Top Five Places To Visit For The Ultimate Food Day in Hanoi

Hanoians have balancing flavours down to a fine art and Vietnam’s capital is a haven for fresh ingredients and honest cooking. Take a look at our top five feasts for a day in the city.

1. Pho Bo at Pho Gia Truyen

Noodles for Breakfast? It’s the only way to start the day in Vietnam and this place has Hanoians queuing round the block to sample their fragrant rice-noodle soup. Beef bones are boiled for hours to create a rich stock to which meat, fresh greens and noodles are added.

No. 1 Pho

 

2. Bun Cha at Bun Cha Nem Cua Be Dac Kim

This tiny one-room cafe set off a busy street is staffed by one surly but efficient old lady who serves up some of the tastiest, freshest and best value food in the city.

Seasoned pork balls in a fragrant broth served with crab spring rolls and a mountainous fresh herb salad make up this Hanoi favourite popular with locals and tourists alike.

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3. Pretty much everything at Quan An Ngon

This slightly more upmarket street food experience comprises tens of stalls, each representing the best street food recipes from around the country. Choose from dishes such as sticky rice, crispy pancakes or squid with lemongrass. It’s a great introduction to a whole range street food Vietnam has to offer.

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4. Coconut Ice Cream at Kem Trang Tien

If you fancy a bit of dessert head down to the city’s ice cream district (yes Hanoi has an ice cream district) and visit this popular hangout for Hanoi youths who roll up on their scooters in droves to enjoy the best coconut cones you’re likely to taste. Think Quadrophenia with ice cream.

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5. Iced Coffee at Café Pho Co

Hanoi is famous for its coffee culture and there’s no better place to sip some of Vietnam’s home-grown brew than at this well-kept city secret. Enter through an old silk shop to find this hidden arcadia filled with birdcages and tropical plants.

It’s three stories high meaning you can watch the mist settle over Hoan Kiem lake while enjoying coffee like the locals do, iced with condensed milk.

Cafe Pho Co, Hanoi

Recipe: Imam Bayidi (or the Imam Fainted)

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Iman Bayidi, Swooning Imam, or stuffed aubergines to be plain,  is a delicious Turkish favourite. It is a melt-in-the-mouth, rich and tangy dish with  deep, developed flavours. I’m a fool for a well-cooked aubergine and so this is definitely up there among my favourite dishes

Whenever this recipe is shared, it’s almost compulsory to a tell the wonderful but often disputed legend behind its name. I’ll pick my favourite:

The Swooning Imam, it is said, is so called because when the Imam’s new wife presented the dish to him he was so overcome by the amount of olive oil she used that he fell to the floor in shock (although it is often argued as to whether he had matters of money or health in mind).

If you’re less flappable than the Iman (personally I think he sounds like a bit of a wimp) I recommend you try this dish – if you share his concerns feel free to reduce the olive oil content. The flavours will still carry well if the quantity is reduced by a third or so.

This recipe was adapted by Sally Butcher’s wonderful book Veggiestan: A Vegetable Lover’s Tour of the Middle East.

Utensils
Oven-proof dish
Sharp Knife
Chopping board
Desert spoon

Ingredients
2  aubergines
6 garlic cloves
2 red onions
4 tomatoes
1 tspn paprika
1 tspn brown sugar
1 tspn lemon juice
1 tspn Cinnamon
salt and black pepper
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
fresh mint
fesh parsley
yoghurt to serve

Heat the oven to 180-200c. Half the aubergines length-ways, rub with salt and oil and roast for 25 minutes.

Finely slice and fry the onions in a tablespoon of oil and when soft add the spices. Stir to ensure they don’t burn.

Remove the aubergines from the oven and scoop out the middle, being careful not be scoop too much and break the skin of the aubergine. Set aside the roasted innards and lay the skins in the baking dish.

Chop up the tomato (keeping just the flesh if preferable) and inside of the aubergines and add to the onion and spices. Squeeze in half the lemon and sprinkle in the sugar.

