Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Mermaid (Nhu Y) Restaurant in Hoi An

Well on to Hoi An, after a search of the internet I found some good recommendations for a resturant in the old part of town called the Mermaid. Here is a review on the New York times travel site  and their own site Hoi An hospitality

Most of the reading I have done on Hoi An food talk about the influence of Chinese cooking on the traditional food of the city. I was sceptical  that the Chinese influence would be so apparent but as I was soon to find was that both the flavour and style are heavily influenced by Chinese cooking. Coming from Vancouver I could quickly pick out the influences as we have so much fine Chinese cooking available here.  

First up we had a prawn mango salad that came with crispy rice crackers. As they came together i assumed that the cracker was to put the salad on. The salad was great and when it was placed on the crisp the texture was enhanced by the crunch provided by the crisp. By its self the crisp was interesting but in combination with the salad it was brilliant, good on the cook on making the combination.

The salad was crisp fresh and the combination of mango, fish sauce and prawns, made for a salad that yielded surprising flavor combination. I loved how the mango added its sweet acidic note to the salad. I so want to reproduce this salad but I think that finding a consistent supply of the right mangoes will be difficult. Maybe as a special when we have a good seasonal supply of the right mangoes as preserved mangoes would not have the right acidity

We had a noodle dish with pork medallions that was good as the meat was lean and salad fresh. I have to admit that we did not eat it all as it was a complete meal on its own; we had more dishes to try so we just had a taste. It would make a nice light lunch with the right balance of noodles and meat. The salad, herbs and crispy crouton chips rounded out the dish perfectly.

The next dish first put me mind of Mexico but I will suspend the thought as this is suppose to be authentic Vietnamese food. I am sure it is just a case of different cuisines coming to the same place using different ingredients but with same results. Take one crispy won ton wrapper (Chinese influence) place a spoonful of a combination of minced ship and tomato and you have a Vietnam dish that reminds me of a nacho dish. Of course the comparison ends with the how the dish is put together as the taste is very much Vietnamese. This is a great appetizer as it is flavorful has a pleasant crunch but not filling. The combination of the fresh tomato and shrimp mixture with the crunch was spectacular.

Now to a very Chinese influenced dish or accurately a Chinese dish influenced by the Vietnamese. Steamed meat filled won tons with caramelized onions that are dipped in a fish sauced based dip. It was a successful combination though the dish did have the feel of a Chinese dish reinterpreted for a Vietnamese palate.

We then had a taste of a chicken and rice dish that again would make a good one dish meal. The dish is set up for the customer to mix the ingredients, chicken, rice, onions, marinated carrot and radish garnish, herbs with a lime. Again a nice dish that is a good variation on chicken fried rice with a fresh crisp flavour that is great as a main dish.

The next dish is a barbecued chicken dish; it was good, nothing was standout so I do not remember much about it.

The last dish was a banana crepe with chocolate sauce; it was tasty and a perfect end to the meal.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

KHÔNG GIAN XƯA restaurant, we had to go back and over eat again

We were so impressed with the food at KHÔNG GIAN XƯA restaurant we had to go back to try more of their food. I can not impress upon other enough that this restaurant is worth finding and eating at if you are anywhere near Hue. We twice stuffed ourselves silly and we still wished we had more time to go back and eat more. I am sorry to say this was one of those time when my camera decided to not work well in low light and I was unwilling to use a flash in a busy classy restaurant.

The dish I did get was the stand out of the meal for me so it was not a complete waste of time. It was a dish of stir fried clams with deep fried rice wrapper. The clams were so tiny, not much bigger than a grain of sand, more like a minced meat than a whole clam. It was whole clams but I had to hold it up to my eye to tell that they where whole. The seasoned clams were cooked until the mixture was slightly dry with peanuts and herbs added.


The dish was eaten by using a piece of the crisp rice wrapper to pick up the clam mixture to eat. The result taste and texture was extraordinary, I loved this dish. The clam mixture was meaty with a spicy finish that was perfect with the crispy texture of the wrapper. I could have almost made this  my whole meal as I could have eaten a few plates of this dish. I would love to add this dish to our menu but getting the clams would be difficult. The dish had the perfect balance of taste and texture; I wish I could have a bite right now.

Second restaurant in Hue

Update: Back in Vietnam, in a Village west of Hanoi again. We had a good time in Thailand but I am glad to be back as Bangkok was so busy. We shopped till we dropped several times over the ten days we were there and I am happy to be back in the slower pace of Vietnam.

The second restaurant we went to in Hue was one of the many tourist restaurants in the the city that have a menu that includes some of the local Hue specialties. I was surprised that they made food as well as they did as they looked more set-up for making non-Vietnamese dishes for the tourists.

We started with a plate of salad rolls made with a fresh rice flour wrap, tasty with a nice texture provided by the fresh rice wrapper.


This was followed by a banana wrapped rice flour roll with ground pork and spices. It was very tasty but so think you had to scrape the mixture off the leaf; would have been better with more filling. And yes I did eat every bit of it as it was quite good.The cook should be proud of the taste if not the portion size.

We then had two squid based dishes, one with deep fried rice noodles and one stir fried with vegetables. The one with noodles had and interesting texture but the one with vegetables tasted better. It would have been better if the stir fry had been placed on top of the noodles. 

We next had a Vietnamese pancake much like what we have in the restaurant, the major difference was that it was not made with coconut milk which made their version not very tasty. It was very crunchy but lacked  richness that the coconut lends to the dish. The sauce was different than what we use at the restaurant it was not based on fish sauce rather it had a sesame seed flavour with garlic; not quite as nice as ours.

The next couple of dishes were not so great so I will just say that the deep fried egg plant was horrible and the Bo la lot had a grainy hard texture to the meat. Sorry to say there was nothing to learn from these two dishes so I will leave out the pictures.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Little street snack in Hue

We were were walking around Hue and we were approached by a older woman selling small dumplings. I wanted to taste them as they looked so good so we bought a small bag.

The vendor put the dumplings in a bag and covered with herbs and fish sauce. When I ate them I felt the full heat of Hue but delicious. Chewy with a small crunchy shrimp in the middle.

A simple snack that satisfied my hunger and burn a new hole in my stomach, just kidding but it was smoking hot.

Lunch in a market in Hue

(Sorry to say I have been unable to get on the net much as I am right now in Bangkok Thailand and have had no internet access until we figured out a way to use our internet stick from Vietnam.)

We stopped in a small local market to have a bite to eat as we were hungry and wanted some local eats at a good cost. I love market food, probably risky but worth it to have the taste.

As you can see the food is mostly precooked and sits in the display case until bought; not the safest way to keep food but it works.

The meal prep area was primitive but the owner was able to present very tasty cheap food.

The first thing we had an appetizer plate with Nem (raw preserved meat), barbecued pork and salad rolls. I did not eat the Nem as I do not like most that I have eaten but I did enjoy the pork as it was tender and nicely spiced. The rolls were the real treat as there were not wrapped in the usual re-hydrated rice wrapper rather the wrap was a freshly cooked. The wrap was soft and gave a contrast to the crunchy contents. The dip was a variation of a peanut based sauce.

I had a bowl of Bun Bo Hue (the only soup the place made) which was tasty but not what I would recognize as Bun Bo Hue. The broth was not as strong or as hot as I expected. The owner may have altered the soup as she thought I could not eat it if it was Hue hot. I loved the meat balls as they had a rustic texture and were very tasty. The blood was kind of plain but properly cooked; I would have liked a little salt added to the blood as it was cooked.