Sunday, March 23, 2008

Hanoi Elegance

The girls and I decided to make a little jaunt to Hanoi over the Easter Holidays. Being the teaching nerdballs that we are, we used the cooperative learning model and devied up our responsibilities. Of course, I was in charge of the food itinerary.

My list includes:

-Cha ca La Vong

-Brother's cafe

-Cooking Class at Hidden Hanoi

-Highway #4

-Bobby Chinn ( for Pauline who fancies him)

We took our 2 hour flight and went to our hotel, Hanoi Elegance (which I highly recommend). I went straight to work and asked about a recommendation for lunch. The cute little guy at the reception told us to go to this place called Noon.

We decided to walk there, which was a truly frightful experience for people who have just arrived in Hanoi. Scooters are everywhere, cars are not stopping for red lights- basically, you just have to walk at a steady pace and hope for the best. After about half an hour of inefficient walking due to stops at shops along the way, and practising new ways to cross the street, we finally arrived at the street where the restaurant is. We walked along and saw this really neat lively open air eatery called Quan An Ngon surrounded by stalls where people are making all sorts of different Vietnamese street food. We thought, screw the restaurant recommendation- let's eat here instead!

Well, it turns out that we misread Ngon on the map and thought it was Noon, so we actually went to the right place. Now, I know my mates may not agree with me, but in retrospect, I would rate this as the best restaurant on the trip. I love these spruced up versions of traditional eateries. Ngon is like a food court of street vendors from years past with their adorable sun hats, squatting down and fanning their creations.

So the two hungry girls and I ordered: crab and sea snail vermicelli, beef pho, grilled mackerel, grilled squid, shrimp sweet potato cake, and spring rolls. Of course, nothing washes Vietnamese peasant food better than Hanoi beer. Really, I wanted to order much, much, more....but I had to pace myself- it was only our first meal, after all.

The food was tasty, but the seafood was a little overdone in our opinion. We finished our meal with an authentic cold Vietnamese coffee and a green sticky rice pudding with coconuts.
This was a very promising beginning to our Vietnamese culinary adventures....

Thursday, March 13, 2008

My favourites so far....

While I am stuck waiting between appointments for student teacher conferencing, I actually have time to peruse through food blogs and get inspired again.

Since being in Hong Kong, I have noticed that people here are obsessed with food. If there is space in a block, there will be a restaurant in Hong Kong. So,when you are in a place where food is cheap and bountiful, one of two things happens to you:

1.) You become a fussy eater. Gone are the days when you eat whatever is laid out in front of you. You would rather wait in line for an hour or take a 15 minute taxi ride to your preferred restaurant even though you probably will pass by a hundred (literally) restaurants on your way there.

2.) You get fat or go on a diet. The pounds keep packing in, and healthy and delicious have yet to become the trend here. For some reason, even though everyone is very image conscious and freely give out comments about your weight and theirs, they still think brown rice is just wrong and it is perfectly delectable to eat meat rendered in fat for lunch.

Actually, both things happened to me. I am a fussy eater on a diet. However, a girl has got to live vicariously once in a while, so I still go out and eat fabulous meals. Here are my favourite haunts in Hong Kong so far....

1.) Brunch Club

It is the perfect place to chill and catch up with girl or boy friends. There walls are lined with magazines, their latte is hot and service is great. I normally don't order omelettes because very few resaturants do them right. However, the smoked salmon omelette I had last time was absolutely delicious. Cooked just enough that it is fluffy but the middle is not runny. There was also chunks and not bits of salmon. Yummy!

70 Peel Street- Soho area
4 Hysan Road- Causeway Bay

2. Modern China

You must visit the food forum in Times Square. There is a separate line of escalators under the big TV screen that goes up to 3 floors packed with restaurants. Most of them are good, but it will take me a while to try all of them and give you a best of list. However, I particularly like Modern China because it serves delicious Shanghainese and Pekingnese food at an economic price in a cool environment. The only thing is you might have to wait an hour before you eat because they do not take reservations after 6:30 p.m. The good thing is, you can shop while you wait.

10 Floor Food Forum, Times Square, Causeway Bay

3. Isola

On a typical warm day in Hong Kong, the best place to chilax will be at Isola. Their outdoor patio is huge and if you are lucky, you may get a couch table along the glass fencing facing the ocean. I admit, the drinks are pricey (approx. HK$80 a drink) and the food is okay. But really, this is a case where the atmosphere is worth the hard earned dollars you are shelling out. Another thing I find particularly refreshing about this place is that when you sit outside, there is some rule (government or restaurant imposed) where the servers cannot go beyond a few steps into the patio, so your waiter will not bring you the food or drinks, but will come to inform you to fetch it from a little stand they put by the patio door. This is good, I think, because one will always know that it is time to stop with those delectable martinis when one can no longer carry the glass in high heels across the patio...

Isola- IFC mall Central