Saturday, April 27, 2013

Food in Hanoi

We stayed in Hanoi for three days. We tried many local Hanoi dishes, and we strongly recommend the top three on our list- Hanoi beef noodle, Vietnamese spring roll, and Vietnam coffee.

Beef noodle soup is a must try food in Hanoi, unless beef is not your favorite. In local, the noodle made of rice is called 'Pho' (pronounce as fur in English). The common name for the dish is Pho-Bo (beef noodle soup). However, the name of the dish is much more specific in Hanoi.

Around Old Quarter, instead of pho-bo, we found pho-tai (noodle soup with half done beef fillet), pho-tai-gao (noodle soup with half done brisket beef), pho-chin (noodle soup with well done beef), and many more. The taste, varied from a place to another. Among these shops, Pho 10 served the best pho-bo. The shop is located at Ly Quoc Su, near to Ly Quoc Su Temple and St. Joseph Cathedral. The pho served by the shop was really nice. Plus, friendly staff, clean environment with air conditioned, and with reasonable price. We stopped at Pho 10 after visiting St. Joseph Cathedral. The review of this shop is available at Tripadvisor.

Pho 10 from the outside (upper left). The vivid outlook makes it easy to be seen. The shop is clean and tidy (upper right). The cooks are taking care of the order (lower left), and in less than 10 minutes, hot pho-tai was served.

Next, the spring roll. What is so special about the spring roll? The recipe. Spring roll is widely available in our country as well, which more commonly refereed as popiah. But the spring roll with seafood, pork, raw vegetable such as onion, mint leaves, tomato, that's authentic. Rainbow Restaurant offered nice spring roll. The location, Hang Hanh Road nearby Hoan Kiem Lake, some 50 meters away from our hotel- Hanoi Old Centre Hotel.

This is how the restaurant looks like from the outside (upper left) and from the inside (lower left). We have two options- steamed (upper right) or fried.

Vietnam coffee has a special taste. That makes the coffee "Vietnam coffee" (ouch).We tried Vietnam coffee at many places, before we stepped into Trung Nguyen outlet nearby Hoan Kiem Lake. That was our last night at Hanoi. We ordered Black Vietnam coffee and weasel coffee at the outlet. The coffee were served with single cup drip filter.

Trung Nguyen outlet nearby Hoan Kiem Lake (upper left). The another side of the outlet is used as tourism information centre. We bought several packets of Trung Nguyen coffee from the outlet (lower left), and took the opportunity to enjoy the world class coffee.

Then, the street food. Many hawkers selling food and drinks at the road side. The choice is ours. The food hygiene is always our biggest concern when we talk about street food. From what we could see, the street food served around Old Quarter were safe to be consumed. You will see more street food at the night market on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. We tried several dishes, including the kebab, che, sweet corn, lemon tea, and banh trang tron (pronounced as barn-chan-tron).We found very nice banh trang tron at 38, Hang Tron Road.

Street food is almost everywhere in Old Quarter, especially around the night market (upper left). Banh trang tron is a mixture of rice paper with salad and egg (upper right). Che is sort of ais batu campur in our country (lower left). It contains a mixture of fruits, sago, green beans, red beans, and ice. Chinese food is quite hard to find. The one that we tried somewhere near the night market was quite expensive. A combination of stewed pork, steamed chicken, and vegetable cost USD 5 per person. 

Refreshing lemon tea at the road side, in front of St. Joseph Cathedral.Photo taken with Smile (lady in pink on the left), one of our tour guides from HanoiKids. We would like to thank Thu for taking this photo for us.

We tried several other types of noodles. We found that the beef noodle soup is still the best around Hanoi.

Overall, Hanoi has enough authentic local food that keep us attracted. So, we didn't really visited any fast food outlets, or opt for Western food. Overall, we found that food at Hanoi taste good, and a bit similar to Chinese food. 

We stayed at Old Quarter area, so we could reach various of Vietnam food by foot. For the food lovers, staying somewhere within the Old Quarter Area might be a good idea. The food in Hanoi was not expensive. The noodles served in restaurants were between 40,000d - 60,000d (RM6.40 - 9.50/ USD2.10 - 3.10). Street food such as che and banh trang tron were available at 20,000d (RM3.20/ USD1.10). Lemon tea at the road side of St. Joseph Cathedral was served with 10,000d (RM1.60/ USD 0.52) per glass. Fresh fruit juices were served 30,000 per cup (RM5/ USD1.60). The price for the food and drinks were listed in Vietnamese Dong. So, bringing Dong would be more convenient compared to US Dollar. 

We will share more about our family trip at Hanoi with HanoiKids next.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

HanoiKids, Great Ambassador of Hanoi

When we heard HanoiKids for the very first time, we couldn't hold our imagination. None of what we had imagined came close to what we met in Hanoi. They are young university students, friendly, energetic, helpful, good English, and they could get along with our family members very well. On top of that, they work voluntarily. It means, we are not obligated to pay for their service.

We had experienced taking a free service, which ended up with a merry-go-round of expensive merchandise outlets and souvenir shops. Once we met with handsomely paid tour guide who couldn't communicate effectively. A few others, good service with equal weighting of payment. Of course, once in a while, we stumbled onto those who offered excellent service with relatively low payment.

How about excellent service with zero cost? You must be crazy. Well, that's what we had in Hanoi.

As usual, before we departed to Hanoi, we had done our homework. Tripadvisor, Lonely Planet, Wikipedia, blogs, official websites, none escaped. Information was captured, and plans were drawn. What could be better than getting a local guide as companion? Well, instead of one, we had a team of two. We took two trips with the members of HanoiKids.

The first trip, day 1, afternoon. We strolled around our hotel at the old quarter. By foot, we visited Hoan Kiem Lake, Ngoc Son Temple, Thap Rua Tower (Turtle Tower), the Opera House, Vietnamese Women's Museum, St. Joseph Cathedral, and Ly Quoc Su Pagoda. The second trip, day 2, starting at Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum in the morning, followed by Presidential Palace, Ho Chi Minh's house, One Pillar Pagoda, and the Temple of Literature. Then, in the afternoon, we visited Hanoi Citadel for about two hours before heading back to our hotel at 5 p.m.

During the trip, the members of HanoiKids guided our way, explained everything they could recall about places, helped us to call for taxi, worked as our translators, and tried very best to accommodate everything in our to-do list. They were good in recommending nice places to stop for lunch and dinner as well. The best part of being together with HanoiKids members is, they were more like friends than tour guides to us. We chatted a lot down the street and have learned invaluable information about the life in Hanoi.

Smile (pink shirt) and Thu (green shirt) with our family in front of Ngoc Son Temple. They told us the story about the turtle reservation in the temple later on.

Taking ice lemon tea beside St. Joseph Cathedral. Thu told us that resting on the small kid bench in front of the shops while enjoying the food and drinks is a part of Hanoi's life. Well, we like it!

Duc (right) and Thi (left) with us in front of Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum. We have to express our highest appreciation to them for keeping up with our tight schedule- visiting many places in such a short period of time.

Thi was explaining something to Livien and Bryant.

We would like to express our highest gratitude to HanoiKids, especially to Thu, Smile, Thi, and Duc. Thank you very much for making our Hanoi trip a great experience for our family. You all are really great ambassadors of Hanoi. Keep up the good work. All the best and keep in touch.

More information about HanoiKids are available at

More sharing about our experience at Hanoi is available: Food in Hanoi.