Instead, we were bowled over by Bun Cha (below) which is Hanoi grilled pork balls served with cold rice noodles, a pile of raw green herbs, lettuce and lots of minced garlic and chilli. It may not look very appetising but it was by far, the best thing we had eaten during our stay. At 20,000VD (US$1.50) per serving, it was far more satisfying than the meals we had at the posh restaurants.
It takes a bit of courage for foreigners to enter a roadside eatery that is in a dismal state of hygiene. We were apprehensive at first but hearing ML rave about it, we had to try of course. The first thing that greeted us was the delicious smell of grilled meat over charcoal fire.
Motorcyclists passing by are drawn to the smell like flies, stopping by for a quick meal before heading to work. We avoided sitting near the dusty road and settled for a table at the back of the miniscule shop.
The food arrived quickly and soon we were piling everything into the bowl like the locals. The sweet and savoury soup has a distinctive taste of fish sauce which instantly becomes more delicious with the addition of fresh garlic and chilli.
We also ordered a side dish of fried spring rolls. Filled with minced pork, shredded vegetables and bean noodles, it was tasty but not quite as fantastic as the bun cha!
In fact, we were so crazy over the bun cha, we trooped over to the dusty stall near our apartment to savour another bowl before leaving for the airport on Tuesday. This time, I gave raw garlic a miss in case I end up with garlic breath all day.
When it comes to sampling a wide array of local food, the best place to visit is Quan An Ngon, a Vietnamese foodcourt selling traditional food. It was bustling with tourists and locals when we arrived for lunch on Saturday. I like the ambience right away but felt a little queasy when I saw grilled pigeons and sparrows for sale! No baby birds for me please!
Anyway, my appetitie returned instantly when the food appeared before me. We ordered papaya salad garnished with lots of cashew nuts.
I had my eyes on the shaved ice dessert which is very similar to our chendol in Singapore. It was very tasty.
We were lucky to have the Hanoikids guides with us. In case you're wondering, they are student volunteers who bring tourists around the city. They spent the entire day with us and in return, we treated them to lunch. Thanks to them, we were able to sample many varieties of their local food.
Fried spring rolls.
Savoury rice rolls.
Rice rolls stuffed with vegetables.
Pho with sliced beef and pig trotter.
Throughout our stay, we dined at some good restaurants and cafes. Here's a peek at some of the things we ate.
Passion fruit juice