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Ha Long Bay Cruise Lunch

Ha Long Bay

The famous “Kissing Rocks”

A visit to Hanoi is not complete without making the journey to Ha Long Bay. Dubbed as Vietnam’s GuiLin, it has 1969 limestone monolithic islands said to be “jewels” spat out by a family of dragons which were sent by the Gods to help the Vietnamese against Chinese invaders. Legend aside, it’s indeed a scenic and picturesque Unesco World Heritage Site.

Our company arranged for us a 1 day tour aboard the Huong Hai Junk. The actual cruise is only about 4 hours as it takes 7 hours to travel to and fro Hanoi to Ha Long Bay. Yep, a very very long bus ride indeed. But it’s worth it as the view is indeed breathtaking. The cruise included a seafood lunch and we were ushered into the boothlike seats in groups of 4.


We started off with prawns and crabs. The prawns were simply sublime. Boiled fresh, it was quickly stir-fried with garlic in high heat before being served. Peel it and dip it in the lime & salt dip before having a bite. The freshness of the prawns were truly preserved. Even until today, my colleagues sigh with longing when they see the photo of these prawns. The crabs were just boiled, most probably straight from the aquarium they were kept in judging from the freshness. Once again, just dipped the flesh into the sourish, salty dip.


Once the stir-fried squid and sweet & sour fish were served, along came the rice. The sweetness of the big onions and carrots went well with the squid and we enjoyed this dish too. Even though the fish was rather good, we all agreed that it would have been better if it was steamed. Afterall, the best way to cook fresh fish is to steam it!


A gourd (chayote, I think) soup cooked with small shrimps and carrots and fried kangkung. We were very full by now, and could barely eat much of these. The kangkung or rau muong as the vietnamese called them were far too long to be cut properly so I gave up after a while.


Dessert was Vietnamese lychees. Even as we were on our way to Ha Long Bay, we passed by many lychee tree orchards. Saw the womenfolk selling them by the roadside, freshly picked. And at only USD1 for 3 kgs. What a bargain! Fresh & sweet. Love the lychees.

Quite a good lunch, and enjoyed the view immensely. All the green was rather refreshing. And it was a peaceful break away from the hustle & bustle, and especially, the crazy traffic in Hanoi. Should I go back the next time, I’ll be sure to try the overnight packages. Afterall, being cooped up in the bus for so many hours is no fun.

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Little Hanoi

It was our Halong Bay tour guide who recommended Little Hanoi. Little did we know that there were two Litle Hanois (as far as we know). We stumbled upon the first one in a narrow alleyway in Ta Hien, with red lightboxes indicating its location. The lightbox claims that this Little Hanoi is recommended by Lonely Planet too. The reviews seem to suggest that this is the original Little Hanoi. As it was not opened yet, we ended up devouring bun bo nam bo by one of the mobile vendors around it.


As we walked further into the Old Quarter, we stumbled upon the bigger Little Hanoi on Hang Gai. on a corner lot. Thinking it was by the same owners, we walked in and found out that these two restaurants are unrelated despite sharing the same name. This Little Hanoi’s decor was mostly of bamboo, which had a quaint and tropical feel to it. It’s quite obvious that this place caters mostly to foreigners and tourists as the food they serve were mainly western vietnamese fusion.


Our group was quite large and we sat spreaded out over 6 tables. between the 3 of us seated at my table, we ordered the special spring rolls, fresh shrimp rolls and the spaghetti carbonara. the special spring rolls were actually a platter of fried spring rolls such as shrimp rolls, rice-vermicelli filled rolls and minced meat rolls. Served with the savoury tangy nuoc mam chilli dip. The fresh shrimp rolls were abundantly stuffed with lettuce leaves and other herb leaves with slices of prawns wrapped in the thin rice papers. the spaghetti was served with pancetta in a white, creamy sauce.


i quite like the rice-vermicelli spring roll coz the deep fried rice vermicelli gave it quite a crunchy bite. it tasted rather peppery compared to the other two. the shrimp roll was a minced shrimp paste. but after a few deep fried rolls, it was getting too much for one person so this is definitely a platter to share. lucky my colleague was willing to exchange some of her fresh shrimp rice rolls with me. tried some of the spaghetti which was rather good, but too heavy for me as we overdid it on street food earlier.

