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Vietnamese

Breakfast Pho.

imageAfter the soupy disappointment from the night before I spotted a pho station at the breakfast buffet of the ‘Mövenpick Hotel Hanoi’ we stayed at. This soup was different, even though nothing compared to ‘Pho Hoa’ in HCMC it was still miles ahead of yesterday’s bowl. The chicken soup, still light, had hints of cinnamon, giving it this distinct fragrance I love so much about pho and as it was breakfast I simply overlooked the fact that the noodles here were actually pretty soft as well. The added bunch of crunchy sprouts however ,made up for their lack in bite and even though the condiments were also limited to chili and lime here, the spice nicely kicked my butt and woke me up good.

This is a great hotel conveniently located in the business district of Ha Noi and the breakfast selection at the ‘Mangosteen’ nicely mixes Vietnamese and international cuisines. The pho was obviously not the most unique bowl I have ever had but this breakfast version made me curious to taste their à la carte bowl as well.

Mangosteen Restaurant (at Mövenpick Hotel Hanoi)
83A Ly Thuong Kiet Street
Hoan Kiem District
Ha Noi
Vietnam
Tel: +84 (04) 3822 2800
http://www.moevenpick-hotels.com/en/asia/vietnam/hanoi

There’s still hope.

imageI was back home for hardly one week and even though it was just for a couple of days I already craved some Asian food. Doing a bit of research online brought us to ‘coa’ (cuisine of asia) in central Stuttgart. At first I was pretty sceptical about this place as it offered a big mix of dishes from Vietnam, Thailand, India, China etc. and I would have felt better if they were specialized in just one type of cuisine but now we were here already, so what?

We had some Vietnamese ‘Summer Rolls‘ which were quite tasty actually but I didn’t really get the fact that they just served the ingredients and we had to assemble them ourselves, one of those weird “food experiences” I suppose. We also had the ‘Shao Mai‘ which I didn’t like but then, I never really do. As main we both ordered their ‘Pho‘ and I had ankle-height-low expectations that this was going to be any good. What a nice surprise it was then when it turned out being pretty delicious. The broth was super good, full of that cinnamon I miss so often and there were many herbs like coriander floating around in it too. The noodles weren’t anything too fancy but the meat was softly tender and super lean.

They messed up our orders a couple of times so we had to wait quite a while for our food but the staff handled the situation fairly clever by throwing in some free espressi at the end of our meal. Generally I must say though that eating here actually made me pretty happy. It was probably not the best pho I have ever had but it can easily keep up and even outdo some of the bowls I tried in Singapore and it’s always fantastic to find some decent Asian grub in good old Germany. I’ll remember this one.

coa – cuisine of asia
Lautenschlagerstr. 23
70173 Stuttgart
Germany
Tel: +49 (0)711 2184 2566
http://www.coa.as/

A great friend recommend.

imageFriends invited us to join them for Vietnamese dinner tonight at ‘Viet Express’ at China Square and even though I was a bit worried about that unpromising name I was confident that our friends would’t bring us to something boring. It actually didn’t look like an “Express” kinda place more simple and a bit frumpy but the food here was really a surprise. I ordered my all time favourite,  ‘Pho Bo‘ with sliced raw meat. First slurp and it had me, this was the best pho I have had in Singapore to date, nicely infused with cinnamon and with this light beefy sour taste. It got even better after I threw the side greens and a good dash of the chilli and oyster sauce into it. The sharp onions and some fresh chilli made it nicely spicy, the beef was lean and tender, alone the noodles were nothing surprising. Service related I wouldn’t know what to write about really as besides serving the food we ordered pretty much nothing else happened but some things are just secondary after a delicious meal. Thanks A. and D., this one comes on the list.

Viet Express
3 Pickering Street
#01-34 China Square Central (Nankin Row)
Singapore 048423
Tel: +65 6536 9114

Vietnamese, my new after workout food.

imageOne branch of my yoga studio is directly next to this shop in Tanjong Pagar so it was just a matter of time until I would come by here for some after workout pho.

I ordered their ‘Summer Fresh Rolls‘ as starters that were probably not super authentic but exactly how I like them, fully packed with greens, fresh herbs, prawn and instead of the so often weirdly grey pork they used chilled chicken breast. Light and fresh. My main was set on ‘Pho Bo‘ with sliced beef which turned out to be quite tasty. The beef was lean and beefy, the noodles were ok and the broth had a decent flavour even that it wasn’t that strong. They provided some greens, sprouts and chilli to add to the soup but I just always miss the tables full of greens that I only found in Vietnam so far.

All in all not bad and I am glad to have such a dinner option so close after a tough yoga class that I surely will “stop” by again some time soon.

Pho Stop
21 Tanjong Pagar Road
#01-02
Singapore 088444
Tel: +65 6221 4001

AfterworkOUT Bún Bò.

imageI had been thinking of Vietnamese food for around a week now and so ended up at ‘Viet Inn’ at Boat Quay after a yoga class just around the corner.

