I thought I’ll document my favourite things in hanoi in case some internet stranger finds it useful, else I’ll just drown in nostalgia some time later when I look back upon this post again. These may or may not be in order of preference:
sua chua (yoghurt)
It seems like yoghurt is a relatively popular dessert in hanoi, and the yoghurt seems slightly different from the typical yoghurt. I’d seen a couple of youtubers having local yoghurt while in hanoi, so I tried to find something on google maps. It led me to Sữa chua thạch lá nếp — the stall owners didn’t speak english so I had to awkwardly point to a bowl someone else was eating. Hence I had no idea what I’d ordered, but I fell in love with it. It has some yoghurt, a caramel pudding, a variety of fruits, and some jellies. I liked it so much I went back for it another 3-4 times. We ate it sitting on mini stools by the roadside.
kem bo (avocado cream dessert)
There are avocadoes everywhere in hanoi, even on maternity nutrition posters printed decades ago. Again, I sought this out because I saw a youtuber (thanks youtube!) eating it. The particular stall we went to had a multitude of flavours, so I tried avocado cream with caramel pudding, and also avocado cream with cheese (cubes, sprinkles, ice cream). We tried another stall, but still preferred this one — the avocado cream was surprisingly not that sweet. This was another place we went back multiple times.
Hanoi is known for egg coffee (which you should also try), but we fell in love with salt coffee instead, which is a hue specialty. Most non-black local coffee in hanoi is actually sweetened with condensed milk, which in my opinion enhances the overall flavour and layers, and reduces the harshness of vietnamese coffee. We tried salt coffee from a variety of cafes but our favourite one is called “salt mate”. It has salt coffee, and another version that is “cream coffee” on the menu, but it is actually delicious salt coffee with a ton of decadent cream.
hoan kiem lake on weekends
Hanoi is famous for its very chaotic traffic but every weekend roads around hoan kiem lake will be closed to traffic. You could see people just strolling around, kids playing, people exercising, etc. It is a wondrous sight. I took the opportunity to jog around the lake, and it just felt so pleasurable to jog with a tremendous amount of space around without the typical constraints of a foot path. It is very thought-provoking: what a city can do to enliven its people, and how that will in turn impact the richness of the city.
I normally don’t get to eat pizzas because I’m perpetually on a low carb diet, but since it was my birthday weekend I decided to give myself some leeway. I thought it was strange that one of the most highly recommended dining places on youtube was actually japanese-fusion pizza, so I thought I had to try it to see what was the fuss. Their service was impeccable, we asked if we could sit on the rooftop since we don’t dine indoors (due to avoiding covid), and though their rooftop was not open they kindly opened the window next to our table for us. I can’t imagine a restaurant in Singapore doing the same…
Anyway, we tried a half-half pizza, the 5 cheese portion of it was great, I wouldn’t bother with the fusion sliced beef part, would probably pair it with another more pizza-like flavour. We couldn’t resist the 4-cheese dessert, which was also really good.
Bun cha is made internationally famous by Anthony Bourdain and Barack Obama – I wonder if this is slightly offensive to people in hanoi since it is a much-loved dish before all the media spotlight. The restaurant that served them doesn’t mind all that publicity though. We liked it so much we went back 3 times to eat it, and it is a pretty low carb meal if I skip the vermicelli (hope this is not sacrilegious to the vietnamese).
It is difficult to describe the savouriness of bun cha: sour, sweet, a little burnt, a little refreshing. It is unlike many asian dishes, though I could imagine it as satay drenched in a light sweet broth. I like lettuce wraps, I wish we can have more lettuce wraps everywhere.
making a personal stamp
We saw this on youtube (it is actually useful to watch a few vlogs on the destination) prior to the trip as well. My partner is an artist and thought it would be nice get something to stamp on her artwork. You could get a premade stamp with your name carved on it, for us we drew a sketch for them to carve. It can be collected the same day or the next.
For some reason the baguette in hanoi seems a lot more crispy than the ones we can get back home. Not that I eat a lot of baguettes due to my carb restriction. The way they do banh mis in vietnam is just different – probably due to the ingredients and seasonings available and their local tastebuds. I guess banh mis available out of vietnam is catered to the locals in that specific location.
We tried two of the most highly recommended ones: Banh Mi 25 and Bami Bread, but our favourite is Banhmi LongHoi, which we found highly rated on google.
Hanoi has like 5 cafes on every street and I am not even exaggerating. We loved both the local sidewalk cafes and the hipster-looking ones. It was inspiring for me to see how different cafe owners express their creativity.
sitting on the streets
One of my favourite things to do is just to sit on the streets on these little short stools, have a coffee and people watch. We just don’t have these sidewalk cafes in singapore.
For a chronically ill perpetually existentially depressed person like me, there aren’t a lot of things in life that gives me a sense of aliveness. Travelling is one of those few things, because it is mind-opening to experience a world different from mine. Everything seems peculiar and wondrous in a foreign city.
I don’t always take the effort to document my travel experiences, but for me I tend to dwell on the misfortunes I have had, so I need constant reminders that there were parts of my life that were good. Hence, my obsession with documenting my life. I wish to remember all my selves who have lived.