Tag Archives: food

Fantastic Vietnamese Food and Where to Find Them

If there is one and only one reason to go to Vietnam – it would be the FOOD! With a variety of dishes as you move from the north to the south, Vietnam is definitely a foodie’s paradise. You would have got an idea of how much we loved the food in Hanoi, Hoi An and Ho Chi Minh City in our other blogs with our detailed city itineraries. If you only want to know what the best foods of Vietnam are and where you can find them, you are at the right place! Without further ado, let’s begin!

Pho: No Vietnamese food journey is complete without Pho! Rice noodles served with beef (sometimes chicken), herbs and delicious broth, it can be had as breakfast, lunch or (and) dinner. We had many versions of Pho – the ones we liked most were differentiated by the depth of flavour in the broth. The best bowl of Pho we had was in Hanoi at Pho Gia Truyen at 49, Bat Dan. This place is forever crowded, so make sure you reach there early in the morning (before 8am). We had to try twice before we got a seat!

We also had some really good Pho at Pho 10 Ly Quoc Su.

We also had some really good Pho at Pho 10 Ly Quoc Su.

Bun Bo Nam Bo: Bun Bo Nam Bo is beef noodle salad. At first glance, it looks like a dry salad, but hidden below the delicious surface is an even yummier broth in the depths of the bowl. We had the one at 67 Hang Dieu – it was so delicious that we ordered an extra bowl and cleaned it up. The beef was tender and melt-in-the-mouth, the broth was delicious, and the herbs and noodles made it a nice round meal. We also tried one each of all the items on the menu (about 6 other items) – most of which were really good too. Highly recommend!

In HCMC, we had it at Bun Bo Nam Bo Ba Ba – it was really good, but once you have been to Hanoi, your standards are set really high! We also had a version of it at Vo Roof Garden in HCMC – we absolutely loved the ambiance, service and view from this restaurant – it is right next to the crazy building on Nguyen Hue Boulevard.

Banh Mi: Another iconic Vietnamese item, the Banh Mi is a baguette stuffed with meat, eggs, veggies or anything you like. While we had some amazing Banh Mis, we also had some really bad Banh Mi during our trip (one of which left me sweating and nauseous for half a day). Here are some options where you won’t go wrong with your Banh Mi:

Banh Mi 25, Han Ca, Hanoi: This is a café like setting serving up some tasty Banh Mi – try out the beef and cheese one.

Banh Mi Phuong, Hoi An: The one you will find in every travel blog and suggestion – it was good but not worth the hype. Time your visit before the day trip crowds reach Hoi An so that you don’t have to stand in a long line.

Madam Khanh – The Banh Mi Queen, Hoi An: Yes, you read that right! Of the two famous Banh Mi places in Hoi An, we liked this one better. This one ranks slightly above the one we had in Hanoi.

Banh Mi Hong Hoa, 54 Nguyễn Văn Tráng, HCMC: The best out of the three Banh Mi places we tried in HCMC. This is slightly away from the city centre, so you can always order on Grab.

Xoi Xeo: Sticky rice with turmeric and a variety of toppings – we loved the ones with pork floss, chicken and fried shallots! This is a good option when you are on-the-go as it doesn’t have any broth or sauce (like most other dishes). We had some really good variety at Xoi Yen (35b Nguyen Huu Huan) in Hanoi. We also found a lady selling it on Hang Hom street in front of 44, Hang Hom. She sits in front of a shop early in the morning and sells out everything before it opens (be there before 8am). It was one of the simplest meals we had in the whole trip – turmeric rice topped with fried onions and pork floss – nothing fancy. We are not exaggerating when we say that it was one of the most satisfying comfort foods we had in the trip!

Egg Coffee: We had egg coffee at the famous Giang café on Nguyen Huu Huan (close to Xoi Yen). Now, we know there is a lot of debate around who serves the best egg coffee – without getting into that, we can assure you that the one served here is lip-smacking good! We ended up going here thrice in 2 days!

Bun Cha: It’s made of chargrilled pork balls served with spring rolls, vermicelli noodles and salad. The one of 74 Hang Quat, Hanoi is famous and that’s where we headed. It is more of a narrow alleyway than anything else, with people sitting all along both sides waiting for their bowl. It was good but we are not big fans of the extra char on the meat.

