Travel: Our Macau/Hong Kong Getaway (6D/6N)!

Follow our 6 day, 6 night adventure in these lands of amazing food, awesome culture and astounding sights. See how we ate, shopped and laughed our way through Macau and Hong Kong! :)

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Friday, June 28, 2013

Travel: Hanoi Day #1 - Bún Chả Đắc Kim @ Hang Manh, Old Quarter, Hanoi

Previous post: Exploring Old Quarter Hanoi, brilliant view of Hoan Kiem Lake and drinks at Avalon Cafe

After a scorching afternoon exploring some of the nooks and crannies of the Old Quarter, we went back to our hotel on Au Trieu St for some unpacking and sat around in the air-conditioning a little. We had already bought tickets for a water puppet show that night at 8pm, so at about 6-ish we headed out to the streets again for quick bite.

Just a constant whizzing by.

To our surprise, the day was already fast dimming by the time we went out, due to the winter month approaching. In November though, the temperature was still really hot in the afternoon, but a pleasant cool in the night. Nothing that calls for warm clothing though.

6pm is a time where their rush hour starts, so there was a mad influx of motorcycles and cars in the Old Quarter! Just a constant symphony of honks and flashing lights.

It still doesn't fail to amaze me when I look back on these pictures... do you see four people on that motorbike? It's crazy!

Plus he's trying to cut through the traffic...

Anyway, we soon made our way to Hang Manh street on foot, which didn't take us too long. It's an approximately 15 minute walk from our hotel near St Joseph's Cathedral, and I suppose it would have taken us a lot quicker if we weren't so scared of crossing the roads :p

The destination in mind? Bún Chả Đắc Kim, located on the end of Hang Manh with a distinct blue and white striped awning.

Bún Chả is a popular Vietnamese dish consisting of noodle and grilled pork and is thought to have originated from Hanoi. Something similar you get in Vietnamese restaurants here would be the bowls of vermicelli that's served with various meat, like lemongrass chicken or spring roll served with raw lettuce and crushed peanuts. That day though, we were about to try some authentic bún chả.

Not quite knowing what to do, we entered the small, cramped restaurant and perched ourselves on some tiny stools right opposite the "kitchen". There's only about 6-8 small seats where we were, but you can either sit outside or make your way upstairs for more seats.

Halved limes and chopped chillies and garlic

We ordered four portions, one for the each of us and soon lots of bowls starting making their way over to our table. You're just supposed to mix and match everything according to your liking, which was handy because the four of us all have different preferences and spice tolerance levels. :p

The bún (thin white rice noodles, or vermicelli) was served to us on a large plate and basically, you're supposed to take a serving of noodles and dip it into their prepared dipping sauce.

Each person gets their own bowl of dipping sauce, an already flavourful concoction of fish sauce and vinegar,  with floating pieces of green papaya (like those used in Thai papaya salad - som tam) and chilli. In here, is where you can add in some lime, or even more chilli and garlic to adjust the flavours to your liking. The result is something sweet, umami yet tangy all at once, a fusion of flavours that the Vietnamese seem to have perfected.

An extremely generous serving of raw vegetables and herbs was also plopped down on our table, a common sight in Vietnamese eateries. We couldn't quite place our finger on all that was served, but I think we counted basil, mint and some cilantro.

If the bún is the noodles, then what's the chả, I hear you ask? The chả is a mixture of pork in this case - grilled slices of thin pork belly, some fattier than others, and some small juicy minced pork patties, all quickly grilled upon order. The serving was extremely large for a person, and so you should consider sharing portions if the ladyboss allows it. Otherwise, it'll be massive meat and grease overload, like us. :D

I think this was one of my favourite meals in Hanoi. Add a mouthful of herbs and some grilled pork to your vermicelli and dip it everything into the fish and vinegar sauce for a lovely marriage of flavours and satisfying textures. 

I found the minced pork very tasty, with a nice hint of charring and lemongrass. That got dashed pretty quickly when Adam & Zhen Han started dubiously questioning the actual meat that was in the patty. -__- If you can look beyond that question mark, then you'll have no issues here.

Bún Chả Đắc Kim also does a mean serving of nem cua be. These were delicious and straight out of the frying pan and onto our table. Piping hot, the nem had been stuffed full of crab meat, lean pork, egg white, rice noodles and chopped carrots and mushrooms, a very yummy, slightly sweet-ish combination which I think is due to the crab flesh and carrots. The rice paper rolls are also deep-fried till really crispy.

The grilling happens outside of the shop

Bún chả and some nem are definitely street food must-tries when you visit Hanoi. The flavours are very appetizing and downright tasty! Just remember, portions per person are very large, so do try to share. Dinner for the four of us (four portions of bun cha and nem) and drinks came up to a total of VND 390,000 which works out to be approxmately RM 60/US$ 20 or RM 15/US$ 5 per head. 

Bun Cha Dac Kim 
No. 1, Hang Manh Street,
Hoan Kiem, Hanoi, Vietnam
Tel: 3828 5022

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