I recently bid farewell to the land of spicy vegetarian curries, and wound up in a world of meat and noodles.
I was told that for a vegetarian (or vegan) traveling Vietnam, finding a meal without meat could be difficult. The soups are made of boiling meat, the meat is placed upon each plate without a second glance.
I decided that whilst in Vietnam I was to bite my tongue and put my vegetarianism on hold. Food is something I hold very dear to me, and I will be damned if I was to sit at a table and watch my boyfriend eat a bowl of delicious pho, whilst I slurp up some plain rice noodles.
I soon discovered that, bar the broth that most your meals come with, (the meat is removed from the broth so if you close your eyes you can pretend no animals were harmed in the making of your pho) it is quite easy to avoid eating meat.
We asked the lady at the front desk of our hotel were you could find a vegetarian Pho, and her recommendation did not disappoint.
Since landing in Vietnam, I have discovered the joys of food, drinks, and trendy Cafes that fill the streets of the Old Quarter and surrounding suburbs. Who knew the Vietnamese were so trendy?! Or that their abstract, yet simplified,creations of coffee taste OUT OF THIS WORLD!?
Well, now I do.
If the coffee and the noodles aren’t enough to fill one with a lasting love for Hanoi, then the old French colonial buildings and adorably loving people will.
It’s no wonder, what with all the deliciousness Hanoi holds that it has gained quite quickly, a spot in my heart. I wanted to share with you my must-eat-and-drink places I have stumbled across in my few days here.
Let’s start with drinks, because amongst the heavy heated streets of Hanoi, finding a cold drink and air conditioning is an essential part of every day;
- Cong Caphe-Cong is a chain that you will soon become familiar with in Hanoi. It marks most streets with a army green boutique cafe. Inside you can escape from the heat and enjoy a lovely traditional iced coffee with just a touch of condensed milk. Absolutely delicious! They also have coffee with yoghurt, coconut milk or with cacao. All are equally delightful!
- Cafe Pho co (11 Hang Gai)-Probably my favourite place in Hanoi. You may give up hope as you arrive to your destination of the perfect egg coffee. Where the recommended cafe is, you only see an alley leading to silk clothes shop. However, follow the path (or the creepy alleyway) and you will be directed to a picturesque cafe with coloured birds singing in old rustic bird cages, and a staircase that leads you to a rooftop overlooking the lake. Order down below, then walk up the stairs. You will be rewarded with the damn best egg coffee Hanoi holds, at a very good price. I asked for mine without milk. Just as good.
- Raw Juicery (24 Nha Tho Street)-After four months away from Australian health standards, on my first day in Hanoi, walking the streets I looked up and thought I was seeing things. A shop sign read “Raw Juicery, Cold-pressed juices and superfood smoothies”. Dust my eyes deceive me? They do not! My first cold-pressed juice for months! What a little gem in the heart of it all. Right across from ‘St Joseph’s Cathedral’. You can’t miss it! And you can’t go wrong with the make-your-own-smoothies either.
- Tranquil (5 Nguyen Quang Bich st.)-Their business card reads “The land of Books and Coffee”. Once you turn down the wee alleyway and glance through Tranquils window you can see the land itself. Aside the egg coffee, best coffee I have had in Hanoi. Good, but strong. Don’t drink a coffee here to late in the day or you’ll be bouncing off the walls… Wednesday nights they have an open mic night from 8. A guitar sits in the corner of the cafe waiting for customers to use her. You can’t beat books, coffee and a lonely guitar.
- Loading T (8 Chan Cam Hang Trong)-Owned by a lovely man, this old French colonial building has been turned into a haven for lonely travelers and Vietnamese trend setters. Still hidden yet a minutes walk from the cathedral, this coffee stop speaks a relaxed ambience. Coffee is good, on the sweeter side. Loads of fruit drinks to choose from and funky jazz music to top it all off.
Now let’s switch to food. Once I find what I like I go back for more and dis regard most other food joys. This list is smaller but the meals are grander! Enjoy;
- Pho stall on the corners of Duong Thanh and Hang Bong-My favourite pho in Hanoi! Topped with tofu, greens and dried chilli, I could eat this all day everyday! (Though I’m sure I’ll be singing a different tune after a whole month of pho. The broth is delicious, the people are lovely, and the soaked tomatoes are to die for. Dis-regard all other phos and make this your number one stop!
- Banh Mi 25 (25 Hang Ca)-Vegetarian or meat lover, your needs will be met! Deliciously toasted and crunchy fresh baguette rolls, loads of coriander, and egg (or meat) galore. A menu in English, an easily recognised stall, most go back for seconds… Or maybe it was just me. You also can’t beat the price.
- Xien (corner of Hang Ga and Bat Dan)-This one is a recommendation from my boyfriend. Typical Vietnamese grilled pork in a toasted baguette. Except unlike other stalls, you can see the meat is freshly cooked here. Owned by a lovely young Vietnamese student as well.
- Kem Trang Tien (35 Trang Tien st)-If you haven’t heard of this iconic ice cream when first arriving in Hanoi, if you’re and ice cream fanatic, odds are you will have by the end of your trip. A must try for lovers of ice cream, or just lovers of any sort. Renowned for its succulent taste, Vietnamese flock to this warehouse of ice cream to allow their taste buds a sanctuary away from the salt and sweat. You can’t go wrong with the simple yet tantalising vanilla.
What a culinary treat Hanoi is! It becomes apparent that one can waste their day strolling the streets from one eatery to the next. A joy to those who live for food, or for a damn good coffee.
Tomorrow we leave to ride our motorbike (oh yeah we bought a motorbike! Woo!) around the north of Vietnam for a couple of weeks. We will then return to Hanoi for more deluctable meals.
Until then, the open road calls to us!
I’ll let you all in on a fabulous secret. A friend told us about a website: Hanoihideaway.com. A trendy website for trendy cafes. A delightful insight to a city boasting with potential!
Also if you are looking for a place to stay; Happy Moon hotel is a lovely (cheap), place to stay with quaint rooms and welcoming staff!
I’ll just leave you with this photo of a Kem Trang Tien ice cream here…