4. It’s not just pho
“You’re going to get sick of pho”, we were told of the noodle soup for which Vietnam is famous, “that’s all there is to eat”. Obviously we didn’t believe them, but we still thought that would be the main thing. And Selena in particular was worried – proper pho is made with beef stock, so it’s not terribly veggie friendly. Well I’ve managed about 3 weeks in the country, and haven’t touched a bowl of pho! Not that I have anything against pho, of course, but there’s such a variety of food here that I’ve not yet felt the need.
For local food we’ve the new SmileMee banh me joint down our road. Traditional food is served up at Quan An Ngon – the menu is off-puttingly huge in a Wetherspoons-microwave sort of way, but it’s all cooked up fresh at the courtyard stalls. But the elegant Red Bean has been our favourite meal so far, in the Old Quarter, but not too touristy, and not ridiculously priced.
The Italian Embassy have a little cafe attached, serving decent pizza
Meanwhile a generation of mostly Australian (it seems) chefs have brought the fusion food of Sydney and Melbourne, and taken it back to South East Asia. Kafe has a couple of joints west of the old town (Kafe Village is my favourite, the seating is split up more and the staff a little more welcoming – but the menus are broadly the same), both attracting a primarily local crowd on my visits.
Hanoi Social Club’s a bit pricier, but my burger, cooked perfectly medium, wouldn’t have been out of place in a top London gastropub (and “pricier” is a relative term, I think it was around the £4 mark – that wouldn’t even buy the fries back in London’s trendier places). They’ve more of an expat atmosphere.
Finally out in Tay Ho, an area popular with expats, there’s the socially responsible Tet Decor Cafe in an old French mansion, and Backyard Bia Hoi.
It’s even possible to find a good curry! The only thing we’ve not yet braved are the little local places with their little stools. And their pho. I’ll wait until we’ve some non-veggie friends visiting!