Friday, October 28 2016


Ha Noi comfort in the heart of the south

Update: August, 23/2015 - 04:30
Fresh: The four-in-one bun dau mam tom of bun (vermicelli), dau ran (fried tofu), boiled pork and cha que (cinnamon-flavoured pork meatloaf), served on a bamboo tray with raw vegetables and mam tom, a shrimp sauce, northern style.

Vietnamese cuisine has distinctive flavours, depending on the region. Ha Noi is famous for its dishes cooked with herbs and spices. At Qua Ha Noi in HCM City, diners can sample some of the best the capital city has to offer. Thu Anh reports.

Located on a small alley on Vo Van Tan Street, Qua Ha Noi is hidden behind the back of a building. Regulars often call the restaurant Only Ha Noi as its menu not only offers local dishes but also a charming decor evoking memories of the past.

Small dining tables and chairs in wood are scattered throughout the beautiful space, with photos and images of Ha Noi's old streets and buildings on the walls.

Although the restaurant has air conditioners, its door and windows are often open to let in the fresh air.

Simple soup: Ha Noi-style rice porridge, chao suon with quay.

Offering 10 different Ha Noi-style dishes of xoi (steamed glutinous rice), bun (fresh rice vermicelli) and chao (rice porridge), the restaurant also has delicious drinks as diverse as the city's cuisine.

Although I found the bun impressive, I chose chao suon (rice porridge cooked with pork stock) at VND25,000 (US$1.1) for a starter.

The dish is popular for breakfast in Ha Noi.

When I was a child, my mom often took me to a chao suon vendor on Tran Quoc Toan Street in Ha Noi nearly every morning.

This version of the dish, served hot with quay (deep-fried bread finger), does not contain broken rice like other chao. It is cooked for several hours in stock from pork ribs (suon).

Qua Ha Noi's chao suon is sublime, with minced pork and quay cut into small pieces. I added pepper and chilli powder for a sweet-salty flavour.

Meal in a bowl: The dishes' colours make for beautiful presentation.
Northern haven: The exterior of Qua Ha Noi Restaurant. — VNS Photos Phuong Mai

Qua Ha Noi

Address: 21/1 Vo Van Tan Street, District 3, HCM City

Telephone: 0913309955

Hours: 8am to 11pm

Comment: Quality food, cooked Ha Noi style, at reasonable prices

I then wanted to try the bun, one of many amazing Vietnamese fresh rice vermicelli dishes.

While my friends ordered bun ca (vermicelli soup cooked with fried fish), I had bun doc mung (vermicelli soup cooked with pork ribs and fresh petioles of taro), at VND45,000 ($2).

The dish's secret is its broth made with pork bones. To make a clear broth, pork bones are cleaned and cooked in water for 60 minutes over medium heat. The tomatoes and taro are then cut into small pieces, and green onion and coriander are added.

As an experienced diner, I opted for a popular dish, bun dau mam tom, to see how it compared to other restaurants.

The dish consists of four ingredients of bun (vermicelli), dau ran (fried tofu), boiled pork and cha que (cinnamon-flavoured pork meatloaf) served with mam tom, a shrimp paste in the northern style.

The dish, at VND55,000 ($2.5), was placed on a bamboo tray with a few aromatic herbs. The composition's colours made for a beautiful presentation - yellow (fried tofu), white (bun), green (raw vegetables) and saffron (cha que). The fried tofu was crispy and the boiled pork was tender.

Hanoians don't usually drink while they dine. So, we had nuoc mo and bot san, two signature drinks of the city, after the meal. Nuoc mo is a fruit juice made from soaked apricot and bot san is kudzu root flour. Both drinks were served with ice.

The total bill was VND300,000 (less than $15), an affordable meal for the three of us. For vegetarians, non-meat dishes cost VND25,000 to 55,000.

Service was excellent. The young waiters had obviously been professionally trained. Qua Ha Noi's seats are usually full at lunch and dinner, so don't forget to make a reservation. — VNS

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