Food wise, this place is rather mediocre. But it’s a nice place to sit down and relax after battling the fierce Vietnamese summer outside on the streets. Relaxing ambience and polite service.

Little Hanoi
21 – 23 Hang Gai Street
Hoan Kien District, Hanoi,

Opens 7:30am to 11:00 pm.

other reviews:

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Bobby Chinn, Hanoi

my best guy friend insisted I come here because during his recent trip to Hanoi, he flew in the same plane with the chef himself and enjoyed meeting & dining with him. Plus he sang high praises of the food. So curiosity got the better of me, and I found myself persuading my group to go eat at Bobby Chinn’s the first night we were in Hanoi. As we walked along the Hoan Kiem Lake and enjoyed the full “open-ness” of vietnamese couples’ dating, i was quickly caught up in the headiness that was Hanoi.


As soon as we stepped into Restaurant Bobby Chinn, we were ushered to the bar, backlit in pink, where white roses hung on strings overhead. Order a drink while you wait they urge. Instead I striked up an unlikely conversation with a German woman who was enjoying her evening drink before she went on her way home. Home being Hilton Hanoi. Simply because the woman was the F&B manager of Hilton Hanoi. Very reassuring for me. So of course I quizzed her on her recommendation and she said her personal favourite was the salmon. Definitely something we’ll be ordering then.

the dining area is simple, but scarlet billowing drapes acting as partitions ensure some privacy to every table. discreet nooks of low tables and bean bag like couches are also hidden around the restaurant. The place is pretty dim but fret not because they have cleverly placed a magnifying glass with built in illumination atop the menu for your “reading convenience”. And the catchy menu is a must read as the house rules are written with great humour.


I was very thirsty by the time we sat down and quickly ordered a passion fruit juice. we were served a complimentary appetiser that was a seafood mash in the shape of a scallop and placed on a bed of rice vermicelli atop a scallop shell. there was a spicy tangy sauce under the rice vermicelli which complimented it very well. quite a good start to the dinner, i would say. Colleague’s “Jumbo Grilled Prawns with Semi Sticky Rice” came first. 3 prawns were placed on the rice wrapped in some leaf (too dark to ascertain, lol). The rice was sweetish to taste, which was a little weird for me. Creamy curry-like sauce was drizzled over all the accompanying vegetables. In all honesty, didn’t like this main course much.


Our next two dishes were sublime, but then what would you expect when they’re known as the signature dishes of Bobby Chinn? “Pan Roasted Salmon on Wasabi Mashed Potatoes” and “Green Tea Smoked Duck fanned over black sticky rice, baby bok choy and pomegranate duck jus”. The salmon was crisp to taste and the mashed potatoes has just the right kick to it. the creamy potatoes seem to slide right down my throat. truly the best main course our table had that night.

the duck was a bit too “rare” hence some manful chewing was required. perhaps the duck breast was sliced a little too thick. not too keen on the black sticky rice either. am a little surprised at the liberal use of glutinous rice in the restaurant. but overall, it made up in points of originality and taste. the flavour of the duck grew on me as i chewed. lol.

we were too full for dessert at the end of the meal as we had some bahn mi prior to visiting Bobby Chinn. But I am sure the desserts are just as creative as the rest of the menu. Apparently, Bobby constantly changes the menu to suit the seasonal ingredients so looks like this place is a must-visit for those who savour such experiences. Prices may seem steep in exchange to our Ringgit but most of them are under USD20 which is considered affordable in comparison to other upscale restaurants in major cities.

