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An old college friend of mine lives and works in Ho Chi Minh City and I went to visit him and travel around for a couple weeks. Although a third DC friend was scheduled to join us (and thus balance out the itinerary in favor of more non-food activities), he was delayed several days by the snowgasm in DC and then by United Airlines nitpicking, so it ended up being an unabashed food-oriented romp around the country. A few notes:

1) I was expecting relevatory Phở, and did not find it. The dish is better in the US in almost all categories except herbage...the array of fresh cheap herbs in Vietnam is unparalleled.
2) B�nh m� are fantastic, and even cheaper in Vietnam than in the states. The "Op La" is a breakfast option with a fried egg on it, and it's fantastic.
3) There were so many "wrap your own" dishes that I fell in love with. Mustard greens ftw.
4) Vietnamese beer sucks (no surprise there) but there are some German and Czech brewpubs that make some more acceptable pilseners and dunkels to help balance out the crappy rice lager that is the country's standard.
5) The language is tonal, and thus very difficult to speak well, much less understand. I was very lucky to have a friend there who spoke the language and could sort out any translation difficulties.

City by city:

H� Nội:
Unfortunate timing meant we were in Hanoi for the beginning of the Tet holiday (Ch�c Mừng Năm Mới!) and thus all of the places we'd been recommended were closed. It's truly sad because another friend claims Hanoi is his favorite food town in the world, and I didn't feel like we got a very good sample of what it has to offer.
Thịt Nướng - street vendor selling little skewers of marinated and grilled pork. first thing we ate and a clear "best dish in the city" choice, although probably also a front-runner in the "most likely what got me sick" contest
Ph�ng Hưng Market - probably not what it's actually called, but it's on Ph�ng Hưng street and had a lively assortment of whole birds and fresh fruit/veg.
Bun Ca - a fish and noodle soup from a street vendor that was doing some fairly decent business. easily one of the worst things we ate all trip, the broth tasted like water and oil, and the fish was just crappy deep fried chunks of bland white fish.
Legends Brewery - standard brewpub with Bia V�ng ("yellow beer", a pils) and Bia Den ("black beer", a dunkel), just average beers. cool second level terrace overlooking the busy square and corner view of the lake.
B�nh cuốn - another unnamed place, stumbled into when yet another recommended place (Phở Thin) was closed. these little mini rice-crepe-ish things were filled with dry mushrooms and topped with fried onions. pretty tasty, especially when dipped in fish sauce (which came with some floating bits of something else...tofu or very bland pressed pork?).
Hoa Vien - the bar was closed but they were staffed with two guys who were just selling pre-filled growlers to go. my friend used his vietnamese skills to convince them to let us drink a Bia Den on premise and then take home some Bia V�ng. the V�ng is probably my favorite of the Vietnamese microbrews that we had, a nice hoppy czech pils. there's one of these in HCMC too.
Chao Ga - desperate for dinner, we finally found a place that was open on Tet Eve, this divey place service chicken porridge. Not very good, but filling.
B�nh m� Op La - late-night street vendor hooking up the egg sandwich with pork on top!
Phở b� - the dish that originated in Hanoi, probably my favorite thing about Vietnamese food before I started this trip. we tried two street vendors after exhausting the recommended places (and finding them all closed). both were disappointing: lackluster herbage, weak chicken-y broth and crappy beef.
Squid Beignet - at some touristy french-ish restaurant that happened to be open. the name should've been a tip-off, but this was pretty terrible, like really bad fried calarami.
Gold Malt - a brewpub a little bit outside of the main downtown area. beers were just ok.
Hang Be Market - my first exposure to chả gi�, deep fried pork spring rolls. ubiquitous in Vietnam, I tried the offerings at two different food stands in the market and both were delicious.

Huế:
After a string of bad noodle bowls in Hanoi, the food here was a fantastic uptick in quality.
Cơm Hến (28 Truong Dinh) - baby clams, rice, peanuts. mild clam flavor, delicious bowls
B�n b� Huế (on L� ThÆ°á»ng Kiệt) - a thinner noodle than Phở, spicier and with pork and beef partying together in the same bowl. one of my favorite noodle dishes we had the whole trip.
B�nh Nam - a restaurant serving lots of small bite-sized rice rolls with shrimp (paste, whole shrimp, etc). can't recall the name of this place, but it was great.

