Family trip in Vietnam - Episode 9: Time to Cha Cha with the Chả Cá

By: City Pass Guide

KathleenKathleen Brown, her husband John and their two adopted children, Peter Quang and Claire Xuan, are touring around Vietnam during their Christmas holiday. Kathleen is a long-time television producer and /media consultant for humanitarian agencies and her husband, John, a professional photographer. Every couple of days, they will post a story along with photos on their travels and adventures.

Family trip in Vietnam - Episode 9: Time to Cha Cha with the Chả Cá

Cha ca la vongWhen our family celebrates a birthday or special occasion the kids insist I make Chả Cá fish for dinner.  Years ago, the Washington Post food section featured an array of recipes for Vietnamese specialties and I clipped out the recipe for Chả Cá fish.  It's been a family favourite ever since our first bites!

Before traveling to Vietnam for our Christmas holiday, I reached out to a former colleague who had lived in Hanoi and had hosted us on a previous visit, inquiring about which restaurants not to miss.  His favourite was Chả Cá Lã Vọng!  I had no idea it was more than a Hanoi specialty - much more. 

To celebrate our return to Hanoi in high style, we paired up the water puppet show and a cha cha over to 14 Chả Cá Street.

Cha CaChả Cá Lã Vọng claims to be the oldest restaurant in Vietnam and the dish was first made by the family Doan in Hanoi in 1871.  The restaurant has been open through five consecutive generations and had it's street location renamed after its famous fish dish.

How to describe Chả Cá Lã Vọng -- it's a visit to the family home, an invitation to sit at a family-style table and a chance to see the marinated white fish cooked right at your table.  It is marinated in turmeric, oil and other spices and then gently cooked over a medium flame and finally covered in fresh dill and onion which softens and is placed on vermicelli noodles and covered in peanuts! Cha ca 6

It's the sole dish and most often accompanied by beer or wine.  The servers make certain to replenish the fry pan with more fish when you're ready.  It's a fine meal -- with a generous helping of Hanoi history and a chance to commune with the locals and other visitors on the side.

Cha ca 8What fun to enjoy our favourite Hanoi speciality in its very birthplace.  We give thanks to the Doan family and their many, many daughters and sons for keeping the home flame lit and the fish sizzling! Cám Ơn.

By Kathleen Brown
photos by John Cullather 


Family Trip by Kathleen:

Family trip in Vietnam - 1st episode: Enter the Dragon
Family trip in Vietnam - Episode 2: Cai Rang Water Opera
Family trip in Vietnam - episode 3: Hoi An ancient town
Family trip in Vietnam - episode 4: Hoi An Countryside
Family trip in Vietnam - episode 5: the LifeStart Foundation
Family trip in Vietnam - episode 6: Hoi An Cooking Class
Family trip in Vietnam - episode 7: Project Runway in Hoi An
Family trip in Vietnam - Episode 8: Water Puppets - Vietnam's Original Muppets
Family trip in Vietnam - Episode 9: Time to Cha Cha with the Chả Cá
Family trip in Vietnam - Episode 10: A Visit to the Hung Kings Citadel and Au Co Ancestral Site
Family trip in Vietnam - Episode 11: Our Visit to the Perfume Pagoda
Family trip in Vietnam - Episode 12: Can Gio Reserve
Family trip in Vietnam - Episode 13: Saigon Street Eats
Family trip in Vietnam - Final Episode: An Afternoon in Cholon
Tribute Episode to our Guide Stars


7 Reasons Why Foodies Love the Lotte Hotel Hanoi

By: Hristina Vasileva

A few months ago, the Lotte Hotel Hanoi opened its doors to public, only to witness an enormous amount of interest in its exemplary service and culinary delights – and for good reason too. The hotel boasts seven food and beverage outlets which cater to both Western and Asian food enthusiasts, making it reasonably possible to never leave the hotel. All food establishments, except one, are run by Michelin Star Executive Chef, Ingo Moller who is dedicated to making sure all customers are left feeling satisfied with their dining experience.

Lotte Hotel Hanoi


1. Lounge Sky

The Lounge Sky is probably the most relaxed and intimate food and beverage outlet in the hotel. Conveniently located just by the hotel lobby, it is also home to the hotel’s piano bar. It is a great spot to grab a short drink, cocktail or warm beverage to wind down or warm up for the evening.

The lounge is open until 11 pm and visitors can enjoy live music on all days of the week. Savoury and sweet snacks are available and, as with all establishments in the Lotte Hotel, the view is spectacular.

