This post could otherwise be known as "Hanoi: The Best of the Rest" or perhaps "Hanoi: Other Stuff We Ate But Didn't Like Quite As Much As Our Top Five, Which Was Posted Yesterday."
Do you have more time to eat in Hanoi? Well, here are a few more ideas for where to find food to insert in your foodhole.
1. Bun Cha Nem Cua Be Dac Kim
This bun cha joint is much more tourist-famous than Bun Cha 34, from yesterday's post. Their bun cha is very, very good, but because of its fame it's 2.5 times the price as most other places in town. Can't say I blame them... gotta make money while the moneymakin' is good!
They did offer a larger platter of greens than Bun Cha 34, and I think there may have been a little more pork in the meat bowls; but the meat serving was actually a bit large for either of us! Their vinegary fish sauce for dipping was DELICIOUS and their meats were grilled quite well. The crab spring rolls were, of course, divine.
Just realize that here, you're paying 100,000 dong ($5) for a dish that is 30,000-50,000 elsewhere - and that is if the price hasn't gone up again by the time you get there. (I don't believe this is the price that the Vietnamese customers pay.) For us, it rankled a bit, no matter how wonderful the dish was, but do try to keep it in perspective. It certainly is worth the five bucks.
They do a bustling to-go business, too.
Bun Cha Dac Kim is at 67 Duong Thanh Street in the Old Quarter.
2. Miến Lươn from Nhà Hàng Miến Lươn
Lươn means eel in Vietnamese, and that's what you'll get here - teeny fried eels served in a variety of ways, from soups to porridges to atop glass noodles. The menu is short and sweet, like many of the places we enjoyed in Hanoi.
Logan and I both ordered the Miến xào lươn, on Gastronomer's brilliant recommendation. (Her Hanoi Top Ten post was quite useful - thanks, Cathy!) This is glass noodles, topped with fried tiny eels, bean sprouts, and egg, garnished with those savory fried/dried shallots, fresh cucumber, and purple shiso. It also came with a side bowl of rich, thick broth.
Nice and eel-crunchy and fresh and herby and soft with noodles - and of course with lots of side sauces and fruits to customize your dish! This barely missed being in our top 5.
Nhà Hàng Miến Lươn is at 87 Hàng Điếu, Hoàn Kiếm, Hanoi.
3. Bun Rieu and Bun Oc
These slightly sour/sweet/spicy, crab or snail soups are very popular on the streets of Hanoi. They make a good breakfast, full of revitalizing liquid and just enough protein to start your day off right.
I just didn't care too much for the version we had. Too much fishy crab pastey, not enough sour spicy - the balance seemed a bit off to me. But it's worth a try at one of the many places that line the streets. Please let us know if you find a version you really like!
Great ambiance. Looks like it should be in a movie.
We had our bun oc and bun rieu at 34 Cầu Gỗ, Hoàn Kiếm District.
4. Xôi from Xôi Yến
Xôi is a super simple dish - it's meats of your choice on a bed of sticky rice. I liked the Xoi Xeo, which is topped with mung bean paste and dried shallots as well as meat.
Simple, cheap, and filling, and while we were there a mobile karaoke dude set up in front, adding just that little extra touch of special.
Xôi Yến is at 35B Nguyen Huu Huan, Hoàn Kiếm, Hanoi.
5. An assortment of fried delicacies from 52 Lý Quốc Sư (you can skip the hot dogs, though)
Fancy an afternoon tea? How about a gut-busting one, happily consumed while sitting on tiny stools?
The thing to order here is Banh Goi - think empanadas (or meat pies) filled with ground pork, glass noodles, and mushrooms. After you're ordered one of those, feel free to point at whatever other fried bits catch your eye. They'll be delivered to your table with some greenery and a fishy/vinegary sauce - roll your fried stuff in your green stuff and dip away! Crunch crunch.
Last, but not least (actually, come to think of it, they might be least...)
6. Chả Cá, catfish with turmeric and dill, from Chả Cá Thăng Long
This is the dish that shows up on all the must-eats lists. I'm sort of at a loss to explain why. It's a few small chunks of fish, cooked over sterno at your table with a hefty dose of turmeric and dill.
The prices are tremendously high for Hanoi, the portions are small, and the flavors are just... well, they're good, but not great. Why are these places on everyone's must-eat list?
Turmeric and dill do make an interesting combination, which is helped along by topping with more herbs, peanuts, and shredded green onion.
But by far the most interesting thing about this meal is that, for an extra dollar or so, you can get a dab of pounded cà cuống added to your dipping sauce.
This is cà cuống.
The male of the species has a pheromone sac where he stores a musky perfume that drives the water beetle ladies wild. To people, it tastes a bit floral and sharp, maybe anisey/turpentiney, but not in an unpleasant way. At the banh cuon place I wrote about yesterday, they add it to their dipping sauces without making a huge deal out of it; but at the Chả Cá places, it's a big ceremonial hoopla with extra payment and all.
Ta-da! Our most (and second-most, I guess) favorite places to eat in Hanoi! Hope you found them useful. Next up, a little more of the touristy stuff, and then off to Ha Long Bay.
Also, ahem. HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME HAPPY BIRTHDAAAAAY DEEEAR RACHEL HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME!
Phew. Got that out.