Há»™i An:
A more touristy town than the previous two, we ate pretty well here.
Mango Rooms - easily the most expensive meal of the trip so far, something like $35 for a four-course lunch. portions were a bit skimpy (not as much of a bargain as I was expecting) but everything was tasty, especially a starter of sesame-fried scallops with onions and chiles.
Cao L�o - at a random restaurant near our hotel. specialty of Hội An, a dry dish with peanuts, grilled pork, and a uniquely-textured noodle (apparently treated with lye). pretty tasty.
Phở b� - at a random restaurant near our hotel. no better than the street versions in Hanoi.

Hồ Ch� Minh City:
The country's economic center and my friend's home base, this was where virtually all of our great food finds came from. The itinerary was all laid out before we even got to the city, and we stuffed our faces with glee for several days.
Bến Th�nh Market - great spot. here i tried durian fruit (i like stinky cheese and sour beer, but i couldn't take more than a couple bites of this before giving up) and balut (Hột vịt lộn in Vietnamese...fertilized duck egg). a bit hectic, but a really cool market.
Hủ Tiếu - Tung Hung is the name of the place, and this was the best noodle dish of the trip. basically pork Phở with a dash of shrimp. after a few setbacks on the food adventure, this is when we really starting hitting high notes
Qu�n Ăn Ngon - 160 Pasteur. a bunch of different street food vendors gathered into one huge restaurant. lots of "make your own roll" style stuff: grilled meats, veggies, noodles, herbs, and rice paper for you to wrap and then dip in fish sauce or other sauces. fantastic stuff.
Phở b� - tried it at Phở Bắc Hải H� Ná»™i (29 Nhuten Thi Minh Khai) and it was again, nothing special. on the other hand, the đặc biệt at Phở H�a (260C Pasteur) was the best bowl of Phở the whole trip. finally a broth i loved, and some tasty beef (tendon, flank, but no tripe)
Qu�n 94 - a crab restaurant (at 84 Dinh Tien Hoang Street...don't be confused by the other places with the same name on this street) with some fantastic stuff. Chả gi� cua (crab spring rolls, deep fried), Miến x�o cua (crab with glass noodles), and cua lột x�o me (soft-shell crab with tamarind sauce) were all pretty excellent, the soft-shells especially.
B�nh m� - two places: at the first, a small street stand across Mạc ÄÄ©nh Chi from the US Consulate, i tried the Op La (egg) and a regular pork one. both very solid and super cheap, like $.75 apiece. at the second, Bamizon (across Nguyen Van Chiem from the Diamond Plaza), pork set me back more than a dollar (horrors!) but was a touch better than the pork from the street stand.
B�nh x�o - savory crepe-ish things that are simple and delicious. we tried to go to "B�nh x�o 46A" but it was closed so we ended up at another place whose name i can't remember (B�nh X�o A Phủ maybe?). you cut off a bit of crepe (with shrimp and pork inside), place it in your mustard leaf or lettuce, add herbage, roll up, and dip in fish sauce (are you noticing a pattern here?). excellent.
Wrap and Roll - 62 Hai Ba Trung. another place with a penchant for rolled things, and done really well. menus with english translations, and food likely tailored a little for the tourist trade (although we were the only obvious tourists there). still really good mustard leaf spring roll and grilled eel.
Ty Coz - classic french at 178/4 Pasteur. the last night of the trip, and the most expensive dinner of the trip. p�t� de campagne, dragonfruit and passionfruit sorbet, duck magret with pommes de terre au gratin and pepper sauce, and gaufre with whipped cream and a pear puree. very good for the price, but not without flaws. still, i'd recommend it.
Nguyễn Du Brauhof - another german brewpub with more variety than any other so far: lager, dunkel, weizen, m�rzen. nothing great, but all solid.

Ph� Quốc:
An island off the southern coast, I spent a couple days here by myself at a remote beach resort. Went on a night squid fishing trip (3hr on board fishing and eating) and rode a motorbike around the island, but mostly did a bunch of sitting around and eating the mediocre hotel fare.
Grilled Squid - since i was by myself for this trip, i'll just be naming the dishes in english. these were the freshest squid i'd ever eaten (having just been caught by myself and others on board), and were fantastic simply charcoal-grilled in squarish chunks.
Grilled Clams - again, simply grilled with chives. delicious.
Thang Loi - resort where i stayed (Thang Loi) was a beautiful setting and a great place to relax and drink beers, but unfortunately the resort was pretty far from the main city so it was difficult to explore. The food was fine, but boring: fish in a clay pot, squid stuffed with rice and pineapple, chả gi� with fish.

