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Posts Tagged ‘Street Food’

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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Duck noodle soup – At my favourite place to eat noodle soup in Bangkok.  A rich, dark broth, chopped Chinese celery, crisp shallots and garlic – and slices of tender roast duck.  My mouth is watering thinking about it.

It doesn’t even need the condiments that come, but adding them makes an amazing taste explosion of sour, salty, spicy and sweet.  Like the BKKRS I add a good spoon of sugar – at a no name restaurant on the corner of Samsen soi 5, Bangkok, Thailand.

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My obsession with papaya salad continues at Porntip resataurant in Ubon, North East Thailand – in the Isaan region where some of the best Thai food comes from.

The papaya salad is by far the best I’ve ever tried. With chunks of raw crab, over ripe cherry tomatoes, crunchy baby aubergines and topped with lots of crispy pork crackling.  I also had another of their specialties – a fermented pork sausage, grilled to perfection over charcoal.  Even the sticky rice in this place is a cut above the rest

Porntip I love you….But why do you have to be in the middle of nowhere?

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The best banana pancakes in town. With extra condensed milk on top, obviously. From a random sandwich lady – Vang Vien, Laos.

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Need I say more, whiskey – laos

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