Restaurant review: Quan An Ngon, Vietnamese cuisine, Hanoi

June 19, 2010

Even before I discovered Luke Nguyen fabulous Vietnamese cookery book “The Songs of Sapa”, I was a fan of the countries splendid cuisine.

When we walked out of our hotel, we passed by a very busy eatery, full of life, people and somehow a very inviting atmosphere. Well, let’s have dinner there! And in we walked. We were seated at a table with other guests, a Vietnamese family.

“Quan An Ngon” was written on the menu, which was brought to us by friendly waiters (who do not speak much English). So that must be the name of the place, I thought. We browsed through it and ordered some “recognizable” dishes: a fish (mackerel), some dofu/tofu and some green mango salad. I also had some buns, Chinese style, where they are called “mantou” with sweet milk. The drink of our choice was a cool Hanoi Beer.

Delicious mackerel

Green mango salad with peanuts

Dried dofu/tofu with dipp

Hanoi Beer

“Quan An Ngon” traditional Vietnamese restaurant has a large garden part where one can sit outside under tarpaulins but also the inner part of the restaurant, housed in a colonial style building is very appealing and attractive. The cooking is conducted in a kind of roofed “out houses” surrounding the courtyard. I could not resist to take some photos.

The outhouse kitchen

More outhouse kitchen

Lots of happy eaters

The place is usually packed with people, groups of young women, families but many below the age of 30 I would say. We were definitely having a negative impact on the median age of the customers. It’s a noisy place with a lot to look at. Especially for a foreigner who does not have much time to look around it is just a great place to get a feeling of Hanoi and it’s people. I highly recommend a visit.

The price level is modest. We ate for about 120.000 Dong per person. Needless to say, the very next day we went back for another fill of delicious Vietnamese food.

Address:
Quan An Ngon
18 Phan Boi Chau,
Hoàn Kiếm,
Hanoi, Vietnam
Tel.: +84 4 39428162
E-mail: ngonhanoi@vnn.vn i

Directions: Between Ly Thuong Kiet and Hai Ba Trung, one block East of Le Duan.

PS: When writing this story, I found that Quan An Ngon is a kind of a chain restaurant with dependencies also in Ho Chi Minh City.

The restaurant reviews on the internet are not all good. Especially seasoned Vietnam travelers seem to be disgusted somehow and feel that on the street proper, the food is tastier even if less “safe”.

Well, the fact that Quan An Ngon is full with Vietnamese people (my guess 90% of the customers) suggest otherwise.


Vietnamese delight – lazy Saturday

April 25, 2010

Bubbly to start a wonderful weekend. In the background Luke Nguyen’s beautiful cookery book about Vietnam

Finally, we had some rain on Saturday morning which might be an indication that a season’s change is in the making. Anyway, it was cooler than normal which needed to be celebrated with a Prosecco. That’s how it started. In the background there was music from the Skyehooks, a Melbourne cult band from the 1970ies. All four of us we were very relaxed, did’nt have to be anywhere, did’nt have to go anywhere, in short quality time.

The cooking started with us making our first fish sauce. We followed Luke Nguyen’s recipe. I will not provie it here but instead encourage you to buy the book yourself. It is called: “The Songs of Sapa” and is the most fascinating cookery book I have seen in a long time.

The fish sauce recipe of Luke Nguyen

This is what it looks like: The home made fish sauce

After that the fish cakes were made, also a recipe from the above book by Luke who has become a kind of celebrity chef in Sydney. Together with his sister Pauline and Mark Jensen he has his own restaurant called Red Lantern.

Fish cakes sizzling in the pan…..

…….and on the plate

Rice vermicelli

Fresh salad leaves

Voila: this is what it looks like on a plate

You do not need cutlery or chop sticks, no, just use your hand. get some vermicelli on the salad leave, take some fish cake and dipp it in the fish sauce: hmm. You will not believe me but this is the most delicious “finger food”. What we forgot in all our enthusiasm was the plate of mint leaves. We will try this next time.

My go at it

The last question: what about the wine? Well, I hose my favourite Riesling from Alsace, a simple ‘2007 Hugel Riesling’, a wine with zest and character, young and vibrant, a citrus bomb for the taste buds.

Hugel, one of my favourite Riesling wines from Alsace

If you have the chance to get your hands on Luke’s book, please do so. It is worth it. The recipes he has collected are wonderful. Vietnames cusine is light but at the same time filling. After this wonderful lunch we were not hungry until late in the evening.

And this is what the cookery book looks like:


The ultimate Vietnamese cookery book

March 21, 2010

Unfortunately, during my recent visit to Hanoi and Saigon I had no opportunity to check out the various culinary highlights of these fabulous places. I was part of a large delegation and had no choice regarding the food, or almost no choice. Not that we had to eat bad food. However, I could not explore the local cuisine. There are some truly extraordinary places to be found, from traditional Vietnamese cuisine to all kinds of fusion cooking.

“The Songs of Sapa” is the title of a Vietnamese cookery book which is most amazing. Luke Nguyen an Australian from Sydney whose parents came as boat people and refugees, has produced a marvelous book summarizing his various travels to Vietnam. He collected many recipes and reproduced them in this book. The pictures are outstanding, really.

Luke is very well known in Australia. He runs Red Lantern, a Vietnamese restaurant in Sydney. I would love to taste his cooking. For the time being I have to be content with the cookery book and because it is so magic, it will do for me here in Bangkok.