Bobby Chinn
1 Ba Trieu Street,
Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi,

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Street Food in Hanoi – Part 2

saw this hidden stall just two doors away from our hotel enjoying brisk business and decided to check it out. it was selling Bún ốc, which is vermicelli with sea snails cooked in a tomato based broth and is served with beancurd puffs, and a smattering of spring onions. the soup is hearty and heartwarming.

This was also sold nearby our hotel. The vietnames baguette, Banh Mi containing paté, Vietnamese mayo, different selections of Vietnamese cold cuts and deli (a large variety, most commonly with ham, head cheese, and a Vietnamese bologna), pickled daikon and carrot, cucumber slices.

the drip coffee and fried egg noodles that we had during a brief stopover at a disabled person’s workshop on the way to Halong Bay. the noodles were surprisingly good, with beef slices, tomatoes and leafy vegetables.

the sign outside the stall says that this is Bun Rieu Nam Bo. apparently “bun rieu” is a soup stock made of crab, starfruit and other sourish ingredients. well, whatever it is, it’s quite a hearty bowl of goodness, with a sweet tang to the broth and served with pork trotters, pork slivers, a spamstick, meatballs, tofu puffs, chopping spring onions and onions. see the sliced chillies in the background? they sure are hotter than they look. loved them!

Thung Vit Lon, or embryonic duck eggs. The eggs contain a half formed duck embryo and is boiled before being consumed. the locals swear by its nutritional value, and eat it with salt and ginger slivers. widely available at 20,000 VND, we only mustered up the courage to try it on our last day. even then, we asked for one to share between the group as the thought of consuming an entire egg with a duckling in it seemed too daunting. the yolk is separate from the little bird and i tried a bit of each. tastes savoury and meaty and rather good in all honesty. but still, two tiny bites is enough.

Banh cuon made with minced pork, mushrooms and wood fungus wrapped in a flimsy rice film and served with sliced cha lua (luncheon meat), deep fried shallots and chicken floss, near the Luan Song market. Also bought some glutinous rice with peanuts, whole & ground to try. savoury and filling.

saw this vendor near little hanoi at Ta Hien selling bun bo nam bo, basically a layered dish of lettuce and vietnamese basil leaves at the bottom, topped by bun noodles, some beansprouts, small tender slices of beef (freshly stir fried by the vendor), crushed peanuts, and sweet sauce over the top of the lot. i ate it all mixed well, like a noodle salad.

now this was a great find. tasty luncheon meat like patty sandwiched by a flat, round glutinous rice cake, wrapped with a banana leaf. the savoury meat against the tasteless, sticky cake was quite something.

a popular vietnamese local fruits mix that we saw being recommended on tv. fresh locally available fruit such as apple custard, avocado, jack fruit, strawberry, passionfruit, dragonfruit, lychee, mango and banana etc is topped with condensed milk and ice. mix well. i wasn’t too keen on this despite how enticing it looks as i thought milky fruit is an acquired taste. and this particular glass had too much mango which overpowered the flavours of the rest of the fruits.

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Street Food in Hanoi – Part 1

so, eating in hanoi… food in restaurants are much more pricier than the ones available on the streets hence we plonked ourselves on the stools and ate with the locals mostly. ordering involved a lot of finger gestures and pointing, yet somehow we managed. love the clear broth used in most Vietnamese cuisine.

Banh uot nong was one of the “snacks” we had on our first morning in Hanoi. White rice flour sheets, a nuoc mam (fish sauce) dip with sliced cha lua (luncheon meat), sliced chilli and some basil leaves. Next to the mobile vendor sat another woman selling this sweet & savoury concontion of sticky, glutinous mung beans (i think) with some ingredient I couldn’t really identify. or maybe it’s che dau van (haricot bean che)…

our first cups of vietnamese coffee!