It was a hot yoga class so I didn’t really feel like a steaming bowl of ‘Phở‘ today and therefore ordered the semi-cold ‘Bún Bò Xào‘ (dry rice vermicelli with braised beef) instead. I was starving and thankfully this was not a small portion at all, loads of cold vermicelli topped with more loads of panfried vegetables and beef. The fried veggies and the beef tasted pretty good, they were a tad too oily but mixed up with the rice noodles it was just fine. The Thai basil and fried garlic, the  crunchy peanuts and the raw carrots and radish added some extra textures and freshness  to the whole thing which disappeared in no time.

It’s a normal looking place with no special atmosphere or flair, the service is sufficient and the food was simple but good. Probably not something I would jump in a taxi for but passing by I might be giving that ‘Phở Bò‘ a try sometime.

Viet Inn
49A Circular Road
Singapore 049404
Tel: +65 6536 1847

Seven Hours, Fourteen Dishes.

imageThis was on nearly every Singaporean based foodblog the last couple of weeks and since a friend asked me to go and I had never been on one of those events we went early Saturday to start with an early lunch.

Where to eat first was already decided before we even arrived  – the ‘Porchetta Sandwich‘ from the ‘The People’s Pig’ (USA). This was one good start of the day. Eventhough they only gave out half sandwiches, those were delicious. The suckling pig like roast meat was juicy and pleasantly fatty with a sweet and spicy chili jam on top that gave the whole thing a bit more punch. The bitter flavor of the arugula balanced out the fattiness and spice and to top it off they added a nice piece of crackling which I would have loved to be bigger. The Inside of the ciabatta bun was dipped in the pork jus which gave the sandwich an even meatier taste. So we were off to a good start.

imageWith the pork sandwich half way down we strolled a few stalls further for the ‘Tacos‘ from ‘Tacombi’ (USA). First disappointment was they didn’t offer the ‘Beef Tacos‘ anymore as they apparently didn’t turn out right in this climate. Second disappointment was that the ‘Fish Tacos‘ weren’t really that good. The battered and fried fish was super dry and so was the tortilla they used. Even though the chipotle sauce was quite tasty and the red cabbage was nice and crunchy I felt unsatisfied.

imageNow it was time for some Asian food and so we head for one of the longest queues all the way at the end ‘Phan Rang’ (Vietnam) with their ‘Banh Xeo & Banh Khot‘ combo. ‘Banh Xeo‘ I already had before in Vietnam and these ones were really tasty filled with crunchy sprouts and vegetables and fried crispy on the outside. The ‘Banh Khot‘ were like little egg tarts with prawns and I wished they would’ve been a bit longer on the heat as some of them were quite raw inside tasting like undercooked omelette but overall still not bad but I didn’t envy the chef, assembly-line-frying both dishes without a break.

imageSwitching back to western cuisine we opted for the ‘Soft Shell Crab Burger‘ from ‘Euro Trash Food Cart’ (USA) and yet another dissapointment – they ran out of their beef paddies so we had to go for the plain crab option. This slowly started to seem like a pretty “incomplete” event. Luckily even without the beef paddy this was a pretty awesome burger once I did get over the fact that I ate a whole crab with everything in and outside, I’m weird like that. The crab was crispy and still moist inside and the thousand island like dressing gave it a nice fresh touch. Just the bun was more the sweeter kind which I found slightly odd.

imageFurther on the western trail we arrived at the ‘Swamp Shack’ which sold ‘Shrimps & Grits‘ and their so called ‘Smothered Chicken‘. The shrimps were mega crunchy with a very dry batter which held up pretty well against the gravy and the grits which was like a corn polenta, nice and fluffy yet very filling. The chicken dish had the same gravy with mashed potatoes but I had a hard time finding some meat in there. Good comfort food with the grits as my favorite component.

imageNext up was ‘Soto Tangkar‘ by ‘Pak Haji Diding’ (Indonesia). The soup was quite rich and a tad spicy but the beef didn’t really cut it as it was too chunky and tough for my preference.

imageNow this was one of my highlights of the day, the ‘Seafood Tostada‘ from ‘La Guerrerense’ (Mexico). On their sign they offered two different kinds but our crispy corn tostadas came with everything on it they had in stock. The seafood topping was a cevice of fish, crab, shrimp, tender octopus and delicious sweet scallops that must have just hopped out of the sea. This was then finished off with a big cajun style marinated shrimp big chunks of avocado and a spicy shrimp lemon juice with peanuts. So delicious complex simplicity.

imageUntil now we had stayed away from the Indian stalls as many of them seemed to sell quite filling stuff but this one looked pretty interesting and so we tried the ‘Litti Chokha‘, little charcoal baked buns with a mix of tomatos, potatos and eggplants as well as some mint sauce to go with it. The buns were harder on the outside and crumbling on the inside and soaked up the condiments pretty good. I really liked the vegetarian chokha as it was nicely light and suited the buns well.