Photos are here, if you are so inclined.

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I really enjoyed reading the details of what you ate on your trip. I haven't had the opportunity to travel a great deal & I've always wondered if I'm missing out by getting local versions of various cuisines (my favorites-Thai, Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Vietnamese(I think I was Asian in a previous life), Mexican, & German & Belgian beers), but maybe not-I do feel fortunate to live in this area & have the opportunity to sample so many different cuisines. I hope you enjoyed your trip, I would love to visit Vietnam someday...

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So, just got back from a tour in 'Nam. We did a medical mission project there, teaching the Vietnamese docs how to treat cancer in a modern, evidence based way. Interestingly, they practice without residency training, and don't have lectures/presentations, didactics, text books, or basic science instruction. I couldn't imagine trying to treat that way ... They made me feel like an honorary Vietnamese, and have invited me back!

But, on to the food. I was in Hue most of the time, the imperial capital and home of probably the more austere dining culture in the country. There are stories about why this is the case, and I'll leave it to Mr. Google to explain that further. On the very first day, we went on a food tour given by Tom at hueflavor.com. It was one of the single best tours I've ever been on - with the places we went to eat, a tour of the market, and historical facts - I learned a lot. There were 16 different foods sampled.

The Bun Bo Hue is a hometown favorite. We got it at the most famous place, the name of the place is the same as the famous dish it serves. I can't give you an address, but it's on the side of the river across from the imperial city. It's a breakfast, maybe lunch food. Beef/pork noodle soup in beef broth, typically served quite spicy, but it doesn't have to be. I don't eat beef, but they have an option where there is no beef in it, though it's made in a beef broth. I was okay with that. It was great stuff! Super flavorful, they use 2 meats to make the broth, and it takes several hours (the post above said, "pork and beef partying in the same bowl". I really like that. Later that week, I talked to some of the younger doctors about it. It's a typical breakfast for them, they can't really make it at home because of the time for the broth, but it's very nourishing for their tough work days.

The other dishes included the famous Banh Khoai - a rice pancake stuffed with deliciousness - pork, veggies. It's griddle fried and when made at the better places it's crispy and light, and at the places that don't really specialize in it, it can be softer and more crepe like. The sauce is peanut based, with liver, and shrimp paste. It does sort of organ-y, but I liked it. I didn't ask what animal the liver was from because I didn't want it to be cow (I utilize the old military hiring strategy, 'don't ask, don't tell', in foreign countries). I had it two more times, but the first place on the tour it was the best.

We went to a place that served basically tapas, dumplings and other small items. It was an alley, and a place that mimics many of the small dishes that used to be prepared for the king. That dude was kind of a jerk, he would ask for like 60 small courses during these dinners, and they weren't even parties sometimes. Just a typical Tuesday night, watching "Vietnamese Idol" and he's asking for 60 dishes... Anyway, they had banh beo, these discs of steam rice stuck to the bottom of a flat small dish topped with shrimp in some powdered form, served with fish sauce/chilis. Really tasty. They had some other dumplings, a long shaped one with shrimp in it with the shell still on. Another one made in a banana leaf with a similar filling. When the head of the radiation department took me out for dinner, I ended up going back - it's a super famous place, but very tucked away, and no westerners in sight. Nem lui was another item, grilled meet on lemongrass with a tasty dipping sauce, usually pork based but can be chicken, too. Bun thit nuong, grilled pork over vermicelli noodles. It was good, but it's something that is made great in Eden's Center, too. There were a bunch of other non-notable things (I didn't care for the tapioca things, glutinous/gelatinous items, or the pinnate leaf cake). Anyway, the tour is great, you are on a cyclo (seated, with a man pedaling in front of you) and the tour guide rides a bike. You see most of the city.