Pile all the ingredients of your pan into the aubergine skins and put the dish in the oven. Roast for 30-45 minutes (the longer the better with this dish in my opinion)

Sprinkle the chopped parsley and mint on top and serve with yoghurt. (Bread, cous cous and rice all make great accompaniments)

There are hundreds of different recipes for Imam Bayidi so do let me know if you discover any positive additions or subtractions to this dishJodie

Recipe: Slutty Brownies

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If you’re a lover of chocolate brownies, you’ve probably already heard of the Slutty version. If you haven’t – you’re in for a treat.

The Slutty Brownies are incredibly easy to make – now you can go the whole hog and make your own brownie and cookie mix (yes that’s right, it’s got cookie dough in it), but if you’re in need for a quick sweet treat that you can make on auto-pilot, this recipe is for you.

You need:

1 box of chocolate chip cookie mix
1 box of brownie mix
2 packs of Oreos
2 eggs
oil

How to do it:

1. Preheat the oven to 180C, Gas Mark 4. Follow the instructions on the chocolate chip cookie mix ( I buy Betty Crocker boxes, which can be found in most supermarkets). Add one tablespoon of extra water and dash of oil, this will help keep it moist.
2. Line a deep baking tray with greaseproof paper. Spoon your cookie mixture into the tray, making sure it’s all flat. Then place your Oreos in a layer on top.
3. Follow the instructions on the packet and make your brownie mixture and then pour over your Oreo layer.
4. Bake for 30 minutes and then leave to cool.

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Thanks very much to The Londoner Blog for introducing me to Slutty Brownies!

– Colleen

Haggis, Neeps & Tatties

A kind man named Andrew sent me a package of Haggis, all the way from Scotland. It was the first time I’d eaten non-vegetarian haggis and I wasn’t quite sure what to do – “Neeps and Tatties” said Andrew.

If you don’t know what Haggis is, here is your answer:

a Scottish dish consisting of a sheep’s or calf’s offal mixed with suet, oatmeal, and seasoning and boiled in a bag, traditionally one made from the animal’s stomach.

Below you can see my Haggis Night pictures – ‘neeps‘ are swede, so I mashed them and added mashed carrot and potato. All in all, a very easy-to-eat meal, but delicious all the same.

I’ve decided I’m a big fan and can’t wait to try it again. Thanks Andrew!

– Colleen

Review: Bangkok Kitchen, Union Street, Southwark

photo_1I don’t know about you, but for me the best part of any day at work is lunch time. It’s an opportunity  to spend the morning thinking about what you’re going to eat in that golden hour, before eating it and spending the rest of the day thinking about what you’re going to have for tea.

Sometimes my lunchtime quandary can be easy solved as I’m lucky enough to work next to South East London’s worst-kept weekday lunchtime secret, Bangkok Kitchen.

To sum up briefly Bangkok Kitchen is a slightly ramshackle duo of huts set off an industrial-looking back street in Southwark. A row of surly old ladies line up behind a row of hot plates, nonchalantly scooping your choice of  food into plastic trays. It’s cheap and it’s full of flavor and spice. 

I had the green curry, bravely (if I do say so myself) opting for the spicy version which skirted just on the right side of comfortable with regards to heat level.

Maybe the reason I love this place is that, even with the grey chilly skies and the crumbling red brick archways that surround it, there’s an underlying essence of an Asian street food experience.

Don’t forget to load up on the free spicy crackers lovingly served out of giant plastic storage boxes.  – Jodie

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Recipe: Birthdays and Bibimbap

It was my birthday on Friday. I normally hate my birthday but this year the pain of growing another year older was eased slightly by my acquisition of a dolsot – gifted most generously by Foodboar Colleen.

A dolsot is a stone bowl commonly used in Korean cuisine to make bibimbap – which should (but doesn’t) translate directly as ‘the most delicious rice in the world’. I think it actually translates as ‘mixed rice’ – it’s being far too modest.