The Lounge Sky in Lotte Hotel Hanoi

Opening hours: 9:00 – 23:00.
Location: 38th Floor.


2. Club Lounge

The Club Lounge is exclusive to Lotte club members for breakfast and dinner. There is a free buffet, a selection of snacks, drinks and a discreet atmosphere - making it very much worthwhile the membership, especially for those who are after a more relaxed and private stay at the hotel.

table-decoration-in-lotte-hotel-hanoi

Opening hours: 8:00 – 22:00.
Location: 59th Floor.


3. TimHoWan

TimHoWan is probably the Lotte Hotel’s most visited restaurant because of its international reputation for brilliance and surprisingly inexpensive menu. It is an extension of the famous Michelin-starred dim sum house which first started in Hong Kong, then Singapore and is now available to both locals and visitors of Hanoi. The prawn dumplings and BBQ pork baked buns are an absolute must.

It is advised that these are washed down with a delicious Goldmalt draught beer brought in from one of Hanoi’s microbreweries. It is essential to book in advance.

Tim Ho Wan in Lotte Hotel Hanoi

Opening hours: 11:30-22:00.
Location: 36th Floor.


4. Red River

As mentioned earlier, there is only one food establishment in the Lotte Hotel that is not run by the Executive Chef, Mr. Ingo Moller, and that establishment is Red River, one of Hanoi’s most revered fine dining Chinese restaurants. Korean born chef Mr. Tang Ching Yao is a master of the Chinese cuisine and his menu offers dishes made only with with the freshest and finest ingredients available.

The restaurant has a focus on seafood and is generally considered to be traditionally Cantonese with a slight Vietnamese twist. Set-menus are also available for those who want to try a little bit of everything.

Red River in Lotte Hotel Hanoi

Hours: Lunch: 11:30 – 14:30; Dinner: 17:30 – 22:00.
Location: 36-37th Floor.


5. Pharaoh’s Bar & Upper

Escape Asia and the West altogether only to lose yourself in this trendy Egyptian themed two-storey luxury lounge. The night club consists of a DJ room show casing chilled out house music, an upstairs lounge and a live performance room. Visitors come here to enjoy small bites and carefully crafted cocktails along with the stunning backdrop of Hanoi’s evening skyline.

This establishment has a license to stay open until late, making it a particularly popular venue for those who are up for a bit of a late night out.

pharaoh-lotte-hotel-hanoi

Opening hours: 17:30 – 02:00.
Location: 63-64th Floor.


6. Grill 63

Grill 63, as the name would suggest, is located on the 63rd floor of the building which inevitably gives its visitors the opportunity take in spectacular panoramic views of the city while they eat from “the lava stone grill”.

The restaurant imports all of its meat from Australia, the US and New Zealand and is probably one of the most reasonably priced steak houses in Hanoi. The truffle mash potato is an absolute must as are the New Zealand lamb chops. There is a selection of wines from around the world to accompany the grilled meats.

The restaurant also serves a lunch carving buffet from 11am to 2pm, Monday to Friday for a very reasonable VND290,000, which includes a draught beer or soft drink. The selection of meat is changed on a daily basis so it is best to call up in advance if you are after a particular type.

Grill-63-restaurant-in-lotte-hotel-hanoi

Opening hours: Breakfast: 6:00 – 10:00; Lunch: 11:30 – 14:30; 17:30-22:00.
Location: 63rd Floor.


7. Top of Hanoi

We leave the best to last. The crème de la crème. Top of Hanoi is the highest open-air sky bar and restaurant in the city. It gives visitors the unique opportunity to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city, listen to the silence of the skies and absorb breath-taking views while they sip on cocktails or work their way through a menu of carefully selected beers. There is a dining area on the upper deck of the rooftop which serves only the freshest produce. Needless to say, reservations are vital.

The Top of Hanoi is designed to give it a maritime look as it is shaped like a ship, with two upper decks at each end and a lower deck in between.

Guest DJ’s play a selection of chilled dance music every night, making it a super spot for those who fancy a little shuffle on top of the city.

top-of-hanoi-lotte-hotel-hanoi

Opening hours: 17:00 – 23:00. Location: 65th Floor


Make Reservation


Which Pho are you?

By: Vinh Dao

Pho Vietnam

No dish is more synonymous with Vietnamese cuisine than humble bowl of pho. The concept of noodle, broth and meat is amazingly simple yet the preparation and presentation involved is as complex as the broth it is served in. Hanoi and Saigon have their own take on pho and is indicative of the people that live there.