Mi Quang: A noodle dish with prawns, pork, quail eggs and rice crackers – this is simply a bowl of goodness! The best of this we had was at Mi Quang Ong Hai (6A, Truong Minh Luong, Hoi An). We were wandering about at night battered by heavy rain when we walked in here. The lady of the house was watching an Indian series dubbed in Vietnamese (Chanakya). She walked in and brought us piping hot bowls of Mi Quang and Cau Lau. It was tasty and homely and exactly what we needed!

Cau Lau: A noodle dish with pork, broth, crispy noodle squares and crackers. Try this out if you visit Mi Quang Ong Hai (6A, Truong Minh Luong, Hoi An). Rain + Cool Breeze + Hot bowl of Cau Lau = bliss!

Che: One thing that has been missed so far is dessert! The most popular one is different forms of Che – it typically has jellies, fruits, beans, coconut cream or milk, tapioca and some syrups. Sadly, it didn’t float our boat as it felt like a watered-down version of a kheer/payasam.

There are other foods which we liked but did not feature above in detail like the Banh Xeo (pancakes), Com Ga (chicken rice), Vietnamese coffee (black coffee with condensed milk) and spring rolls – do check them out if you have time and space in your stomach.

You will find many other hole-in-the-wall places with people sitting out on the road on tiny stools with bowls in hand. Some of these may not go easy on your stomach – so check out reviews before you go and take a seat (we had a few bad experiences, hence the warning).

We have visited about 20 countries together and this was the most food-crazy yet! One big reason why we want to go back to Vietnam. You can check out our other blogs on travelling around Vietnam and how to make the most of it.

Hope this helps you plan your trip better – do let us know in the comments below. If you like our blog, do share it on your social pages – the more the merrier! Follow us on Instagram for more pictures, videos and our latest travels at @fridgemagnet.tales

The Magical Town of Hoi An

The second leg of our trip to Vietnam took us to the central part of the country. We had heard and read a lot about this quaint little town and many called it the best part of their trip! Though we were filled with the anticipation, we were also dreading the weather – Hoi An has storms and even floods in November and the previous year was exceptionally bad (Check out our guide to the best time visit each part of Vietnam here). Our evening flight from Hanoi had to navigate through some really turbulent weather to land us in Da Nang – the largest city of the region. We took a taxi to Hoi An – a 45 min drive – and reached our home-stay.

It had stopped raining by now, but it was quite windy. After a quick check-in, we borrowed an umbrella and headed out to the night market! As we walked around looking at the stalls selling food, souvenirs and lanterns, the rain picked up, leaving the hawkers scrambling. Luckily, we had our big umbrella. The river was swelling and almost starting to overflow – we quickly crossed the bridge into the Old Town heritage area and started looking for a place to eat. The entire town was beautifully decorated with lanterns of all colours – it felt like a dream!

The memory of this place still brings a smile to our faces!

We found a small home whose hall had been opened up into a tiny restaurant where we had some amazing Mi Quang and Cau Lau (both belonging to this region). The rain continued to batter down and we sat there happily eating the hot bowls of noodles.

Things turned better for us the next day with regards to the weather. It was a pleasant day with no rain which made it ideal to walk around and explore the town!

Here are the things which, according to us, make Hoi An a magical town and an experience worth remembering.

History and Heritage

Hoi An was a trading port from the 15th to 19th century. It was a hub in South-East Asia for trade routes connecting China, Japan, India, Portugal and the Dutch. There is a strong Japanese connection and you can still spot the Japanese covered bridge with a temple inside it.

The entire Old Town of Hoi An is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You can buy a ticket to visit the sites to learn more about life here in the 18th century. One ticket (costing only 120,000 VND – relax, that’s $5!) enables you to visit 5 heritage sites. You can choose from a number of historic buildings, private homes, museums, temples and assembly halls. We picked one of each to get a flavour of the traditions of this ancient port town.

You can skip the ticket if you do not want to enter these sites and just walk around the roads.

Culture

You can get a taste of the traditional music and dance of the region at the Hoi An Traditional Art Performance Theatre. You can use one of your five tickets to gain entry here and there are usually 3 shows every day.

We enjoyed the music and performances and also got to know about the traditional game of “Bai Choi”. It is very similar to bingo but is played along with some folk songs. We learnt that there would be a few rounds of it being played on the riverbank later in the evening. You can guess what we did that evening! After observing one round, we took our seats on one of the stilt house-seats and were handed one paddle each which had three words. The organizers would sing a folk song and randomly select one of the words while incorporating it into the song!

It was super fun and we ended up playing two rounds!

