|Cream of the crop: Only crabs selected from Ca Mau, which are bigger and firmer than any kinds of crab in the North, are used for hotpot at Lau Cua Khoi. — VNS Photos Lam Chi
Succulent crabs and vegetables from southern Viet Nam make for a satisfying upscale hotpot on Tran Hung Dao Street in Ha Noi. Thuy Hang reports.
I have a feeling that a "hotpot storm" is sweeping through the streets of Ha Noi as the cold weather prods people to crave hot food more than anything. It's not hard to see some groups sitting around a plastic table, picking assorted meats and vegetables out of a boiling hotpot.
Among thousands of hotpot restaurants scatterecd across the city, the newly opened Lau Cua Khoi (Khoi's Crab Hotpot) has received positive comments from local foodies.
Earlier, I was told about the original Lau Cua Khoi in HCM City and how yummy it is, so when the restaurant expanded its franchise to my home city, I definitely had to give it a try.
As opposed to usual hotpot restaurants, which mostly look quite humble, with plastic tables and chairs, Lau Cua Khoi is quite glossy with newly painted walls, bright ceiling lights, an artificial granite staircase and even an elevator. Together with a large yellow signboard with a crab hung up at the entrance, large photos of different crab dishes adorn the walls. Thank God, everything is new and (more importantly) quite clean.
So far, my first impression was not bad.
A young waiter set plates on our table containing the additional hotpot ingredients, vegetables and fresh noodles. While waiting for the major part -– the crab hotpot – I glanced around, seeing other foodies focusing on treating their taste buds with the same dish.
After a while, when a mini electrical cooker and a hotpot with the "star" ingredient in it – the crab – were put on the table, we finally could start our meal.
|It's ok to be crabby: Cua om mien tay cam (simmered crab with vermicelli in clay pot)
There is a painter's palette right in the hotpot with the bright red shell of the crab, green okra, red tomato and yellow pineapple.
Originally from HCM City, the hotpot definitely adheres to the Southern style, as its clear broth is slightly sweet and sour, which is the specific taste of Southern cuisine.
As I like the creamy taste of the custard-like crab roe, I ordered a female crab for the hotpot. The crustacean I was served did not disappoint me. While its flesh was fresh, firm and succulent, the roe was abundant and custard-like in texture, with a sweetness that reminded me of sea urchin.
According to the restaurant's manager, a Southern man who prefers being called Teddy, to ensure the quality of their food, they use crab from the southernmost province of Ca Mau, which is bigger and firmer than any kinds of crab in the North.
"We get our supplies daily directly from Ca Mau to make sure the crab is fresh," he said.
|Not too shellfish: So duong nuong mo hanh (grilled cockle with peanut and spring onion).
Vegetables such as okra and water mimosa have also been transported from HCM City.
"Water mimosa is unavailable in Ha Noi in winter. That's why, to make sure that our customers can enjoy all the ingredients of the dish, we have to transport it from HCM City," Teddy said.
After the first crab, we longed for another so we ordered one more. It was so good that we couldn't stop eating until the pot was empty. Myself, I would give the hotpot five stars.
Lau Cua Khoi
Address: 79 Tran Hung Dao Street, Hoan Kiem District, Ha Noi
Tel: (04) 39115555
Opening time: 11am-2.30pm & 6-11.30pm
Comment: Very fresh crab and shellfish, attentive service, clean venue.
Alongside the "famous" crab hotpot, which costs VND650,000 for a pot with one crab (the second crab is VND550,000), Lau Cua Khoi's menu features other signature dishes such as cua sot ot (Singaporean chilli crab, VND750,000) served with steamed or fried dumplings and cua om mien tay cam (simmered crab with vermicelli in clay pot, VND650,000).
If you are still in the mood for seafood, a wide range of shellfish dishes will treat your taste buds. Oc len xao dua (stir-fried snail with coconut milk), oc dua xao bo (butter fried snail), so duong nuong mo hanh (grilled cockle with peanut and spring onion) and cang ghe rang me (flower crab claw in tamarind sauce), just to name a few.
With flavourful hotpot or any tasty dish at Lau Cua Khoi, I'm sure you can fight off winter's chill. — VNS