Pho Bac

Pho Bac is indicative of the cooler, less agricultural north. Hanoian’s tend to only use beef bones to flavour the broth and use spices such as star anise to give slightly nuance to the broth. The noodles used in this region are generally wider but thinner than it’s Southern cousin and the selection of meats are simpler with many shops offering only pho bo tai (pho with rare sliced beef). The garnish you find on the side is also simpler with thai basil, green onion and chilis. But don’t put too much in. Hanoian’s will look down on you for ruining the subtle flavours of the broth!

Pho Nam

Pho Nam is Pho Bac’s brash cousin from the south. Also indicative of the fast moving city, the broth is usually jacked up with chicken bones and dried squid to intensify the flavour. The noodles in Pho Nam tend to be thicker than and the garnishes reflect the abundance of vegetables in the south. Unlike in Hanoi, it is encouraged to put in as much as you want to reflect your taste. The amounts of meats available in Pho Nam is staggering and can be intimidating for a first timer. Basic selections are either tai (sliced of ground beef ), bo vien (beef meatballs) or nam (beef flank). More adventurous eaters have the option of more exotic fare such as gan (beef tendon), sach (thin sliced stomach lining) or ve don (flank with cartilage).  Or get all of it in one bowl and order a pho thap cam! Chili sauce and hoisin sauces are usually found next to these garnishes and can be used to add a bit of kick to your bowl.

So which pho are you?


Club Opera Novel Restaurant

By: City Pass Guide

KathleenKathleen Brown, her husband John and their two adopted children, Peter Quang and Claire Xuan, are touring around Vietnam during their Christmas holiday. Kathleen is a long-time television producer and /media consultant for humanitarian agencies and her husband, John, a professional photographer. Every couple of days, they will post a story along with photos on their travels and adventures.

Club Opera Novel – A Diva of a Restaurant, Yet Without Pretense

If you are searching for an intimate and refined meal in a lovely French colonial home make your first stop in Hanoi to Club Opera Novel for a simply divine meal.  It is located steps away from the Hanoi Opera House and Hoan Kiem Lake, along a boulevard lined with Jimmy Choo and Versace boutiques.

Club Opera NovelWe indulged in everything from traditional Vietnamese to Western food and enjoyed the fresh flavorings, herbs and attention to detail in presentation such as flowering carrots and a hollowed out pineapple serving as a lantern with a flaming tea light inside and fried Hanoi-style spring rolls riding on skewers on its rind.

This unique touch was a foreshadowing of both good things to come on our plates and during our visit to Hanoi.

Here you will find everything-- from brasserie sandwiches to baguettes, international  and Vietnamese appetizers, salads, pastas and a sinful collection of desserts from crème caramel to warm apple tart with New Zealand ice cream.

My family chose well: with both east and west represented on the table.  Claire insisted on the bacon cheese burger Food Club Opera Novelwhile Peter, the seafood fried rice.  I decided on the Bún Chả Hanoi and my husband, John, chose the braised seafood in caramelized sauce.  Aunt Anne likely photographed her food – so I will ask her to provide her choice in full color!

Club Opera Novel’s menu even offers fixed price menus reflecting the settings of Tonkin, Brasserie, Old Quarter and Opera for between 290,000 VND and 490,000 VND per person.

These multi-course offerings take one deep into the periods of colonial and postcolonial Vietnamese food history and offer yet another way to tour this amazing country – on its tables and bar counters along with its boulevards and streets.

Happy touring at Club Opera Novel’s gracious and novel place from my family to yours.

Other articles written by Kathleen:
Family trip in Vietnam - 1st episode: Enter the Dragon
Family trip in Vietnam - Episode 2: Cai Rang Water Opera
Family trip in Vietnam - episode 3: Hoi An ancient town
Family trip in Vietnam - episode 4: Hoi An Countryside
Family trip in Vietnam - episode 5: the LifeStart Foundation
Family trip in Vietnam - episode 6: Hoi An Cooking Class
Family trip in Vietnam - episode 7: Project Runway in Hoi An
Family trip in Vietnam - Episode 8: Water Puppets - Vietnam's Original Muppets
Family trip in Vietnam - Episode 9: Time to Cha Cha with the Chả Cá
Family trip in Vietnam - Episode 10: A Visit to the Hung Kings Citadel and Au Co Ancestral Site
Family trip in Vietnam - Episode 11: Our Visit to the Perfume Pagoda
Family trip in Vietnam - Episode 12: Can Gio Reserve
Family trip in Vietnam - Episode 13: Saigon Street Eats
Family trip in Vietnam - Final Episode: An Afternoon in Cholon
Tribute Episode to our Guide Stars
A little gem on a search of something else: Finding Ganesh!


