Thursday, April 17, 2008

Food Trip all over Vietnam and Thailand

Dinner at spiffy, posh Hong Ngoc Restaurant: Pork meal with “small” order of rice – haha! – and a mushroom soup. Cost: VND 200,000 ($12.40), Hanoi

Tom Yum Goon (B90/$2.85) and Pasta (B70/$2.20), Coke in Can (B20/$0.60), at the "Brown Coffee", Pier near Wat Phra Kaew, Bangkok

Stir fried chicken with garlic and pepper, Four Sons Village Guesthouse, Soi Rambuttri, Banglamphu area, Bangkok. Cost: 60 baht ($1.90/PhP80). This was my favorite during the whole trip. I must have returned 4x at the same place just for this. It felt like comfort food then.

Food was never on the “menu” every time I travel. It has always been about places, accommodations, and transportation that highlighted my concerns. Even during my very first solo backpacking trip – which was in Europe, hopping on and off European trains on a whim with no prior reservations for 3 months – food didn’t become a major concern. If there was a McDo nearby, I was contented. In Berlin, the most German delicacy I’ve had was an apple strudel. In Segovia, I felt like a connoisseur after trying out their own version of lechon (“roast pig”). I wasn’t too fond of those “steel-belted” 2-feet long French breads in Paris! In London, I was delighted with a bag of fish and chips – with a dash of salt and vinegar (cod, please!) And of course, you can’t escape the paellas of Madrid. Other than those mentioned, my gastronomic experience during such travels is nothing to boast of.
Lately though, I’ve caught myself actually reading the “Food” section of each Lonely Planet city guide and taking note of the local culinary pride. I’ve started noticing how the Vietnamese love their coffees bitter and very sweet; or how odd it was to find a sweet potato (kamote) in a Khmer’s curry. My whole 3-week trip in Vietnam and Thailand was more enlightening. I found out that I wasn’t too different from the other travelers. Both my German and London-based Malaysian friends had no idea what a Tum Yum Goon is (which might as well be Thailand’s national dish). I taught them that. Haha. As I was checking out my stakes of photos, I realized I had too many “food pics”. So I decided to dedicate a special photo-blog of all the culinary delights – both good and bad, scrumptious or gag-inducing, cheap and expensive, fine-dining or street food - during the whole trip. This constitutes a wide range of dishes, fruits, and anything that I could masticate, swallow and digest! Bon appetit!

Sumptuous breakfast buffet at the posh and newly renovated New World Lodge Hotel, riverside, Banglamphu area (one of the very few high-end hotels in the Banglamphu area), Bangkok. Cost: B1,600/pax/night, breakfast inclusive ($50.80)

New World’s chili version of stir-fried chicken, New World Lodge Hotel, Cost: B150 ($4.75)not to mention the gustatory damage it did to my tongue and buccal mucosa. It was hot~! Hot! Hot! My mouth was on fire.

Lunch at our Coral Island (Koh Larn) visit, an hour travel from Pattaya. Cost: B1,200 ($38) for the whole tour which includes this mediocre set.

Street food: garlic fried chicken. YUM! It was so delicious I wanted more! Tumutulo ang laway ko remembering it! Hehe! Sarap! Cost: 40 baht ($1.25). Saw this stall while taking a stroll along the main stretch of road facing the beach in Pattaya, South Thailand.

Chicken Meal, some small café, Hanoi. Cost: 55,000 dong ($3.40)

Street food: rice cake of sort. These cakes are fried, cut into little squares, then dipped in a sauce, and eaten beside the vending lady. Cost: 10,000 dong ($0.62). I brought my cake with me on my way to Hoa Lu and Tam Coc.

Dinner at another high-end restaurant, Dinh Fang Restaurant, located just beside Hoan Kiem Lake, in the heart of Hanoi. Crunchy and delicious spring rolls (small order: 170,000 dong/$10.50), braised grilled chicken (165,000/$10.20), plus “normal” sized rice (40,000 dong/$2.50). The moment I went up the steps, I knew this was gonna not going to be cheap. We were paying for the touristy atmosphere, the magnificent view of the lake, the French-speaking Vietnamese waiters, the ethnic musicians playing ( a lady was giving roses to each table. Cost (including service charge, etc.): 450,000 dong/ $28.

