Food in Vietnam - 2015

Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City - December 2015

The famous Egg Coffee from Giang Cafe in Hanoi which was been serving sing 1946. Its delicious and reminds me of a Italian Zabaione. This is the version with chocolate.

 The menu.
One of the many variations in the city of the local fish dish Cha Ca Thang Long, made famous at Cha Cha La Vong. This version was from New Day Restaurant in the old city near the water. Great food!

The preparation for another version of Cha Ca Thang Long

The finished product, greens, fish, dill, peanuts, rice noodles, chilies and funky fish paste. Delicious.

One evening in Hanoi, down one of the smaller alleys in the Old Quarter we found a small "restaurant" with a few seats run by 2 young men in flipflops cooking a few feet away. We were intrigued. Seems needlessly dangerous to cook with that much heat so close to unprotected feet, but what do I know, they guys were pros. There seemed to be a menu on the wall, but they just pointed at 1 unidentified item.
This is why I travel. This is one of those moments I try and create everywhere I go. I always ask what the specialty of the house. I've even been known to say "surprise me" when ordering. 
With a nod, he started cooking. Within minutes a huge plate of meat, veggies and onions arrived that reminded me of much of the food in Hanoi, simple, fast, somewhat greasy, and really tasty. The meat was tender, the veggies still crunchy, but the best part was the sharp smokey flavor from the high heat and the well seasoned wok. There was a memorable gooey sauce that we enjoyed as well. 5 minutes later we were onto the next bite.

Picked cucumber and lettuce as sides.
On the street of the Old Quarter this woman was selling mixed fruit with coconut milk and some other flavors. Delicious!

Typical coffee in Vietnam, strong, dark, not too thick, hints of chocolate and cinnamon.

Lots of preserved foods.

Preserved fruits

Found an amazing fast food style Ramen place, excellent flavors!

Down another small alley, I had to watch my head as we walked in, there were about 5 tables and it felt much more like eating outside than inside, but the food was fresh and authentic.

Grilled Pork Lettuce Wraps with pineapple. One of the best items we had all trip long; rich, fatty ground pork, hot and smokey from the charcoal; bright, crisp cold lettuce and pineapple, held together by light slightly crunchy rice paper. Served with an amazing mix of vinegar, fish sauce, peanuts, chilies and herbs.

Pork noodle soup.

Overall we enjoyed Vietnamese food, but nothing we had was really outstanding. The food was generally fine, somewhat bland, simple, with slight variation, and was occasionally of suspect quality. I reached out to a friend who had been to Ho Chi Minh city before and gig some googling and came to the same conclusion: The Lunch Lady.

Originally made famous by Anthony Bordain, the Lunch Lady is known for the best bowl of noodles you can find on the street of Ho Chi Minh. Looking for one last chance for amazing local food we took the long walk from our hotel.

We did not order, we just sat down and they started bringing us food. Simply put, it was the best Vietnamese food we had ever had. Better by far than anything we had on the street or in restaurants during our stay in Vietnam. Today's special was a pork brooth with pork balls, tofu, noodles, ground port, and crunchy bits on top. we added spice. The brooth was amazing, the noodles had a bite and a flavor unlike the typical rice noodles we were served, and the crunchy bits and bits of pork added a huge amount of flavor and texture. This was outstanding. The fried clumps of shrimp were a bit greasy but really good and a small portion which was manageable.

Absolutely perfect and worth the walk.

By our last night in Vietnam we were a bit tired of the local cuisine. We noticed a huge amount of Japanese food in our area and a few google and tripadviser searches led us to Sushi REI. With only about 8 seats, plus a small private room, this was impressive restaurant. Hard to find, and expensive, this was a real treat. This was the most authentic and traditional sushi place we had been to up until that point. The only thing to order is the tasting menu, which came with a variety of hot and cold cooked foods, sushi, and soup.

The sushi chef.

The Japanese cucumber in the middle was more delicate and light than any i'd had before, and was really good with the traditional miso it was paired with.

Hairy crab.

One of the best bites, Salmon Eggs and Sea Urchin over rice.

Sea Eel

The experience was calming and filling, although not too much. The atmosphere a bit sterile and quite but there were only a few other guests for much of our meal. Very expensive, but much was imported from Japan and the mean certainly felt worthy. We did not love every bite, the textured at times could be challenging, but that's a more of a reflection of our western pallets, than the quality of the food which was excellent and fresh. The fish was good, but we were served some of the more bland varieties, which was a bit disappointing. The Chawanmushi was excellent and the best I've ever had, extremely creamy. The manager was very nice and the service attentive and friendly. Highly recommended!