It’s something of a national dish. A simple affair made up of steamed short grain rice topped with as many as you dare of the following ingredients: softened bean sprouts, julienne carrots, spinach, sesame seeds, tofu or meat (commonly beef), egg (cooked or raw) cucumber, mushrooms, courgette and pickles.

The magic of this dish is that you can just about add anything you darn well like but you’d be missing the point if you didn’t add a good few lashings of Korean red pepper paste to stir though.

What makes bibimbap so special is that the sizzling stone dolsot turns the rice slightly crispy as you eat it. Now more than once I’ve been accused of guzzling my food too quickly and my justification is always the same: it’s not the same once it goes cold. The brilliant thing about bibimbap is your food stays wincingly hot for a long time, meaning guzzlers like me can eat at their leisure.

To make bibimbap for 2 people:

Utensils

Dolsot (or a ceramic bowl if not)

Vegetable steamer

Knife

Frying pan

Ingredients

Sushi Rice

Korean hot pepper paste

Sesame oil

Sesame seeds

Spinach

Pickled cucumber (or kimchi/some other asian-style pickle)

Carrot (julienned)

Tofu (or a meat of your choice)

Bean sprouts

Garlic

Egg

Dried shiitake mushrooms (or fresh if you can get ’em)

The prep

Combine 250 g of sushi rice (short grain) with 375 ml of water in a pan – bringing it up to the boil and then letting it simmer with the lid on for 20 minutes.  Use a bit of the water you boiled to hydrate the mushrooms in a small bowl

Put the dolsot in a cold oven and gradually let it heat up to 200 degrees (so as not to crack the stone). If you are using a normal ceramic bowl skip this step and just warm it gently as you would normally.

Steam a handful of bean sprouts for 20 minutes, adding the spinach halfway though.

Fry the tofu and set aside. Stir fry the carrots with some garlic and sesame oil and set aside. Stir fry the mushrooms with some sesame seeds and more garlic.

Remove the bean sprouts and spinach for the steamer. Squeeze the water out of the spinach if you want to.

The assembly

Using gloves remove the hot stone from the oven and fill half way with rice.  Place the carrots, mushrooms, bean sprouts, spinach, cucumber pickle, tofu and a dolop of hot chilli paste in neat piles around the edge of the dolsot and crack a raw egg in the centre.

Stir quickly so the stone  cooks the egg. –  Jodie

Image left: Left over bibimbap prepared in a ceramic bowl for my housemate
Image Right: Stone bowl bibimbap stirred up and ready to eat

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Recipe: Key Lime Pie

If you like limes, you’ll love this. Before anyone shouts at me for not using Key Limes, thus, this not being a real Key Lime Pie, I’m sorry, I couldn’t find any! If anyone knows where they sell them, I’d love to know.

Ingredients…

1 tin of condensed milk – 397g
300g Hob Nobs
3 medium egg yolks
150g melted butter
juice and zest of 4 limes
extra lime zest for decoration

Utensils…
22cm loose-based tart tin
electric beaters
zester
food processor (optional) or
sandwich bag and rolling-pin


Step by Step…

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 160C  / 140C fan.
  2. Now, here comes the fun part… biscuit crushing! You can either quickly use a food processor (yawn) – or you can whack the Hob Nob biscuits in a plastic sandwich bag and beat with a rolling-pin. I prefer this method as it’s more fun, but yes, the food processor will crumb the biscuits quickly!
  3. Tip your biscuit crumbs into a bowl and pour in the melted butter. Mix well. Press the biscuit mixture into and up the sides of your loose tart tin. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes.
  4. Whilst your pie base is cooling, whisk the egg yolks with the electric beater for a minute. Pour in the condensed milk (try not let a spoon of it stray into your mouth) and whisk for 3 minutes. Add the lime zest and juice and whisk again for 3 minutes.
  5. Pour the filling into your cooled base and bake in the oven for 15 minutes. When you have five minutes left, sprinkle your extra lime zest onto the top.

Below is a picture of the finished slice – sorry it’s not a perfect cut, I was too desperate to start eating it! – Colleen