PEr FYI

April 5, 2015

Cau Go Vietnamese Cuisine, Hanoi…Flavours are full and true

Vietnamese food to me, has been ever the bridesmaid, never the bride. But things changed after my visit to the modern, casual Cau Go.

Upmarket Cau Go is right downtown, has sweeping views across Hoan Kiem Lake. It may not quite be fine dining in vibe or price, but it’s a step above most other Vietnamese restaurants in town. The food was exquisite – every dish was so unique but flavoursome! And the service was fantastic as well!

The rich and fragrant flavors of the stewed beef shank with ginger is the all-star comforting dish I love here. The wok fried clam with local basil looks and tastes like a million bucks. With fresh basil perfuming the whole thing, it’s no wonder this dish is the most popular dish on the table. If only I could eat this for breakfast, lunch, and dinner everyday!

For authentic, top-notch Vietnamese food, make a beeline to Cau Go and get stuck in. The excellent food still lingers in my memory. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

cau go hanoi

March 21, 2015

Cha Ca La Vong, Hanoi… so exceptional that there is a street in Hanoi dedicated to these grilled catfish

Cha Ca is an iconic, delicious dish which also happens to be the name of the restaurant in the Old Quarter of Hanoi. With an unassuming external appearance the shop would be easy to miss. There’s very little to appreciate in the dining area: it’s just a room with wooden tables and chairs, a large shrine on the wall and a cabinet full of dusty looking bottles of alcohol.

So what exactly is cha ca? It is a mixture of chunks of grilled, smoky catfish, turmeric, dill, shrimp paste, fish sauce, chillies, noodles and other herbs. Once the various components are assembled, the cooking is fast, and the payoff is worth the effort. I don’t think there are any set rules in terms of how you eat it. We dished a few noodles into our bowl, put a few pieces of fish and vegetables on top, poured on some fish sauce and scooped it up with chopsticks, interspersing a mouthful of herbs every now and again. Probably not the Vietnamese way, but it worked

So is it any good? It is so delicious and aromatic and the complexity of the resulting well-balanced flavors will surely leave you craving for more.

Hanoians consider cha ca to be so exceptional that there is a street in the capital dedicated to these fried morsels of fish. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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February 12, 2015

Pots ‘n Pans, Hanoi…don’t read this on an empty stomach, unless you’re into drooling uncontrollably

Let me just begin by saying that I love this place! Customer Service is great! This restaurant is the merging of traditional Vietnamese flavors and textures in innovative new ways  and beautifully presented in portion sizes that won’t leave you popping out for a late night bowl of pho. On my visit it never got packed, or too loud, or hectic. The pace was slowed down. Which is fine, because debating what you’ll order may take time.

To start, they serve you with crispiest turmeric bread you will ever taste… with the olive oil dip and three levels of spice to add, they are so yummy! The twice cooked pork belly with beetroot puree, apple compote, pickles and Vietnamese herbs ticks all the boxes for pork belly punters like me, with large chunks of meat that is all crispy skin on the top, soft and juicy everywhere else. This, right here, is what dreams are made of. The grilled king prawns with lemongrass, lime leaf, mushroom satay pudding and Vietnamese herbs were beyond succulent; insanely flavorful, awesomely rich. I nearly licked my plate! Well, to keep it classy, I scraped it clean with my fork. And if you have not had the crispy banana spring rolls with chocolate sauce and cinnamon ice cream, get off your computer, get your keys and go… Like right now.

As you may expect, Pots n Pans isn’t cheap but just by these 3 dishes I would recommend this place and come back again. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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January 17, 2015

Ngoc Hieu, Hanoi…great no-frills Vietnamese beefsteak

Ngoc Hieu was packed with locals the night I dined there — a good sign for any Hanoi restaurant. This steakhouse offers a different and interesting variation on steak and eggs. The food quality is good, the portions fair and for the price, what you get is a great deal.

The Original Steak is Hanoi beef steak with omelette, beef sausage ball, French fries, green onion, tomatoes served in oil spitting sizzle plates. Best to sit away from the table and wait a minute or two before lifting the lid on the mini-eruption. I see the local diners around me getting their bread to soak up any grease that may have accidentally slipped off their fried meat or fried eggs or fried fries or something. The healthy bit of the meal were the accompanying plate of cucumber pickle and the tomato on top of the meat. The beef pate was minced beef with eggs and original sauces. There’s also French fries, salad mix with ranch and thousand island dressing to accompany. In both plates, the beef was well marinated and somewhat tasty.

Beware — wear shoes that have plenty of traction, as the greasy floors here double as skating rinks. Overall, the workers and cooks are very clean and hygienic (all the cooks wear gloves). The waitstaff are efficient (although very little English) but the menu is in English and Vietnamese so pointing works quite well.

It’s so addicting I wanted to buy some more to go!  This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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April 29, 2012

Nha Hang Cha Ca La Vong, Ho Chi Minh City…Don’t bother to eat here

Cha ca la vong – a very popular Northern Vietmanese dish – is catfish fillet marinated in tumeric plus sauteed onions, garlic, roasted peanuts with tons of dill.  This fish is served on a sizzling silver platter with a plate of fresh lettuce, herbs, and rice vermicelli. The sauces served with this dish are the shrimpy fish sauce and the regular mixed light fish sauce. There is also crispy fried sesame rice paper served with this dish.