Northern Vietnamese Cuisine

By: Tran Thi Minh Hieu

Northern Vietnam is the oldest and most geographically diverse region of the nation, with a history of occupation by China, France and Japan. The region’s cuisine is shaped by both long-standing traditions and heavy foreign influences.

In the vast mountains bordering China and Laos, with Sapa as the most popular destination, about 30 ethnic minorities live in partial seclusion and maintain their unique customs. The forests, upstream rivers and terraced fields provide special spices and ingredients.

In the Red River Delta, farm animals and freshwater species are commonly used. The flavour and texture of food is lighter than elsewhere in Vietnam, with a preference for sour and salty rather than spicy and sweet. The capital Hanoi is where many Northern Vietnamese dishes are made popular.

The coastal areas, including the world famous Halong, add a supply of seafood and especially fish sauce to the Northern cuisine.

Rolls to Make You Drool

Vietnamese cuisine is famous for its rolls, and Northern Vietnamese cuisine is no exception. The standard dipping sauce is nước chấm.

Nem is the Northern Vietnamese name for fried spring rolls, made from crispy rice paper wrapped around a mixture of minced pork and/or sea crab, vegetables, mushrooms, glass noodles and egg yolk.

vietnamese cuisineImage source: thegioidisan.vn

Bánh cuốn is a thin sheet of rice flour steamed and rolled with minced pork and wood-ear mushrooms, topped with fried shallots.

Phở cuốn is a simple roll of unsliced bánh phở filled with stir-fried beef, lettuce and cilantro.

vietnamese cuisineImage source: amthuc.2017.vn

Rice and Sticky Rice

Apart from the use of white rice (cơm) as a staple, sticky rice (xôi) is also popular. Broken rice is less common in the North than in the South.

Cơm lam is salted rice cooked in bamboo tubes, a traditional way to prepare for long journeys in mountainous regions, such as in Mai Chau.

Bánh chưng is the traditional food for Tết in Northern Vietnam, made from sticky rice, mung bean paste and fatty pork wrapped in green leaves and steamed for a whole night.

vietnamese cuisineImage source: cooky.vn

Bánh khúc has three layers: a ball of mung bean paste and fatty pork, a skin of rice flour mixed with fragrant rau khúc (cudweeds), and sticky rice, all wrapped in banana leaves.

Xôi xéo is sticky rice coloured with turmeric powder before steaming, topped with savoury mung bean paste and crispy fried shallots.

vietnamese cuisineImage source: xoixeohanoi.com

Cốm is a Hanoian snack made from young sticky rice, lightly roasted and flattened, then wrapped in lotus leaves.

Holy Noodles

Soup noodles bring comfort in winter when the northeast monsoon blows, but on sunny days, non-soup noodles steal the show.

Phở, the national dish influenced by both the French taste for beef and the Chinese love of noodles, has been around since the 1920s. Hanoians like it traditional: clear beef bone broth, rice noodles, beef slices, onions, and lime and chili to taste.

vietnamese cuisineImage source: amthuc.2017.vn

Bún chả, Hanoi’s favourite lunch, combines grilled pork and rice vermicelli dipped in nước chấm with pickled carrot and green papaya, and fresh herbs.

Bún thang is the epitome of Hanoi’s cuisine, a colourful combination of chicken slices, thin strips of fried eggs and Vietnamese sausage, shredded shrimps, shiitake mushrooms, pickled daikon radish and herbs with rice vermicelli in a clear broth.

vietnamese cuisineImage source: vietnamesefoody.com

Bún bò Nam Bộ is a beef noodle salad, originally sold on Nam Bộ Street (now Lê Duẩn Street). Rice vermicelli combines perfectly with stir-fried beef, bean sprouts, fried shallots and peanuts, dressed in nước chấm.

Bún đậu originated in rural Northern Vietnam, on the simple premise of rice vermicelli bundles and fried tofu dipped in shrimp paste or fish sauce.

vietnamese cuisineImage source: amthuc.2017.vn

Fresh from the Water

Like other regions in Vietnam, the North has a vast supply of aquatic creatures, and creative ways to turn them into food.

Chả cá Lã Vọng is a fancy dish of grilled cá lăng (large catfish) marinated with galangal and turmeric powder, then pan-fried with dill and spring onions on the dining table, and served with rice vermicelli.

vietnamese cuisineImage source: chacahathanh.vn

Chả mực is a fried fishcake made from cuttlefish pounded in a mortar and pestle, a Halong specialty.

