by Minh Thu
STREET STYLE: Bún chả (grilled pork and noodles) being prepared in an open kitchen at Hà Nội Băm Sáu. VNS Photo Minh Thu
The Hà Nội Băm Sáu Restaurant boasts a wonderful menu ranging from snacks to main courses and desserts. To get the meal underway, you could try a few of the snacks that are popular among Hanoians.
These dishes include nộm (green papaya, carrot and beef salad), boiled snails, há cảo chiên (fried dumplings), bánh bột lọc (steamed cassava dumplings), bánh rán mặn (salty glutinous rice balls), and bánh gối (pillow cake).
Given how delicious these are, remember to stop nibbling at some point and leave some space for the rest of the evening. And what delights await, with its mains being a strong point of the restaurant, bursting with the authentic taste of Hà Nội. It’s the ideal place for groups, because everyone can find something that suits on the menu.
Mains include signature Hà Nội dishes such as phở (noodle soup), bún chả (grilled pork and rice vermicelli), bún thang (vermicelli soup with chicken, pork sausage, mushroom, and turnip pickle), and bún ốc (snail and vermicelli).
When I visited and tried the bún bò Nam Bộ (Southern-style rice vermicelli with stir-fried beef), I found I had been wrong about the origin of the dish. And I’m quite certain that many others have been likewise mistaken. Nam Bộ, or The South, is the former name of Lê Duẩn Street (where the Hà Nội Railway Station is located), and not “southern-style dish”, as I had always believed.
The dish was originally created by a woman living on the former Nam Bộ Street. The fresh rice vermicelli and other ingredients are mixed together with a dressing that combines sweet, sour and salty taste, unlike beef vermicelli served with broth in the Huế style. It was amazing to visit and learn I had been wrong for so long about the name of the dish.
Its desserts and drinks are also Hà Nội delicacies, with great meals capped off with West Lake lotus scented tea, cà phê Giảng (a famous brand of traditional coffee), or tapioca juice.
ROLL UP: Grilled squid balls with salted dried apricot sauce - a wrap-and-roll dish balancing tastes and harmony colours. VNS Photo Minh Thu
Any talk of Hà Nội cuisine must include chả cá (grilled fish). The dish is served on a hot pan, where yellow pieces of fish are stir-fried with spring onions and aromatic herbs. Condiments include mắm tôm (shrimp paste), roasted peanuts, and red chilli.
The fish is fried in pork fat instead of vegetable oil. I like this cooking style, because the smell is more appealing and the taste more delicious.
Another recommendation is grilled squid balls served with rice vermicelli, slices of ginger, garlic, chilli, herbs, and star fruit. All of the ingredients are wrapped in rice paper then dipped in an amazing salted dried apricot sauce. Like me, you’ll be surprised by the different tastes bursting in your mouth.
The restaurant is the perfect destination for those seeking the authentic taste of traditional Hà Nội dishes. It was inspired by the book Hà Nội Băm Sáu Phố Phường (36 Streets of Hà Nội) by Thạch Lam, which is considered not only the first but also the most complete book about Hà Nội cuisine. As the book is not just about food but also the connection between food and culture and society in Việt Nam’s capital, the restaurant’s walls have murals with images of beautiful spaces around Hà Nội while the air is filled with famous classical songs of the city.
Though the restaurant has only been open for two weeks, I’ve already been there several times to try the different dishes on the menu. While some could do with an upgrade, the Hà Nội Băm Sáu Restaurant boasts a great location looking over the railway line and the Hàng Đậu Water Tower, which reminds me of classic images of Hà Nội.
Inside, its open kitchens are designed in a street vendor style to make customers feel as though they are enjoying some of Hà Nội famed delicacies by the roadside. VNS
GENUINE TASTE: Chả cá (grilled fish) in the authentic Hà Nội culinary style. VNS Photo Minh Thu