We had com hen, which has tiny little clams, clam broth, peanuts, rice, herbs, chilis, banana flower, and other stuff. It's awesome. One of my favorite things I've ever had. Reminded me of some lao stuff. You can have it "wet' with more broth, or "dry" with less. You can have a version of it with noodles, which is bun hen. It's made in little shops with all the ingredients laid out in front of the cook, and they put it together in front of you. With the chili sauce, it is so spicy. There are a lot of places in Hue that serve it, I went to one near the hospital, Phuong Phuong ("direction direction"). Ask the people you meet where their favorite is. Another night, I was at one of those little convenience stores that puts out tiny chairs and tables where people hang out and drink Huda beer. They pulled out a bag of something and put it in a bowl. It was com hen. They saw me looking and these guys invited me over to try it and drink beer with them. Very welcoming people.

Had two meals at this awesome place, Tan Huang Phat, not far from the Morin Saigon Hotel. It's tropical in design, sort of a huge hut. Not a westerner in site, nobody speaks English, and the "English" menu doesn't have the same food as the Vietnamese menu. I hate when places do that! Anyway, the radiation oncology department took me to this place. What a find! They go there often. They had this fried goat dish that was awesome, pork ribs, thinly sliced goat (sort of like goat bacon) with a sauce, morning glory with garlic, I believe a roasted duck or chicken (they have living ones there that they kill and cook, pretty wild), and a whole steamed fish that was out of this world. If you can go here with some Vietnamese people, you will probably have a better meal. I ended up taking the other volunteers there the last night in town and we ordered basically the same things.

Had some Western food at the Imperial Hotel, a club sandwich, because my GI tract was taking a beating by the end of the week. Beautiful view, terrible food, very expensive, even by Western standards. Club sandwich was an interesting riff on it, and included a fried egg and chicken rather than turkey. Breakfast was always at the hotel, buffet was pretty good. So much awesome Vietnamese coffee, rich and dark and intense. Very sweet. Condensed milk made it even more delicious, I can feel the type 2 diabetes coming on. They drink it 3-4 times a day, always served cold. I liked mine "Saigon Style", a little more water, making it a taller drink. The regular version "caphe meu" is just 2-3 oz, and I was done with it in like 5 minutes. They sip it slow, and I just don't know how to do that. Went to the famous "DMZ" bar/grill twice. It's the ex-pat place, but the locals love it, too, especially the ones that like American music from the 60s - 80s. The food there is actually not bad, but I stuck with pizza. My Vietnamese protege said when he first started working at the hospital, he was there like 7 nights a week. He can sing nearly every Queen song and counts Freddie Mercury as a hero. I found that to be hilarious.

What a food paradise! It's funny, I piggybacked the trip with a week in Bali which I thought would have better food, but it was only okay. It's very heavily touristed now, the traffic was incredible, and it's drunk Australians as far as the eye can see.

I can't wait to actually be able to order properly in Falls Church, now!

S

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So, just got back from a tour in 'Nam. We did a medical mission project there, teaching the Vietnamese docs how to treat cancer in a modern, evidence based way. Interestingly, they practice without residency training, and don't have lectures/presentations, didactics, text books, or basic science instruction. I couldn't imagine trying to treat that way ... They made me feel like an honorary Vietnamese, and have invited me back!

But, on to the food. I was in Hue most of the time, the imperial capital and home of probably the more austere dining culture in the country. There are stories about why this is the case, and I'll leave it to Mr. Google to explain that further. On the very first day, we went on a food tour given by Tom at hueflavor.com. It was one of the single best tours I've ever been on - with the places we went to eat, a tour of the market, and historical facts - I learned a lot. There were 16 different foods sampled.

The Bun Bo Hue is a hometown favorite. We got it at the most famous place, the name of the place is the same as the famous dish it serves. I can't give you an address, but it's on the side of the river across from the imperial city. It's a breakfast, maybe lunch food. Beef/pork noodle soup in beef broth, typically served quite spicy, but it doesn't have to be. I don't eat beef, but they have an option where there is no beef in it, though it's made in a beef broth. I was okay with that. It was great stuff! Super flavorful, they use 2 meats to make the broth, and it takes several hours (the post above said, "pork and beef partying in the same bowl". I really like that. Later that week, I talked to some of the younger doctors about it. It's a typical breakfast for them, they can't really make it at home because of the time for the broth, but it's very nourishing for their tough work days.

The other dishes included the famous Banh Khoai - a rice pancake stuffed with deliciousness - pork, veggies. It's griddle fried and when made at the better places it's crispy and light, and at the places that don't really specialize in it, it can be softer and more crepe like. The sauce is peanut based, with liver, and shrimp paste. It does sort of organ-y, but I liked it. I didn't ask what animal the liver was from because I didn't want it to be cow (I utilize the old military hiring strategy, 'don't ask, don't tell', in foreign countries). I had it two more times, but the first place on the tour it was the best.

