Wow! That was quick. See, I’m already back with part 2 of my Hanoi food fest. Upon returning to Hanoi from Halong Bay, we realized we needed to try some more local delicacies, so we spent the evening searching out good food.
Okay, the start of the food walking. The first thing we did was chase down a durian lady. I’ve been wanting to try it for sometime, since it is made into such a big deal on all the food shows. My opinion? Nothing wrong with it, but nothing I’m chasing down again. It’s kind of like a pear. If there is one in front of me, yeah, I’ll grub down, but I don’t think I’ll run around Hanoi tracking one again. B was about the same place. My mother gagged. It is a little bit of a warm taste, mushy in your mouth–nothing fresh or crisp, like an apple. The flavors not aggressive, though they are strong. It was more like onions than stinky shoes, which are the two comparisons I’ve heard in the past.Next there was a person selling deep fried dumplings, so we bought one. This turned out to be sticky rice filled with what I think are mushrooms, then fried. I enjoyed it despite the fact that if you look closely, there is a man trying to grab my shoe (see the hair in the middle, left side?) to polish it.We stopped at a Bia Hoi where, using the point and ask method, we ordered some fresh rolls. These were terrific, filled with some sort of marinated cooked beef and peanuts and really, not a whole lot like the items that you get like them anywhere around here. The lettuce and vegetables were shredded, the beef was thing, so the flavor permeated all the items. It was an interesting comparison. The peanuts gave a great textural crunch too.The above picture is from the famous and much touted Cha Ca La Vuong. So often those famous and well known restaurants that have been around forever serve up dreck and rest on their laurels. Now, I have to admit that I’ve never had snakehead fish before, but this place served up a mean version! They only do one dish, you walk in, sit down, order beer (highly recommended, it is swelteringly hot since each table has their own pile of coals on it) and they bring your dish. The pot is set on the coals with the fish and sauce already in it, then you add your own vegetables. Each person also gets a bowl of noodles. There are garnishes around–sweet fish sauce, hot peppers, peanuts, so each bite can be tailored. Because there were four of us, they brought a second pot of fish when we finished the first one. The fish is tender, the sauce is full of flavor and the dill and vegetables go perfectly. The restaurant has been there for some hundred years, serving this one dish, and I’ll be another one to pass on a recommendation. They get you in and out at a pretty impressive clip, so while it was crowded, the line moved quickly and service was swift. There was a pretty good mix of locals and tourists when we were in there, which is always good to see, that the locals still feel the place is worthwhile.