our lunch at one of the local places in the Old Quarter. We had com binh dan which is very much like M’sia economy rice scene. Buffet like, with cooked dishes lined up for your selection and some of the stuff we had that afternoon were
1. ba la lot – rolled minced beef, bit of sugar and nuoc mam (fish sauce) all wrapped up in a la lot (pepper/betel) leaf
2. Cha gio (spring rolls) – piping hot bundles of seasoned minced pork, mushroom and translucent noodle
3. canh – vegetable soup. I believe this was made of b0 ngot leaves.
4. egg omelette
5. pickled vegetables (these were definitely an acquired taste for me. too sourish perhaps)
6. tofu/beancurd cooked with tomatoes
7. pork
8. fried Nhộng tam worms
9. chicken gizzards cooked with pineapple

i am not too sure if this the iced version of che thung but you get to pick a your own ingredients ( tapioca, black glass jelly, red beans, corn, coloured jelly etc) and have it topped up with sweetened coconut milk and ice. Quite the answer if you’re in need for a sugar high!
i really like the iced, clear, sweet drink we had on our last day (2nd pic) which came with tapioca beads, lian zhi (lotus seeds) and glass jelly in a fragrant tea-like drink. the “tea” had bits of jasmine flowers floating in it, which truly smelled divine. but the best bit was how it cooled us down after our morning “mission” to scour the streets for more bargains before leaving for KL.

some form of Banh ram, little balls of glutinous rice dough with filling in it. i believe the traditional ones have savoury fillings in them yet this one had sweet palm sugar and a trace of ginger in it.

Pho Bo – beef slices with pho (flat, thin kway teow like noodles), onions and spring onions. the clear broth is normally made by boiling meat (beef/chicken) for hours with different herbs to obtain that rich, sweet taste.

vietnamese dough crullers (yau char kway) which are about half the size of what’s available here in M’sia and brown glass noodles in flavourful broth with pork slices and meatballs (made with seasoned pork with bits of wood fungus/mushroom in it). excellent stuff!

we decided to go local in eating Oc (river snails, not that different to the french escargot) and clams and ordered them boiled. The mollusks are boiled in hot water with ginger and some herb leaves to rid it of the fishy taste. also ordered cua (crabs) which were thrown into the boiling water as soon as they were fished out from the aquarium. talk about freshness! all these were served with a lime & salt dip which truly brought out the taste. truly enjoyed the freshwater snails which still retained the chewiness factor. Also tried Bánh chưng, sticky rice wrapped in banana leaves and stuffed with mung beans, fatty pork and black sesame seeds but it was disappointingly bland. definitely craved our m’sian versions more.

Just as soon as we finished our earlier shellfish dinner, we saw another lady selling grilled shellfish and was tempted to try other variants. The star of this place was definitely the salty & spicy dip! With lime, salt, pepper, chilli and a little something else, it was sublime. ordered some sea snails (with spotted shells) and so huyet (blood cockles) and she quickly whips them out of the plastic pails and onto the fire it goes. It only takes her a few minutes to grill them and soon we were happily prising open the cockles and gouging the snail out from its shell. warm and cooked just right, it was quite a delight eating these. and because it was so good, we couldn’t resist to order grilled prawns. that too, was sheer gastronomic heaven.

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Vietnamese Coffee

blog inactivity was due to the fact that I was in Hanoi, Vietnam. the heat of the summer was a little more than i bargained for. thank goodness for the cold relief of the passion fruit juices and iced vietnamese coffee! on the first and second days we were unsuccessful in our quest to search for authentic vietnamese coffee that knocked our socks off. but late on the 3rd night, we stumbled upon Lam Coffee. The irony was that it was barely 50m away from where we stayed. the cafe, with low wooden tables and stools are packed with its loyal clientele, men and university students (hanoi has over 40 unis!), sipping the potent franco-viet drip while catching up. the cafe also displays artwork depicting vietnamese scenes.


the dark liquid, served with a ring of sweetened condensed milk at the bottom of the glass is the real deal. one sip, and a sigh of contentment escapes. it’s no wonder we returned 3 times in 2 days to get our dose. hope the ground coffee powder we bought tastes just as rich!

Lam Coffee
DC: 91, Nguyen Huu Huan
Hoan Kiem District (Old Quarter), Hanoi,

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