We went to a place that served basically tapas, dumplings and other small items. It was an alley, and a place that mimics many of the small dishes that used to be prepared for the king. That dude was kind of a jerk, he would ask for like 60 small courses during these dinners, and they weren't even parties sometimes. Just a typical Tuesday night, watching "Vietnamese Idol" and he's asking for 60 dishes... Anyway, they had banh beo, these discs of steam rice stuck to the bottom of a flat small dish topped with shrimp in some powdered form, served with fish sauce/chilis. Really tasty. They had some other dumplings, a long shaped one with shrimp in it with the shell still on. Another one made in a banana leaf with a similar filling. When the head of the radiation department took me out for dinner, I ended up going back - it's a super famous place, but very tucked away, and no westerners in sight. Nem lui was another item, grilled meet on lemongrass with a tasty dipping sauce, usually pork based but can be chicken, too. Bun thit nuong, grilled pork over vermicelli noodles. It was good, but it's something that is made great in Eden's Center, too. There were a bunch of other non-notable things (I didn't care for the tapioca things, glutinous/gelatinous items, or the pinnate leaf cake). Anyway, the tour is great, you are on a cyclo (seated, with a man pedaling in front of you) and the tour guide rides a bike. You see most of the city.

We had com hen, which has tiny little clams, clam broth, peanuts, rice, herbs, chilis, banana flower, and other stuff. It's awesome. One of my favorite things I've ever had. Reminded me of some lao stuff. You can have it "wet' with more broth, or "dry" with less. You can have a version of it with noodles, which is bun hen. It's made in little shops with all the ingredients laid out in front of the cook, and they put it together in front of you. With the chili sauce, it is so spicy. There are a lot of places in Hue that serve it, I went to one near the hospital, Phuong Phuong ("direction direction"). Ask the people you meet where their favorite is. Another night, I was at one of those little convenience stores that puts out tiny chairs and tables where people hang out and drink Huda beer. They pulled out a bag of something and put it in a bowl. It was com hen. They saw me looking and these guys invited me over to try it and drink beer with them. Very welcoming people.

Had two meals at this awesome place, Tan Huang Phat, not far from the Morin Saigon Hotel. It's tropical in design, sort of a huge hut. Not a westerner in site, nobody speaks English, and the "English" menu doesn't have the same food as the Vietnamese menu. I hate when places do that! Anyway, the radiation oncology department took me to this place. What a find! They go there often. They had this fried goat dish that was awesome, pork ribs, thinly sliced goat (sort of like goat bacon) with a sauce, morning glory with garlic, I believe a roasted duck or chicken (they have living ones there that they kill and cook, pretty wild), and a whole steamed fish that was out of this world. If you can go here with some Vietnamese people, you will probably have a better meal. I ended up taking the other volunteers there the last night in town and we ordered basically the same things.

Had some Western food at the Imperial Hotel, a club sandwich, because my GI tract was taking a beating by the end of the week. Beautiful view, terrible food, very expensive, even by Western standards. Club sandwich was an interesting riff on it, and included a fried egg and chicken rather than turkey. Breakfast was always at the hotel, buffet was pretty good. So much awesome Vietnamese coffee, rich and dark and intense. Very sweet. Condensed milk made it even more delicious, I can feel the type 2 diabetes coming on. They drink it 3-4 times a day, always served cold. I liked mine "Saigon Style", a little more water, making it a taller drink. The regular version "caphe meu" is just 2-3 oz, and I was done with it in like 5 minutes. They sip it slow, and I just don't know how to do that. Went to the famous "DMZ" bar/grill twice. It's the ex-pat place, but the locals love it, too, especially the ones that like American music from the 60s - 80s. The food there is actually not bad, but I stuck with pizza. My Vietnamese protege said when he first started working at the hospital, he was there like 7 nights a week. He can sing nearly every Queen song and counts Freddie Mercury as a hero. I found that to be hilarious.

What a food paradise! It's funny, I piggybacked the trip with a week in Bali which I thought would have better food, but it was only okay. It's very heavily touristed now, the traffic was incredible, and it's drunk Australians as far as the eye can see.

I can't wait to actually be able to order properly in Falls Church, now!

