Friday, December 29, 2017

Hanoi - Weekend Night Market Eats

On our first night in Hanoi, after a few rounds of Bia Hơi, we needed something to eat so we set off to explore the weekend night market. This street market, like most we checked out on our trip, was largely dedicated to stalls selling various knick knacks we had no interest in. There was usually some good street food in evidence, though, and this market was no exception.

We got pork skewers from two different vendors and they were both extremely good. Tender, with great grill flavor and strong notes of lemongrass. They were adorned with a fantastic spicy and tangy barbecue sauce.

Another stall had all sorts of interesting bits and bobs on skewers.

In addition to skewers, there was a stall serving up alien (to us) looking dessert - I think it involved sweet corn. We didn't try it, but others seemed to be enjoying it.

The streets were very busy (even by Hanoi standards) with lots of people, both tourists and locals alike, out enjoying the evening.

We were still a bit hungry, so we stopped for our first Bánh Mì (spelled "Bánh my" in Hanoi):

Nothing special (we didn't actually have a great Bánh Mì in Hanoi), but it got the job done, and was super cheap.

Overall, we couldn't have asked for a better introduction to Hanoi. We returned to our hotel full, tired and happy.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Hanoi - Bún Chả and Nem Rán

Bún Chả was a new dish for us. I'm sure that I've probably seen it on Vietnamese restaurant menus at home, but we've never tried it. Turns out, it was one of our favorite things that we ate in Hanoi.

The centerpiece of the bún chả experience is grilled pork - in this case pieces of pork as well as patties made from minced pork - served in a bowl of nước chấm dipping sauce.

The "bún" component is rice vermicelli noodles, served in a separate mound.

To eat it, you put some noodles in your dipping sauce, along with a whack of the provided greens, and mix it up into delicious bites. Like many of the dishes we had in Hanoi, it is hard to explain exactly what makes this so good.

I'm not sure if the place we ate at has a name, but it is on Cửa Đông street on the West side of the Old Quarter. They were doing a brisk lunch business during our visit.

Bún Chả seemed to be typically a lunch dish. As noon approached, you would start smelling the pork grilling as bún chả spots began to get ready for lunch service.

Often served with bún chả are nem rán - fried spring rolls.

This place had their fry station set up along the sidewalk.

I'm not sure what was in this version - they had a seafood flavor though. Hot and crispy, they made a great accompaniment for the grilled pork and noodles.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Hanoi - Eating Bún Ngan, Bún Ca and Bánh Cuốn in Ngõ Trung Yên Alley

While enjoying Bia Hơi on our first night in Hanoi, one of the people we chatted with mentioned an amazing duck soup they had found in a nearby alley. Following their directions, we ended up in Ngõ Trung Yên Alley for lunch the next day.

Finding the stall, which is called Bún Ngan Nhàn, turned out to be easy - just look for the line and the lady sitting out front busily ladling up steaming bowls of soup.

The soup base was amazingly flavorful, and the duck was delicious.

The duck lady sets up in front of a small shop that sells drinks to go along with your meal. You have to order a drink if you want to sit inside, so we had one with lychee and coconut and one with passion fruit - both very good.

That was our first meal in Ngõ Trung Yên, but definitely not the last. We dubbed it the "magical food alley" because of all of the good stuff in there. As is typical in Hanoi generally, what was going on in the alley depended very much on what time of day it was. The duck lady ran from around 10:00am until early afternoon - come by at a different time and there was no trace she had ever been there or would be there again.

In the morning they alley operated as a small, but active market selling vegetables, poultry and meats.

Another lunch-focused spot in the alley is Bún Cá Sâm Cây Si. We passed it a few times, and eventually ended up there for a meal. Bún cá is a rice noodle soup dish with fried fish pieces in a light tomato-infused broth.

It was extremely good, as was the other item they sell, cá cuốn thịt - little fried rolls of pork and fish.

The shop sets up in a little jog in the alley.

It gets pretty busy there, with the tables jutting out into the ever-present motor bike traffic.

While walking through the alley one morning, we saw a lady making Bánh Cuốn (a steamed, rolled rice noodle dish). What particularly caught my eye was that she was cooking eggs along with the rice noodles - something I hadn't seen before.

We came by on another day to get ourselves some. Here is the Bánh Cuốn, with its typical filling of pork and wood ear mushrooms and topped with fried shallots and pork floss:

And of course we had to try the eggs:

They were cooked through, but still had a nice soft texture and having them wrapped in a bit of rice noodle and topped with fried shallots made for a fun breakfast dish.

If you visit Hanoi, do be sure to check out the "magical food alley" - you will not be disappointed.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Hanoi - Bia Hơi (fresh Hanoi draft beer)

First night in Hanoi, Vietnam. Within minutes of leaving our hotel on our first excursion out into the streets of Hanoi's Old Quarter we encountered what was to become a staple of our time there - Bia Hơi.

Bia Hơi is fresh, locally brewed draft beer served both on the street and in storefronts around Hanoi. It is mild in flavor and low in alcohol (around 3 percent).

In the heart of the Old Quarter, the streets are closed to traffic in the evening on the weekend and the "Bia Hơi ladies" set up shop. The patrons here are largely foreign travelers, but the area also gets heavy use from locals coming into the heart of the city for a night out.

The going price for Bia Hơi on the street was 5,000 Dong, which is less than 25 cents US.

More toward the outskirts of the Old Quarter you will find brick and mortar Bia Hơi spots. They are a bit more expensive (more like 7,000 to 10,000 Dong a glass) and patronized predominately by locals.

These more established business often also serve food and are popular for meals both in the evening and at lunch time.

We really enjoyed sitting along the street and having a few beers each evening, watching people go by and swapping stories (and local food finds) with other visitors.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Hong Kong - Chun Yeung Street and the North Point Tram

One of our favorite things that we did in Hong Kong was to ride the "Ding Ding" trams. They are fun to ride, cover Hong Kong from West to East, and only cost $2.3HK (or about 30 cents US).

Our favorite tram ride was the North Point tram. One day we were wandering around North Point when we came across the Chun Yueng Street wet market. As we were wandering around the market, a tram came right up through the street, scattering shoppers left and right.

The Eastbound North Point tram terminates here, and uses the street the market is on to turn around. Over the course of our two stays in Hong Kong, I think we ended up riding the tram through the market three or four times. The market is very close to the North Point Tim Ho Wan location, so it makes a perfect stop before or after having dim sum.

Here is a video I took from the tram as it traveled through the market street:

The market is well worth walking around on foot as well.

It is packed with vendors selling produce.



Various dried goods.


Pretty much anything you could possible need.

There is even a little to-go dim sum stall in the middle of the block.

We bought some pork and vegetable buns here on one of our visits. Inexpensive, and very tasty.