Vietnam Recommendations -- need help in multiple cities
I am heading to Vietnam in a couple of weeks and am looking for recommendations for restaurants in Hanoi, Hoi An, Ho Chi Minh and Nha Trang.
The only seemingly solid recommendation I've got thus far is Bobby Chin in Hanoi.
I am also interested in hiring a local guide in Vietnam that has some culinary knowledge to be our guide and translator.
Any recommendations are greatly appreciated.
Hi - I'm in Saigon as we speak. I have roughly the same itinerary (Na Trang excluded).
My background is in anthropology, my partner is a trained chef... so we are really interested in getting in the thick of things with food in Vietnam. I've been using the following resources to get my recommendations:
The Chowhound Posts:
Lots of good food recommendations: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/305572
More recommendations : http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/683258
Hanoi recommendations: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/727187
HCMC recommendations : http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/263045
Another HCMC trip report : http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/679542
Hue or Hai On for food? http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/684246
More trip reports: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/727187
- Food blogger http://globaleats.blogspot.com/search...
- Expat Vietnam blogger Gastronomer http://gastronomyblog.com/category/ea....
- Expat Saigon blogger Noodle Pie's Saigon recommendations: http://www.noodlepie.com/2005/11/top_...
- RECOMMENDED SOURCE Food blogger and cookbook author http://www.vietworldkitchen.com
-- Saigon restaurant recs http://www.vietworldkitchen.com/blog/...
-- How Little Saigon is Like Real Saigon but Not http://www.vietworldkitchen.com/blog/...
- Ultimate Food Guide to Vietnam http://www.travelandleisure.com/artic... (questionable as a trusted source
)-- Anthony Bourdain’s Lists
Anthony in the Central Highlands http://www.travelchannel.com/TV_Shows...
-- Anthony in Saigon and Hoi An http://www.travelchannel.com/TV_Shows...
- Rick Stein’s list http://www.vietworldkitchen.com/blog/...
I've been here for four days, I'l type up a trip report as I go along. But a few things I've learned along the way:
1. VET YOUR SOURCES. Particularly, do NOT trust general travel sites/guide books for restaurant recommendations. Just because some schmuck posted a rave restaurant review on traveladvisor (or even chowhound), doesn't mean they have similar tastes as you. Bless their hearts, but that couple who's favorite restaurant is that National Chain Restaurant? They probably aren't going to be the best source of information for you regarding restaurants, even if they've visited Vietnam and you haven't. Find the sources/people you can trust ... and everything else, take with a MAJOR grain of salt. I'd even go as far as saying, regarding tourbook/travelsite recommendations... run the other way.
2. EAT ON THE STREET, that's where the action is. Street stands, markets, make-shift restaurants. For me, it's hard to resist the sidewalks teeming with locals blissfully devouring their food. Understandable that street food might give you some pause. But it's worth it to at least make a few cautious-and-prepared forays into this world.
Viet World Kitchen wrote a great post on how to stay safe while eating in Vietnam:
Watch what the locals do - where they go , and what they order and eat when they are there. If they are avoiding a particular stand, dish, or ingredient - do it too. The Vietnamese seem to have a pretty good awareness and sensibility of basic food hygiene, more so than many other similarly-developed countries I've visited/lived in.
I also pre-load every day from potential hazards by eating yogurt - some people take acidophilus pills.
3. EAT WITH THE LOCALS II. If you must travel on a group tour somewhere with other tourists, instead of eating with the tourists try going off the reservation... eat with your tour guide and driver or just take to wandering the streets. Anything but eat the set tourist meal. Even if it means crowding into the restaurant alley with the chickens and crouching around a little table with your driver... you're going to have a better experience than eating the mediocre-at-best tourist set meal with the fancy place settings.
4. TAKE A GAMBLE. If you take a gamble on a restaurant/food stand and you're not liking it... if have the time/energy/inclination, consider cutting your losses. There's no shame in saying "this isn't working for me... let's try another stand". Food costs are relatively low - you can try a couple places and still not break your budget. Yah, sometimes you just can't bother and just gotta take one for the team and eat a few bad/unimpressive meals here. It kind of comes with the territory of culinary exploration instead of playing it safe in well chartered food territories like the US or Europe.
Basically, if there's ever a time to hone your Food Radar to sniff out good spots, Vietnam seems the ideal place to do it. The risk/reward ratio for exploration is in your favor. Restaurant recommendations from trusted sources are relatively sparse given the pure volume of good food out there. It's cheap enough where a few misses won't have as much monetary pain. It's clean enough where you can explore with relative assurance that you're not going to keel over and get sick after every meal. There are enough tourist restaurants where you can always opt to play it safe if you're not in a particularly adventurous mood. And most importantly, you're very much in a food culture. Dive in.
We just left HCMC and had an ok eating experience compared to what you can find in thailand or china.
Quan an ngon - after reading so much about quan an ngon my expectations were high. The atmosphere is charming and very relaxing. The menu is extensive and maybe this is where we fell short, the dishes we had were good but not spectacular. We ordered the:
-- fried spring rolls which were yummy
--pork casserole with lemongrass which I thought was ok
--their version of bahn mi with filet and fries which was nothing to write home about.
--Pork spareribs were excellent
Our next stop was com nieu sai gon @ 6c tu xuong st in district 3. This was probably our favorite. It was all locals and packed during lunch. A very good sign. This place was featured in Anthony bourdain's show and written up in NY times article. They are known for this rice clay pot dish that they throw around before serving. Although it's a little showy, the food there is pretty solid and authentic. We had the
--lotus root salad with beef -excellent
--pork casserole - good
--shrimp spring rolls - great
--assorted mushrooms with garlic
If we could have I would have like to have tried one of their fried fish dishes and a hot pot of some kind. I noticed many of the tables had some sort of soup, never mind that it was a thousand degrees outside.
The last stop was Minh duc at 100 ton that tung st in district 1. Honestly our meal sucked there but I t was because of the language barrier. If I had to do this again I'd try to go with someone who spoke Vietnamese as i notched two other tables of foreigners that were accompanied by a local. Secondly, I would not order anything from the the food that was on display. We were forced by the hboc to order from there not realizing until after the meal that the locals all sat down frost and ordered from these pink menu booklets that were on the table. Btw, I looked through it and the menu was all in Vietnamese and I doubt they had an English version. This was another place mentioned in the NY times for it's great local flavor and wish I could have tried their slow simmered pork belly.