Month: January 2013

Fried soup I have lost

Fried soup I have lost

You come across dishes that stick with you forever even if you never eat them again; fried soup (what I call it) is one of those dishes I for me. I came across it in Hanoi in 2008. I searched for the restaurant this time […]

A roll in the rice

A roll in the rice

Banh Cuon Gia Truyen Thanh Van restaurant Across from our Hotel in Hanoi is a nice small restaurant specializing in rice rolls, It seems to be well known as it has had a couple of positive foreign reviews (proudly displayed on the wall) that are […]

Pho Gia Truyen at 49 Bat Dan

Pho Gia Truyen at 49 Bat Dan

My wife’s uncle (our restaurant manager and taste guru) visited this place when he was in Hanoi ( He tasted six different places in one morning) and said this is the best he tasted that day. We had to try it and after two attempts to go there; it was closed, we finally sat down and had a bowl.

Now this place is busy and a bit different than most of the other restaurants around; you stand in a line (or what passes for a line in a non-queuing country) to get your order and carry it yourself to an available table. There are no available tables, rather spots at tables you have to hunt for and squeeze into with other customers. So if you’re by yourself you have to carry a steaming and overflowing bowl of Pho around looking for a spot to open up. It must be worth it as the place was packed.

The bowl came with a plate of (chinese) donuts for dipping and a nice mound of beef that was cut from the handy hanging piece next to the cook. This place has one person getting the soup, one getting the meat and one doing the final assembly; it is crazy busy. 
I’ll have the mound of meat on the right

Must go through gallons every hour
The taste was fabulous and the best Hanoi style Pho I have had yet; beefy goodness in a bowl. The other prominent taste was the added Vietnamese green onions. Again I qualify this as Hanoi style Pho as it was not what would be called Pho in the south or at home. This is the original taste of what our Pho was when it started its evolution into the Pho we recognise in Vancouver.
My belief is that food evolves along with the people and their environment. Traditional dishes and a cuisine like the people are a product of their environment. Vietnam is rapidly evolving as is  the cuisine that is part of that changing society. Ideas, like people are moving and changing at an amazing pace as such the food is being influenced by that change. Food and the ways to prepare it is moving around the country and changing the menus in even the smallest village.
The Pho we serve at Mui Ngo Gai is a result of people moving around Vietnam and during the Diasporas have occurred 1) during the separation of North and South in the early 1950s 2) after the end of the Vietnam War with its the mass movement of people overseas. You can taste the influence of this change of environments on the taste of the soup and on what we expect it to taste like. The north serves up a bowl of Pho that is beefy but has very little spicing (not spice as in hot rather in strength of added spices) of the broth. It is a good satisfying bowl of soup with the right noodles and beef but lacks the aroma we expect. In the south the soup takes on a bit of a more spicy tone but not as much as in Vancouver. The broth in Vancouver is much more aroma and better quality of beef.
In each place we have had Pho over the years (North, South and at home) we have found each taste authentic to the place and each bowl satisfying in its own way. When you look at the journey this soup has taken with the people who have made it, I am very appreciative at evolution of various tastes of this soup and of the strength of the people who took it with them to their new homes. There is no one right taste of Pho, there is just the taste you know to be Pho.
Another blog about this restaurant smittenbyfood.blogspot.com
Youtube video http://www.youtube.com
Chicken Pho (Check mark)

Chicken Pho (Check mark)

Com 40 Cau Go By check mark I mean our soup has an authentic Hanoi taste (we knew that when we developed it) as found on the streets of Hanoi. We have a favorite place we go and have a few bowls of Pho Ga […]

Snacking part II

Snacking part II

Well as you walk around the city you keep finding little tidbits to eat, some great some good and some…. Here are a few more we sampled over the days we were in Hanoi. These looked very promising Grilled sausage A pork skewer that looked better […]

A little snacking Hanoi style

A little snacking Hanoi style

As you walk around the town you can find snacks to munch on as you walk or sit down and eat. Over a couple of days we tasted some of the treats (some not a treat) that are available.

First up some fried cheese; not much is expected in a mostly non-cheese eating country.

Greasy and nearly flavourless

Now get some stronger cheese and a bit more spice; this would be a good snack. We could do it but I would use a better cheese and dip.

Next ice cream, a maybe secret location (not many tourists) that is filled with Vietnamese people enjoying a treat that has been in Hanoi since 1958    Google site: Kem    Their website: Kem Trang Tien.

Loved the ice cream, the rice ice cream bar was great, texture and favour was unique. I did not take photos of the ice cream as it just looked like ice cream.

Drive in too

     
The list of ice cream bars

They have good coconut flavoured cones too

Thirdly we had a couple of snack stops while visiting a clay village (produce things from clay).

The muddurn facilities
They look better than taste, but I have had better ones here
Ground Cassava root with coconut (good but dry)

Rice rolls (needed more fish sauce)
This lady was frying up sweet treats
A bit oily but nice to try one
Here a corn fritter and a banana one
One day, two great meals

One day, two great meals

When in a great city you can always find great food; Hanoi is one of those cities that has great food around just about every corner. You walk around until you spot something your want to eat (signs up every every where), you sit down […]

Some of the places we have been to in our travels

Some of the places we have been to in our travels

No food in this post, just informationWhen we traveled to Sapa   and we stayed at Chau Long Hotel  View Larger Map It was a beautiful hotel with good food but quite expensive compared to the places we normally stay at while in Vietnam. For […]

Village barbeque a flavour that is hard to reproduce

Village barbeque a flavour that is hard to reproduce

Family home

As any serious barbeque person is concerned every step taken to barbeque something results in a different taste. When you find a technique that works you tend to stay with it as to change anything is to change the resulting taste.
In Vietnam there are thousands of ways to prepare barbeque and on that are the thousands of ways it is done in each village or household. To most people back in Canada you taste one or two versions that the restaurant you go to prefers to make and sell. Of course in Canada the barbeque is done normally over a gas fired barbeque that leaves its own signature taste on the meat. Even though the demands of a busy restaurant in Vancouver dictate the use of natural gas, the best flavour results from the techniques that have not changed much since they were perfected years ago in simple family homes in places like where we are staying.
Ready for cooking
The pork we are using is butchered daily as such is a bit tougher than what we get at home; then marinated with a grated root (in the same family as ginger) and mixture containing fish sauce.
The fire and what it is fueled with is the next flavour enhancer, dried corn cobs and wood charcoal are used to cook the skewered meat. Both are traditional ways to cook and you see corn cobs drying all over the village.

As you can see my wife prefers to wear plastic gloves like she does in the restaurant.
Once the fire dies away and there is a good supply of hot coals the cooking can commence. The meat skewer is stuck into a freshly cut piece of bamboo stalk; which is used as it allows the skewer to be stuck in it and it will not burn. There it is carefully watched as the meat can burn quickly if allowed to be close to the fire too long as the grated root catches fire quickly.

The result is crunchy on the outside with a delightful taste that is a combination of spicing and technique. I am sure the corn leaves a flavour note but without a comparison it is hard to tell what part of the flavour comes from the corn. The meat is tougher than ours so I end each meal flossing and brushing my teeth but if I was as skilled as the locals I would just need to use the bamboo tooth picks they have.







Some of the other items we had with the meal

Rice noodle in clumps

Pork innards 

Had to add one of the soup cooking

The true North…strong and freezing

The true North…strong and freezing

Have been without internet connection (gasp) for a few days and I have a lot of updating to do but I thought I would first publish a entry about a place we went to last night in Hanoi; it is special as we have been […]