S

Great post.  Thank you.

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Food report from Hanoi, where we ate extremely well around Old Quarter following recommendations from blogs (Thanis Lim) and locals. I loved that most restaurants we tried only served one specialty dish, which was likely best in class or close to it. All of these places were packed with locals, but turnover was quick due to the small menus encouraging relatively quick meals.

Chả Cá Thăng Long (31 Đường Thành) - Grilled fish with turmeric, dill, and other herbs. Pre-grilled and finished tableside in a hot pot, then assembled with cold noodles, peanuts, green onions, and chili fish sauce. The fish was melt in your mouth tender, and combined with the fresh vegetables was incredibly light and fragrant.

Bún Riêu & Bún Bò Nam Bộ (7 Phủ Doãn) - Street stall serving Bún Riêu (seafood noodle soup) and Bún Bò (beef noodle soup) in the southern style (Nam Bộ). Only had a sip of the Bún Bò, which was similar to Bún Bò Huế and nice and funky; wish I had made it back for a bowl of my own. The Bún Riêu was loaded with crab and tomato flavor, and was perfectly hearty for the cold drizzly weather outside. Fish balls, blood cake, tofu, and pig’s foot provided a range of flavors and textures to complement the noodles and herbs. 

Lotteria - Our stomachs were a bit unsettled at one point so we played it safe with a fast food chain. Lotteria is like a cross between KFC and McDonalds, with slight Korean influences. We got a value meal with 2 pieces of chicken, a bulgogi burger, a shrimp burger. The bulgogi burger was more of a mystery meat patty with a cloyingly sweet sauce, but the shrimp burger was excellent, perfectly fried shrimp with light mayo and crispy lettuce. The fried chicken was great as well, even the breast meat was juicy, and the fries compare favorably to McDonalds. Rounded it out with a fried banana cake from a street vendor outdoors, incredibly greasy but delicious deep-fried goodness.

Bún Bò Nam Bộ (67 Hàng Điếu) - Beef Noodle Salad. Similar to typical bún salad, but two things made this stand out. First, the beef was stir fried to order in a huge wok just before serving and was juicy and fragrant. Second, rather than the traditional dry noodles with nước chấm on the side, this was layered on top of a bed of lettuce and a small pool of soup/beef stock. Topped with some dried shrimp, this dish really didn't need any extra sauce and went down in a flash. They also had a Chinese herbal chicken soup, which packed a serious medicinal-flavored punch, but with shockingly tender meat. Not sure if coincidental or not, but my friend's bout of diarrhea that had been lingering for days was completely cured after this...

Miến Lươn Đông Thịnh (87 Hàng Điếu) - After Bún Bò Nam Bộ, we walked a few doors down to check out this restaurant serving a variety of eel dishes. I only had enough room to try a small bowl of eel soup, but I’m glad I did. The soup was starchy, similar to Chinese takeout Hot and Sour Soup in its consistency and use of chewy mushrooms and tofu. The flavor was heartier and paired well with the chunks of eel floating around. Again, dried shrimp on top provided a crunchy texture and boost of umami. For some reason, I haven’t really seen the same thing used in Vietnamese dishes the U.S., though it seemed to be popular throughout Vietnam.

Phở 10 Lý Quốc Sư (10 Lý Quốc Sư) - Best bowl of phở I’ve had in my lifetime. Phenomenal broth and tender medium rare beef. Didn’t really need any accompaniments besides a squeeze of lime juice to be addictively delicious.

Bánh Mì 25 (25 Hàng Cá) - Clean, professional shop running a brisk takeout and delivery business. This was a little disappointing, perfectly decent bánh mì but not really a standout. In fairness I had left it in the bag for half an hour before digging in.

Giảng Cafe (Ngõ 39 Nguyễn Hữu Huân) - Famous egg coffee cafe found through a narrow back alley. Note there’s another shop next door facing the street that shares the same address number and also advertises egg coffee (seems like shameless piggybacking to lure in confused tourists to me). Egg coffee uses egg yolk in place of cream, a byproduct of a time when milk was hard to obtain in Vietnam. I’m not a coffee drinker myself, but a sip of my friend’s coffee was rich and invigorating. I had a drink of egg yolk and mung beans which was great, though the sweetness was a little overpowering by the end.