Bánh đa cua is popular in Haiphong, using the local red rice noodles called bánh đa đỏ and a broth made from tomato and minced paddy crab.

vietnamese cuisineImage source: dulichbaitho.com

Miến lươn, both soup and dry versions, consist of glass noodles made from mung beans, stir-fried or deep-fried swamp eels, and herbs. It is best served spicy.

Where to Try it in Hanoi

1. Bánh Cuốn Bà Hanh – 26B Thọ Xương, Hoàn Kiếm District

2. Phở Cuốn Hương Mai – 25-27 Ngũ Xã, Ba Đình District

3. Xôi Vân – 216 Hàng Bông, Hoàn Kiếm District

4. Bánh Khúc Quân – 35 Cầu Gỗ, Hoàn Kiếm District

5. Phở 10 – 10 Lý Quốc Sư, Hoàn Kiếm District

6. Bún Chả Đắc Kim – 1 Hàng Mành, Hoàn Kiếm District

7. Bún Thang Bà Đức – 48 Cầu Gỗ, Hoàn Kiếm District

8. Bún Bò Nam Bộ – 67 Hàng Điếu, Hoàn Kiếm District

9. Bún Đậu Trung Hương – 49 Phất Lộc, Hoàn Kiếm District

10. Chả Cá Lã Vọng – 3 Chả Cá, Hoàn Kiếm District

11. Bánh Đa Cua An Biên – 111 Triệu Việt Vương, Hai Bà Trưng District

12. Miến Lươn Đông Thịnh – 87 Hàng Điếu, Hoàn Kiếm District

Banner image source: dauhomemade.com


Best Banh Mi in Hanoi

By: Tran Thi Minh Hieu

Who’s selling the best bánh mì in Hanoi? Let’s find out in this virtual tour around the capital of Vietnam to visit our selection of famous bánh mì stores in Hanoi, and see who has the most delicious interpretation of this famous Vietnamese street food.

1. Bánh Mì Trâm

Situated at the corner of Đình Ngang and Cửa Nam streets, Bánh Mì Trâm has been around for more than 20 years.

Its specialty is Bánh Mì Thập Cẩm, with a dish of assorted ingredients: a slice of pâté, a fried egg, Vietnamese ham and pork skin sausage, and cucumber all slathered with the store’s signature sauce.

Having all the ingredients deconstructed is not the traditional way to serve bánh mì, and that’s exactly why Bánh Mì Trâm is unique in its own right.

banh mi
Image source: hanoi.tintuc.vn

Beside Bánh Mì Thập Cẩm, you can also try Bánh Mì Sốt Vang, which is the Vietnamese version of beef bourguignon — a French beef stew made with onions, mushrooms and other veggies — served with the bánh mì.

Address: 30 Đình Ngang, Hoàn Kiếm District

2. Bánh Mì Bảo Quyên

This store used to be located on Lãn Ông Street. It became synonymous with that location and many still call it “Bánh Mì Lãn Ông”, even though it is on Chả Cá Street now.

banh miImage source: kenh14.vn

Bánh Mì Bảo Quyên is famous for its pâté, which used to be the main ingredient. Presently, a serving of bánh mì here is more filling than in the past, with pork floss, ham and barbecued pork added, together with cucumber and cilantro.

Address: 8 Chả Cá, Hoàn Kiếm District

3. Bánh Mì Phố Cổ

Another store serving traditional bánh mì with pâté, Bánh Mì Phố Cổ is conveniently located on Đinh Liệt street, near Hoàn Kiếm Lake.

banh miImage source: guu.vn

Here you can choose from a range of ingredients to put in your bánh mì, including barbecued pork, pork skin sausage, Chinese sausage, and Vietnamese ham.

The store also has Bánh Mì Bít Tết, or bánh mì served with eggs, fries, pâté and steak on a pan — as Bít Tết is the Vietnamese pronunciation for beef steak.

Address: 38 Đinh Liệt, Hoàn Kiếm District

4. Bánh Mì Bà Dần

Established in 1979, Bánh Mì Bà Dần is one of the oldest bánh mì stores in Hanoi. Bà Dần’s son is now the owner of store, and he has managed to maintain its reputation among locals as well as travelers.

What’s unique about Bánh Mì Bà Dần is the freshness of the baguettes. Every three hours, new baguettes arrive from the bakery, and this means the baguettes at the store are always crunchy.

banh mi
Image source: lozi.vn

The ingredients are nothing but traditional, including pork liver pâté, Vietnamese ham and pork skin sausage.

Address: 34 Lò Sũ, Hoàn Kiếm District

Banner image source: kenh14.vn

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