After having sampled this authentic Vietnamese dish in both Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, I’m finally starting to be able to distinguish great cha ca from the so-so stuff, and honestly the stuff here is a little below so-so.  It’s kind of too light here. The turmeric marinade isn’t as pungent (in a positive way) or strong as it usually is. The shrimpy sauce and light fish sauce are also a bit too light. They also use a different sesame rice paper than is usually served.

Nha Hang Cha Ca La Vong sounded good as a local place that has been going for 5 generations serving only one dish. The only positive – they do have a nice interior design.

 

The search for good cha ca in HCMC continues…..

This is the true truth as I say it as it is…..

November 7, 2011

Oc Oanh, Ho Chi Minh City…street side meal to inlcude in your culinary tour of HCMC.

One of the best things about Ho Chi Minh City is the abundance of cheap, fresh, and delicious street food. When I say street food, I really mean sidewalk food.
 
Eating on the streets of HCMC is a truly rewarding experience. Your taste buds be jumping with joy. Sit down at Oc Oanh and you will be met with delicious food and friendly smiles.
 
Any way you slice it, dice it, chop it, or segment it with scissors, Oc Oanh at – 534 vinh khanh street, District 4 – is worth paying a visit to on your culinary tour of Ho Chi Minh City .  Low plastic tables and chairs are placed along the side of the street, motorbikes screaming by the whole time. A dazzling array of clams, mussels, cockles, oysters, snails, and many other things I can’t recognize the entire stretch of the stalls.
 
Now I know, if you want to eat authentic Vietnamese, you must eat the street food. A restaurant lacks the full authenticity — while the flavors of the food may be right, the atmosphere is not. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

October 2, 2011

Ngoc Suong Marina Seafood Cuisine, Ho Chi Minh City…the place to go if you don’t scrimp on your seafood

Situated in District 3, the majority of the dishes are Vietnamese specialties. Shrimp may come raw, steamed with beer or in coconut juice. There is also a smattering of Western preparations—lobster Thermidor and Coquilles St. Jacques (French style baked scallops).

The ambience is the big plus – swathes of space are carved into cosy corners with décor that is tasteful with a subtle nautical. On top of that, the service staff are all very nice.

We had Ngoc Suong fish salad (goi ca ngoc suong) and grilled winkles (oc huong nuong). My favourite was the seafood au gratin (hai san dut lo).

This is the kind of restaurant you go to if you are not or don’t intend to travel like a backpacker when you go to HCMC and don’t scrimp on it’s culinary delights! This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

September 8, 2011

Thuong Xa Tax (Saigon Tax Trade Center), Ho Chi Minh City…looking for eye-popping lacquerware at good bargains? This is the place

There’s one golden rule to shopping in Vietnam: bargain, and bargain hard. If you’re looking for bargains on just about anything, this is the place. The vendors are easygoing, and easy to bargain with. They are hungry to close a deal.  

The Tax center, formerly known as the Russian market, offers it all. The ground floor mostly specializes is locally made gold and silver jewelry and a reasonably sized supermarket selling a good array of local and imported food stuff on the 2nd floor. Of special note is the 4th floor where you will find all the amazingly beautiful lacquerware – the traditional industry in Vietnam. The entire floor showacases an eye-popping selection of diverse designs and colours of lacquer boxes, vases, coasters, plates, trays, curved plates, etc

The most important rule of bargaining is to be cool. Raising your voice, looking angry, and making accusations will only characterize you as a rich, clueless, ungracious foreigner who deserves to be ripped off. In the Vietnamese mind, such people are being obnoxiously haughty and superior. It is well worth the loss of a sale to tell such a person to screw off. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

August 30, 2011

Nam Giao, Ho Chi Minh City…Banh Beo and Bun Bo Hue that hits the spot

I used to believe that pho was the only authentic Vietnamese food. A friend brought me to Nam Giao to taste what I’ve been missing  – the ancient capital Hue cuisine & let me tell you.. I became an instant fan.

I love the Banh beo tom tuoi  which was steamed rice flour cake with fresh ground shrimp. Bun bo hue (Hue spicy beef noodle soup) – the best thing I had and it hit the spot. Don’t get intimidated by the description. It was not spicy what so ever!

The Va tron (fig salad) was disappointing for me. The Hen xao xue banh tran (saute baby clams over baked rice pepper) and Bunh canh cua (shrimp, crabmeat, sliced pork with special rice noodle soup) were alright, nothing really special about them

This is the first time I’ve ever had hue style BBH and banh Beo and I absolutely love it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

August 8, 2011

Nha Hang Ngon, Ho Chi Minh City…orgasmic is the best word to describe Ngon

For those who like to taste local Vietnamese food…this is the place!  It is a great place to sample food from around Vietnam as you can have small serving sizes. The waiters are polite and ambience is beautiful because of the colonial-style location, fairy-lights and all food stalls.

Serving a variety of Vietnamese delicacies and local favourites, the price is cheap and affordable. The only thing is the menu doesn’t have any pictures for us, foreigners…better yet, the entire kitchen is spread all around the corridors.  All you have to do is to view the dishes being prepared and wander past the “stalls” to choose your meal, which would be brought to your table.

A fantastic concept, delicious dishes and a place to “taste”your way around Vietnam. Ngon is definitely the place to go from spring rolls to all type of pho and dessert. Be sure to order Cha Gio (fried spring rolls served with fresh herbs and fish sauce) and Bun Mam (vermicelli soup with seafood and roasted pork in mekong delta style). It is a dining experience worth having. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

 

 

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