Shopping

Hoi An is known for tailoring and you will find dozens of shops selling tailor-made suits, shirts and dresses. It costs much less than what a similar branded piece would cost you back home and it is also of very good quality. We aren’t very big on shopping during our trips, so we decided to give it a skip. But if you are, we would definitely recommend heading to one of these as soon as you arrive in Hoi An – you can avoid the stress of whether the suit will be ready in time for your departure.

The Central Market on the banks of the river is also worth a visit. Go there in the morning to see all the fresh produce. If you are just window shopping, just smile and keep moving.

You can also check out the night market which is on a small island connected to the Old Town (map here). You can get your own lanterns and souvenirs here as well as some tasty street food.

Food

Any Vietnamese story is incomplete without the food! The specialities of Hoi An and the Quang Nam Province that you must not miss are

  • Mi Quang – a noodle dish with prawns, pork, quail eggs and rice crackers
  • Cau Lau – a noodle dish with pork, broth, crispy noodle squares and crackers
  • Com Ga – chicken rice
  • Banh Mi – this is what Hoi An is really famous for – the legendary Vietnamese baguette stuffed with a bunch of delicious stuff you can choose from

More details on where to get these are part of our extensive blog on Fantastic Vietnamese Food and Where You Can Find Them!

Other Ideas and Tips

Start the day as early as you can, to wander around the beautiful streets without having to deal with crowds. There are a lot of day-tours which come in from Da Nang and you’ll be stuck with the extra tourists if you start late.

If you have an extra day, you can rent a cycle and head to the nearest beach. If you have 3-4 extra days, spend them in Da Nang and go on excursions to nearby places like the Ba Na Hills (the Golden Bridge) and Hue.

Hoi An is indeed a magical place and one that we would definitely recommend! After spending a day and a half here, we headed to Ho Chi Minh City. Check out our guide on how to travel around Vietnam for the best options.

Have you visited Hoi An and central Vietnam? Do let us know in the comments below. Check out our latest travels on Instagram at @fridgemagnet.tales

Weekend At Hanoi

The capital city of Vietnam, Hanoi lies in the Red River Delta in the north of the country. Hanoi would typically be the starting point (or end, if you do it in reverse) of your itinerary. The city went by the names Long Biên (which is also the name of a famous bridge in the city) and Thăng Long (another bridge now), till it was called Hà Nội in 1831. The city is the second largest in Vietnam after Ho Chi Minh City. Where we are headed is a specific part of this city – the Old Quarter.

We spent a weekend in Hanoi (check out our complete itinerary here). Weekends are the best time to be here for an unforgettable experience. In the evening, roads around Hoan Kiem Lake are closed for traffic and you can see people come out, walking, jogging, kids playing, drawing, painting, street performers in action and some people just sitting on benches and looking at the brightly lit Thap Rua (Turtle Tower) in the middle of the lake.

There was an entire road dedicated to remote controlled cars with kids driving them around!

We walked around the lake atleast 3-4 times and kept finding new stuff on each round. We were lucky to be there on the weekend when a South Korea-Vietnam cultural festival was ongoing – there were concerts, food stalls and a lot more. It was a bonus on our food list!

Weekend or not, here is a list of must-dos when you are in Hanoi:

Walk around Hoàn Kiếm Lake: The Hoan Kiem Lake is a beautiful lake right in the middle of the Old Quarter of Hanoi. Visit the Ngoc Son Temple which is on a tiny island in the northern part of the lake (try going early in the morning).

Explore the Old Quarter: The Old Quarter is a bustling centre of activity and most of the nightlife revolves around it. Make sure you get your hotel/Airbnb close enough so that you can save on the commute while making the most of your time in Hanoi.

Each street is dedicated to a certain type of shops (a street full of kitchen utensils, one for mechanical parts etc) and you get a real taste of the life and culture of Hanoi while you are walking around. There are certain places-to-see like temples which you can visit. You can also find amazing eateries with some of the best Vietnamese food here.

Ta Hien Street: This is the beer street of the Old Quarter – the place to head to for the nightlife! You will find dozens of bars on both sides along with the many signature street-side vendors. Grab a tiny table and a couple of tiny stools and get started!

Water Puppet Show: The water puppet show is an experience which you should definitely add to your list. Complete with traditional Vietnamese instruments, the show takes you through a set of stories set in the countryside.

We visited the famous Thang Long Puppet Show which is on the northern bank of Hoan Kiem Lake. For tickets, you can head to the ticket counter a few hours before the show and collect them in advance. It’s best to get seats in the front for a clear view!