Dinh Fang Restaurant, Hoan Kiem Lake, Hanoi, Vietnam

Fruits galore at a stall near Tung Trang Hotel, Hanoi. I bought several pieces of huge atis aka “sugar apple” half the size of my head. Cost:20,000 dong per piece.

Guava-looking fruits locally called "tao" (taw).

Breakfast at the Ciao Cafe: Sausage, bacon, fried eggs and a super-sarap hash brown (45,000dong/$2.80) and orange juice (20,000 dong/$1.24 )

Atis aka custard apple aka sugar-apple. Cost: 20,000 dong a piece. Had fun eating the huge piece at a bench facing Hoan Kiem Lake, Hanoi. One Viet even stopped and asked for the other piece sitting beside me. No-no-no!

Dessert at the Highlands Coffee (Viet’s version of Starbucks). This one was set on a boat parked by the dreamy West Lake. Capuccino Cheesecake (right, 35,000 dong/$2.18) and Crème Brullet (left, 40,000 dong/$2.40), plus fresh coconut juice (40,000 dong/$2.40). Didnt like the cheesecake at all as I couldn't taste the cheese at all.

Hanoi Marina Restaurant dinner buffet, West Lake, Hanoi. One amazing, delighful discovery in Hanoi. All these, plus several replenishments, several change of dishes, 3 more table stretches plus drinks, Cost: 99,000 dong/$6

Hanoi Marina Restaurant is located at 12 Tran Vu-Ba Dinh, Hanoi, just a stone’s throw from Ho Tay or the West Lakes

Dessert table at the 99,000 dong-buffet at Hanoi Marina Restaurant

Boat vendor at the Surprising Cave visit, Ha Long Bay, Vietnam

At 8 degree Hanoi weather, I couldn’t resist trying a scoop of French-Vietnamese ice cream at a small restaurant across the street from Hoan Kiem Lake. Cost: 11,000 dong/$0.68

Brunch at the posh-looking Hapro Bon Nua Restaurant located infront of the street just across Hoan Kiem Lake. At first, the well appointed lighting and interiors may seem intimidating for the budget conscious, but the prices turned out to be affordable. Not the cheapest, but quite alright. Dish: Grilled Pork Ribs. Cost: 75,000 dong/$4.70. Although tasty, the consistency of the meat was rubbery. Ang tigas! I got tired slicing through my meat! Haha. As I’ve mentioned at an earlier blog, I have noticed that the Vietnamese are quite clueless what to do with their pork dishes.

Hapro Bon Nua interiors.

Name the fruit! These horrendous, bettle-looking fruits taste like a sweeter version of singkamas/turnip. Really delicious! I finished the whole supo on my way back to Hoan Kiem Lake. Who can name this fruit? They are peeled then popped in the mouth. Cost: 35,000 dong/kilo or $2.15

Another fruit stand in Hanoi.

Street food: an ambulant vendor cooks and prepares these egg sandwiches right on the sidewalk. Nainggit ako and got one myself. Hanoi. Cost: 10,000 dong/$0.60

Looks delectable, di ba?

On my last night in Hanoi, I spotted this cozy looking restaurant-café, Maxx Café. Dish: Vietnamese Chicken with special sauce. Cost: 55,000 dong/$3.40

Interiors of Maxx Cafe, Hanoi, Vietnam.

Patatim-like pork dish that I shared with my Malaysian friend Irene at a Chinese carinderia in Chiangmai, Thailand. Cost: 45 baht/$1.40

A carinderia at a Lampang bus stop on my way to Sukhothai. Unfortunately for me, most of them were spicy so I ended with just an egg dish and rice. Damage: 45 baht/$1.40

A carinderia in Lampang, North Thailand.

Pastillas everywhere, Lampang, North Thailand.

A rice meal cooked up by the server (cook/waiter) just for me. It was a fried rice mixed with vegetables, chicken and egg. They only had noodles so I asked if they have any rice meals. He came up with this. Delicious, actually! New Sukhothai Bus Station. Cost: B50/$1.60; coke in can B15/$0.45

Brunch at Tops Restaurant, Airport Plaza Mall, Chiangmai, North Thailand. Cost: 60 baht/$1.90

Stir fried chicken with garlic and pepper, Four Sons Village Guesthouse, Soi Rambuttri, Banglamphu area, Bangkok. Cost: 60 baht($1.90/PhP80). Couldn't leave Bangkok without having one - again!

This is the Eye in the Sky!

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