some new way to show off their wealth but it seems they just don’t get it.  They prefer their Indian food in a more traditional format.

In fact, just after opening, they had to call all the reservations to explain that the food would be served plated, course by course.  Not trusting people to remember this when they arrive, the first page of the menu is devoted to a further explanation.  Even still a table of four walks out after they realise that they won’t be getting their food in a little copper pot.

This doesn’t leave very many people in the place, just us a table of four, a single whitey, and a couple eating Michelin standard food with their hands – I’m definitely going to try this! So even with years of eating in European restaurants this way I’m not sure eating Indian food this way is going to catch on in Mumbai.

And in all honesty the food isn’t that great.  We go for the seven course tasting menu and have an extra portion of foie gras.  There’s a lot of repetition, like kitcheri twice – don’t they do other rice dishes in India, and the lobster mayo from the prawn dish makes three appearances. It just feels as if everything is not quite right.  The only thing that I really enjoy is the masala foie gras with wild mushroom naan, but even this is served with a pointless fennel salad thing and the foie gras “coins” are grey and bland.  At a price tag of 1800 roops it should be flawless.

 The restaurant is just opened and maybe they need time to get everything right and even with the faults I had a great time there, but If Ziya wants to become the landmark restaurant I think they want it to be then they will definitely need to up their game a bit.

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