imageAs they had both, beef as well as pork jerky we ordered the ‘Hainan Fen‘ from ‘Hai Ya’ next. Apparently a very common dish from the Hainan province in China but I had never heard about it here. Thick eggs noodles were topped with a multitude of ingredients – beef and pork jerky, cilantro, chives, peanuts, sprouts, little shrimp, squid and a soya based gravy. I realy liked it, especially the jerkies and peanuts and even the tiny shrimp weren’t as fishy as I thought. One thing I would have loved to have missed though was the squid which was also some kind of jerky, pretty strong in taste and hard to pick out as it camouflaged itself as noodles.

imageEnough of the filling dishes we went back to India and tried the ‘Chicken 65‘ from ‘Abhishek’. This fried chicken was covered in a wondeful spice mix with a citrusy fragrance and the sweet spiced dipping powder took it all to the next level. That was awesome and I just wished lean chicken breast was more popular in Asia as that would have made this even better.

imageAfter all those hearty dishes it was time to check out the dessert corners of the fairground and so we started with ‘Kue Pancong‘ (Indonesia) that were lightly baked coconut cakes in a special shape topped with white sugar. I love coconut so this was right up my alley, maybe just a little dry.

imageThe next sweet affair again came from India and was offered by a Singaporean stall named ‘Heaven’s Indian Curry’. They offered a dish called ‘Putu Mayam‘ or ‘String Hoppers‘ which was basically freshly pressed and steamed rice noodles topped with bright orange sugar and grated coconut (also available with chicken curry). This was great and tasted quite light cause of the steamed noodles and the dessicated fluffy coconut with a sweet cover of orange caramelized sugar. If you missed the fair their shop is at #01-15 Ghim Hoh Market and Food Center, 20 Ghim Moh Road.

imageBefore washing all that wonderful stuffing down with the one or other Warsteiner we had one last sinful dish, the ‘Sticky Rice Banana‘ from ‘Nam Bo’ (Vietnam). I was lucky queueing up at the right time as the staff on the fairground told me this is by far the most popular stall and waiting can be rather long during peaks. I really like Thai ‘Mango Sticky Rice‘ and thought this might be similar but here they wrapped banana chunks in glutinous rice before grilling it over coales wrapped in bana leaf and finishing it with a thick sweet coconut sauce and sesame seeds. Eventhough I would have wished for more banana this was a lovely closer to an endless seeming feast and so seven hours and fourteen dishes later (I didn’t count the seconds of ‘Porchetta Sandwiches‘) we finally capitulated and didn’t move too much for a while.

I really enjoyed my first food fair experience even with some sold out items and complete stalls being closed like the Danish pork buns which I was so looking forward to. What really pissed me off was that they re-opened on Sunday again. Dang!

http://www.wsfcongress.com

World Streefod Congress 2013
Singapore F1 Pit Building & Paddock
1 Republic Boulevard
Singapore 038975

Visiting Pho Bo At Home!

imageSome friends and I spend a weekend over in Saigon or Ho Chi Ming City in Vietnam for a birthday celebration and visiting a common friend at the same time. It was a weekend full of fun and delicious food but there was one particular place I heard a lot about before and which I definitely wanted to visit, ‘Pho Hoa’.

On our last day and as our last meal in Vietnam we made the trip not far from our hotel to the very beginning of Pasteur Street where this shop is located. When we arrived all the tables were pre-stacked with a big plate of herbs like basil, mint and mustard leaves, lime wedges, youtiao the fried dough sticks, bean sprouts and other dishes like ‘Vietnamese Wedding Cake‘, ‘Steamed Meat Cakes’, bananas and so on. I went for a mix of ‘Pho Tai‘ (raw meat) and ‘Pho Chin‘ (brisket) which came out the kitchen corner steaming hot. After mixing in herbs, chilis, lime juice and sprouts we started slurping. It was very nice and clean but I was hoping for more cinnamon which I think gives this dish a special twist. Nevertheless it tasted really nice. The noodles were ok but nothing too special about them. The brisket was nicely tender and long cooked but a little fatty on the edges. My favorite though was the raw meat. On the picture it looks like mince but it was super lean and lovely tender and juicy, so if I should come back here in the future this is the one I’m gonna get.

Overall this place is pretty good and I would definitely come back again but I might have overhyped my expectations as so often and was left slightly let down by the lack of cinnamon. I still really liked it and hope that Singaporean pho shops will also start offering herbal plates for self service eventually as I love my pho rather leafy.

For more of my pictures of ‘Pho Hoa’ and the other food from our Saigon weekend check out my twitter (#phohoa, #saigonfood).

Pho Hoa                                                                                                                                                             260C Pasteur Street                                                                                                                                     District 3                                                                                                                                                                 Ho Chi Ming City                                                                                                                                         Vietnam