After a wonderful stay in Halong Bay, and a short sting in Hue, checking out all the great emperors tombs, (all still in such great condition!) we finally made it to Hanoi. Entering the city you could see and feel the French influence, more so than in Saigon, in the colonial style buildings and pagodas to the local dishes here, the most obvious one being the Banh Mi. Incredible likeness to the baguette, the Vietnamese made these their own with rice flour to create this crispy, light version of the French baguette that is so well-known today and my god it’s good!
Don’t shoot me, but I am probably one of the very few in the world who are not fans of baguettes (sorry!), I just find them too heavy and hard? And in light of that, I was reluctant to try the humble Vietnamese Banh Mi – but it is now in the running for close second next to Pho. The best place to try one of these bad boys is at Banh Mi 25, smack in the middle of the Old Quarter. It’s not easy to find mind, hidden amongst the tiny streets specialising in certain products, from clothes to jewellery, and a ‘junction’ in the middle where open bbq restaurants are held – I can tell you, walking around to find this really kicks up your appetite! Alongside their delicious Banh Mi’s, they serve fresh juices and have a great coffee menu, my favourite is the frozen coconut coffee… a mountain of coconut cream with a generous splash of Vietnamese coffee just thrown right on top of it, and by the time it reaches the bottom of the glass it’s cold and oh-so creamy!
Went spent the rest of that day wandering the Old Quarter and making use of the ridiculously cheap spas (be rude not to?!). The next morning, we slept in as we had had some super early starts but it meant we could then enjoy my favourite kinda meal… BRUNCHHHH! Who doesn’t like brunch? And where better to do brunch then hipster filled, low key cool Hanoi Social Club? 3 floors, all giving out a different vibe to each other, showcasing live acts..we chose to head to the roof and were met by a fantastic terrace covered in all manner of flora possible.
The menu contains all that a brunch is made of, poached eggs, avocado toast .. tofu skin crisps etc … hang on whattt? That’s right, tofu skin crips, crispy pieces of tofu in some umami’ish seasoning – why have I never thought of this?? Sipping on my ginger lemongrass homemade kombucha I try to persuade the waiter to get me the recipe, with absolutely no luck whatsoever 😦 … Google it is! Whilst I wasn’t overly impressed with the food, I think anyone feeling homesick for London would feel right at home here :).
Ahh Aubergine Cafe, how we loved this place! This was recommended to us, and whilst we only reaaallly went for the great tofu they apparently make… we were horrified to discover that they has RAN OUT OF TOFU :|! However, we did not fret as there were hundreds of other delicious things on the menu, for example the sesame aubergine. The husband does not care for aubergine usually, but made this way even he could not resist… the crispy coating of sesame on the aubergine with the saltiness of soy, the aubergine inside surprisingly light and fluffy – perfection!
On the plate next to the aubergine you will see the remains of what was a super tasty plate of garlic soy fried morning glory. I feel sad now back in the UK knowing I cannot experience the delights of that delicious vegetable (or is it flower?) again! I’ve looked into it and it seems the only way I could potentially do this is by growing it myself.. although I reckon it’s a lot harder than looking after a few orchids? Any way, this place is a winner for me and its cheap and cheerful (much like most of Vietnam) and doesn’t fail on any account – I highly recommend!
Next stop .. Cambodia!