King Roti (34 Hàng Gai) - Bakery serving oversized pastries hot out of the oven known as “coffee buns”. I was confused by the term “roti” and the “coffee” in the name, but this are fluffy buns with a crispy flavored topping and either a glaze or filling in the middle. Incredibly delicious and lighter than the size suggests. We came back 3 times in 2 days to try most of the flavors: coffee with chocolate filling, matcha, and vanilla, the last 2 glazed in the center.

 

Pics at https://www.instagram.com/p/BflUY1rlZv-/

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Very short stay in Hanoi yielded one very good meal at Chå Cá Anh Vū (120 Giång Võ). Chå Cá is the turmeric fish with herbs and vegetables, and apparently is found all over Hanoi. This was really nice, with bright flavors and fast and friendly service. I'm not sure when I'll be back in Hanoi, though I hope to be again at some point, so that I can explore more renditions of this dish.

cha-ca-anh-vu.jpg

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16 hours ago, seanvtaylor said:

Very short stay in Hanoi yielded one very good meal at Chå Cá Anh Vū (120 Giång Võ). Chå Cá is the turmeric fish with herbs and vegetables, and apparently is found all over Hanoi. This was really nice, with bright flavors and fast and friendly service. I'm not sure when I'll be back in Hanoi, though I hope to be again at some point, so that I can explore more renditions of this dish.

cha-ca-anh-vu.jpg

It's very cool that you went here - how did you select it?

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Ok, planning a trip to Vietnam with my Mom, I likely would do a good two week trip, maybe even a couple more to add in travel days- 

Things we like to do: beaches, shopping- Mom will love the custom dress making, eating, cool tours, temples, etc.  My Mom is older, and not super athletic- she is fine, but we aren't going to do bike tours for long distances, climb tons and tons of stairs or home stays. We can bike around a city, hike some, etc, just not epic adventures I might go on with Hubby.

We will do a normal plan of flying into Ho Chi Minh/Hanoi and flying out the other.  Mom really wants some time on Halong Bay- and that type of environment is one I haven't gotten yet from my other trips. I am trying to figure out where to prioritize along the way. We loved Bali and Croatia and that is kind of the feel we are going for a mix of beach, water, history, shopping, food. We will likely do flights for big distances, unless the night trains give us a lot more time in one place we want to see.  But I want Mom to be comfortable. 

I have been to Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, India, China- so I am not quite as enamored the big city, temples thing as I was on my first trip over, but want to see all the cool things, and don't want Mom to miss out.    

I would like thoughts on itinerary:

Hanoi with day trip to Ninh Binh (3 days) (Vintage Vespa Tour to see city highlights, Ninh Binh Tour) 

Halong Bay (2 nights, I heard one wasn't really enough to be able to spend a lot of time there, need to find a good company to use)

Hoi An (4 Days)

Hue/Da Lat/ Nha Trang (This is where I need advice)

Ho Chi Minh City (2 days) (Saigon Street Eats Tour or Other Foodie tour)

Thoughts on places you liked- preferences city to city and why?  Also interested somewhat in things to do/ tours/ food recs- but I figure there are so many places, and we will mainly be eating by what we are near. Anyway, not many posts above, hoping a few more people have been. 

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The NY Times 2019 52 Places Traveler, Sebastian Modak, spent time in Da Nang, apparently famous for its beaches, new fancy resorts, and food scene.  Da Nang is a tourist hub for visiting Hue,  Hoi An, and the My Son ruins.      

Eating My Way Through Vietnam's Most Livable City

He recommends using the ride-hailing service Grab as well as taking a Da Nang Food Tour (info in the article) 

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I regret not staying there when traveling in Vietnam. Guides I met frequently named it as their favorite city, and it is so close to tourist central in Hoi An. I did have the best Bahn Mi there when we stopped for lunch! 

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8 minutes ago, ALB said:

I regret not staying there when traveling in Vietnam. Guides I met frequently named it as their favorite city, and it is so close to tourist central in Hoi An. I did have the best Bahn Mi there when we stopped for lunch! 

Would you rather have stayed there and go into Hoi An, or have stayed in both?

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Hoi An is so beautiful, I have no regrets about staying there. (I stayed in a nice little resort out of town though, so had to bike or take taxis in.) BUT I would have stopped for a day or 2 in Da Nang.

 

Nha Trang is also gorgeous. The food was great at local spots, but the scene is touristy (lots of Russian tourists.) I may have replaced that stop.

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