Temple of Literature: Now, we take you away from the Old Quarter towards the Temple of Literature. We walked about 2.5 kms to get here from the Old Quarter (the amazing bowl of Bun Bo Nam Bo fuelled us!). Along the way, you can spot the infamous Hanoi Train Street which you would have seen in pics. The street was closed to visitors due to the risk it posed while trains crossed.

The Temple of Literature (featured behind the 100,000 VND note) is dedicated to Confucius and housed Vietnam’s first university, the Imperial Academy.

There are five courtyards with beautiful gardens. Even today, students visit this academy and temple as it signifies a milestone in the Vietnamese education system. So, don’t be alarmed if you see kids roaming around in graduation robes!

One Pillar Pagoda and Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum: A short walk from the Temple of Literature will take you to the historical place where Ho Chi Minh declared independence from France – the Ba Dinh Square. There is an entire complex here which contain a museum, Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum, the One Pillar Pagoda and Ho Chi Minh’s Stilt house.

We would recommend this only for people who love history – others can do a quick walk-through.

Tran Quoc Pagoda: This is the oldest pagoda in the city, and it sits on a small islet in the West Lake. You can spot a lot of Buddhist symbols in and around the pagoda. We spent some time sitting along the banks of the lake enjoying the breeze and watching people fish.

We would recommend taking a bus or Grab taxi as the walk back to the Old Quarter can be really long and tiring.

Weekend Night Market: The weekend night market is an amazing place for shopping as well as picking up souvenirs. It is basically a street which is closed and stalls come up right in the middle.

It stretches along Hang Dao street starting at the square near the Hoan Kiem Lake. The one key to shopping in Vietnam is “Bargain-bargain-bargain” – this comes rather easily if you are Indian. Oh, and by the way, the street is unrecognizable during the day with all the scooters zipping past!

Food: No story about Hanoi is even remotely complete without mentioning the food! Pho (Beef Noodle Soup), Bun Bo Nam Bo (Beef Noodle Salad), Banh Mi (Vietnamese sandwich), Bun Cha (meatballs with noodles), Xoi Xeo (turmeric rice), Banh Xeo (Vietnamese pancake), Egg coffee – makes our mouths water just by thinking about them!

So, we decided to write an entire blog on the Fantastic Vietnamese Food and Where You Can Find Them!

While these places give you a real taste of north Vietnamese culture, there are other places you can visit if time permits. Our recommendation is to use the extra time to go on some short trips as Hanoi is a good base location. You can head north to Sapa or go south to Halong Bay (read about it here). After Hanoi, our itinerary took us to the magical town of Hoi An in Central Vietnam.

If you have any questions, feel free to shoot them in the comments below. To catch all our latest travel stories, follow us on Instagram @fridgemagnet.tales

Croatia Food Guide

Croatia is a delight for seafood lovers! We had some of the best seafood we’ve ever tasted and is the main reason why we wouldn’t think twice before coming back here again.

Zagreb

Dolac Market: We love visiting the local green markets as it is the best place to get a flavour of the local taste. You can sample the fresh fruits, veggies and meats at this market – we got some tasty apricots to eat while we walked around the city.

You can also find a lot of restaurants along the Ulica Ivana Tkalčića.

Split

Villa Spiza: Excellent food with simple and fresh ingredients! It takes some time to find the place as it is not the biggest one in the city. Make sure you go early, or you might not get a table before they run out of food! The menu of the day had pork chops and lamb pasta. Delicious food which keeps you coming back for more!

Pazar market: Local green market near the Old Town. Go early in the morning to see people selling fresh produce and meat. You can pick up some fruits and berries to munch on throughout the day.

Fife restaurant: Towards the end of the Riva Promenade, this place serves really good local dishes at compelling prices.

Hvar

Marinero bistro: Without doubt, the best food we had in Croatia. Delicious tuna fillet, fried calamari with tartar and house wine made for a wonderful dinner!

Dalmatino: We didn’t get time to go here but heard some good things about this place. Next time!

Mlinar bakery: This was our go-to place across Croatia – ideal for a quick bite, stocking up on supplies or even a small meal. It is pocket friendly and tasty and is ideal for the backpacking tourist.

Image from Mlinar

Now that you know some of the best eats in Croatia, you can take a look at how to plan that Croatian itinerary and how to go about booking your tickets with our travel guide here.

Do leave your thoughts in the comments section below. Feel free to shoot your queries as well! To catch all our latest travel stories, follow us on Instagram @fridgemagnet.tales