Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Hotel Breakfasts in Southeast Asia

Some of our hotel stays included breakfast. Generally the options ranged from standard Western fare to decidedly un-Western options. Here are some of the latter.

Our hotel in Taipei had a buffet breakfast that usually included some interesting options. The "good stuff" was often picked over by the time we got there, but we managed to do ok for ourselves.

In Hanoi, pho was always available.

And sometimes Bánh Cuốn.

In Da Nang there was a buffet with all sorts of options.

Nothing was particularly amazing, but the variety was fun.

In Hoi An, the Phở Bò had a bit of heat to it:

And they had local staples like Cao Lầu (a really good version, actually):

And Mì Quảng - good, but it didn't make us forget about the fantastic version at Ông Hai.

Our hotel in An Bang beach also had a pretty decent Mì Quảng:

And Bún Bò:

They also always had a very nice plate of fresh fruit.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Kuala Lumpur - Roti Banjir and Teh Tarik at Mansion Tea Stall

Needing some morning energy to shlep ourselves and our luggage on the metro from one part of Kuala Lumpur to another, we stopped in at Mansion Tea Stall for breakfast.

This place is open 24 hours a day, and we enjoyed every minute we spent there.

Breakfast was the Roti Banjir special - a roti canai smothered in dal and served with two half-boiled eggs and sambal. Washed down with a mug of Teh Tarik ("pulled tea"), it really hit the spot.

The staff here were all very friendly and liked to mug for the camera. The patrons were equally nice, and we enjoyed a nice morning conversation with people at our table.

As we were getting up to pay, a gentleman at our table who had been quietly listening in on the conversation insisted on paying for our meals. This is the kind of experience we travel for.

Hue - Bún Bò Huế

Even though you see Bún Bò Huế (Hue-style beef noodle soup) places all over Vietnam, we made a point to wait to have it until we were actually in Hue. I found myself almost regretting this, as it proved difficult to pick a place in Hue to have it. Places were closed, too far away, derided as gone touristy and expensive, etc.

I was talking to one of our hotel's friendly receptionists about this, and she told me there was a lady who sets up shop right on the corner every morning and that was where the locals ate.

That was good enough for us. Since we aren't the morning-est of people, we hadn't seen the lady's setup on our first day in Hue - she had already packed up and gone before we headed out. Making a point to get out there before 8:00 the next morning, there she was.

Unlike phở bò, the noodles are bún (rice vermicelli). The broth was pulled from a stewing cauldron of meat bits - our bowls had some beef meatballs in them, along with some fresh beef slices that were added at serving. I've read that cubes of blood are typical, but there were none is this version.

Savory, lemon-grassy and moderately spicy. Delicious. We had it for breakfast on both of our remaining mornings in Hue.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Hue - Bánh Bèo, Bánh Nậm and Bánh Khoai at Quán Hạnh

We had a bit of trouble discovering places to eat in Hue, so it was fortunate that we found a restaurant nearby that we really liked.

Quán Hạnh specializes in local Hue dishes, and we had dinner there twice during our short stay. We got to try a couple of new types of "Bánh". Bánh Nậm comes as a stack of leaf-wrapped treasures:

Inside each package is a luxuriously soft rice cake with shrimp and pork. The texture is completely different than other types of rice cakes we've had and we really enjoyed it.

We also got to try Bánh Khoai - Hue's local version of bánh xèo. Bánh khoai is puffier and you break off pieces to eat directly with greens and herbs, rather than rolling it in a rice wrap.

And we couldn't resist getting some Bánh Bèo:

An order of 16 of these cute little dishes seemed like a lot at first, but they disappeared quickly...

We also had a couple of less-specifically local, but still tasty dishes. Bún Thịt Nướng (pork with rice vermicelli) and Gỏi Cuốn (shrimp and pork summer rolls).

We enjoyed everything we tried at Quán Hạnh, but the clear standouts were the Bánh Bèo and Bánh Nậm.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Hoi An - Chicken Rice at Cơm Gà An Hiền

Cơm Gà (chicken rice) is a local staple in Hoi An. You see small shops and stalls selling it all over. We had dinner one night at one of these establishments - Cơm Gà An Hiền.

When the plate first hit the table, Cơm Gà doesn't look like much - a pile of rice with some herbs, onion slices and shredded chicken on top.

The look belies the flavor, however. The rice tastes intensely of chicken. It can be a bit dry, but they provide a bowl of light chicken stock (with some tasty giblets floating in it) that you can use to moisten and add flavor. Add a generous amount of chili sauce and some lime, and you have a pretty nice plate of food on your hands.

Like many of the places we enjoyed in Vietnam, this shop is hidden down a little alley off of a larger street.

Hoi An - Mì Quảng and Cao Lầu at Ông Hai

Mì Quảng and Cao Lầu are two of the more famous local dishes in Hoi An. We had both of them for the first time at a little shop called Ông Hai ("grandfather Hai").

These two dishes are pretty much the only ones this place does, and it does them very well.

We had other versions of Mì Quảng later in our trip, but this was by far the best one. Nice textured noodles in a small amount richly flavored amber-colored broth with some sliced pork and shrimp and a dusting of crushed peanuts.

The quail egg is a standard touch - but this one was bright orange with the egg white looking yolk-colored.

The Cao Lầu was less outstanding compared to other versions we tried, but it was still very good. Round, chewy noodles in a soy-flavored broth with fried wonton-like crackers on top.

Da Nang - Bánh Bèo, Bánh Ướt and Ram Ít at Quán Tâm

Bánh Bèo are rice cakes steamed in little saucers. We've had mixed success trying to make them at home, so we were very much looking forward to trying them made professionally for the first time.

Our first item of business upon arrival in Da Nang was to head to a little shop called Quán Tâm.

We ordered a mixed plate of Bánh Bèo, Bánh Ướt and Ram Ít. It is hard too see here, but the Bánh Bèo are discs (they have been removed from their steaming saucers) topped with pork floss a little bits of shrimp.

Bánh Ướt are rice rolls - much like Bánh Cuốn. Ram Ít turned out to be a little steamed rice cake on top of a fried rice cake with some pork/shrimp mixture in the middle. Great taste and texture combo.

There was also a plate of various leaf-wrapped packages at the table.

Note sure exactly what this was, but it reminded us of the fermented pork sausage you often get with bánh cuốn. Firm jelly texture, and a slightly sour taste.

Another package revealed a chunk of steamed pork-like somthing - I think the same stuff that was sliced as an adornment to the combo plate we ordered.

All in all, a fun light lunch in a comfortable, friendly setting.

Da Nang - Bánh Mỳ Bà Lan

After soldiering our way through numerous mediocre-to-bad bánh mì on our visits to Hanoi, we finally hit the jackpot in Da Nang at Bánh Mỳ Bà Lan.

This place was hopping - they were selling sandwiches as fast as they could make them.

This was simple perfection. Great bread, tasty pâté, nice meats (an assortment of pork), crunchy veg, and a tasty chili sauce.

As a bonus, we got a cute mini-baguette with just pâté and some chili sauce on it. Really good, and a great little snack for 8000 dong (or about 30 cents).

Da Nang - Bún Chả Cá Hờn

We missed out on getting Bún Ca in Hanoi's "Magic Food Alley" on this trip, but we made up for it with this bowl of Bún Chả Cá in Da Nang.

A hot bowl of rice vermicelli noodles in a clean fish broth. The fish cakes were really tasty and had a nice texture. Some were fried, and some not.

Simple, but delicious - and perfect on a rainy afternoon.

This little shop, like many where we have had a nice meal, is unassuming and tucked away down an alley.