Saigon’s Essential Dishes: Savory and Sweet

In Ho Chi Minh City, commonly referred to as Saigon, the food is uniquely its own. Heavy influences from China and a close proximity to the ocean, along with the bustling, fast developing world of any metropolitan area, has created a cuisine of sweet, savoury, rich and delicious food. Here are four must-eats in Vietnam’s largest city.

Ca Kho To Mien Tay

Clay pots are a big part of southern cuisine. Ingredients are added slowly for up to an hour to create a southern style stewed fish, simmering in earthenware pots, absorbing moisture and creating a rich, caramelized sauce. This is classic comfort food in the south and can come with fish, seafood, pork, or tofu. Indulge in a pot of this caramelized fish at Home Finest.

Vit Nuong Lu

Saigon might be far from China, but the Chinese have had huge influence on Saigon cuisine. Roast duck is a great example. Usually Peking duck is what comes to mind, and with a history in China that dates back to the 4th century, it’s no surprise.

These days, roast duck is a hugely popular dish in southern Vietnam, eaten largely as a takeout dish, to celebrate holidays, ancestral worships, and death anniversaries. You can try the traditional duck, with its thin and crispy skin and moist meat, at Home Finest.

Canh Chua Ca Nam Bo

Similar to fish cooked in clay pots, the sweet taste of the caramel in this dish plays an important role. Unlike the fish cooked in clay pots, however, this dish comes in a hearty soup.

A lot of visitors will imagine soup is saved for the winter, but down in southern Vietnam, it doesn’t ever get cold. Not to worry though, this fish soup stays delicious even when the weather is hot, has provides plenty of fresh herbs to keep it refreshing. Head over to Chopsticks to claim a bowl for yourself.

Che Ba Ba

Considering the hot weather in Ho Chi Minh City, you’ll want nothing more than to indulge in an ice-cold bowl of che (though you can also eat it warm.) Even though we translate che ba ba to ‘southern sweet soup’ on our menu, don’t be fooled into thinking its something like the canh chua ca nam bo, as outlined about. Che is a popular dessert in Vietnam and the “soup” element is made out of coconut milk. So, if you want cooling down, make sure you check out the che at Chopsticks.

A Walking Tour of Truc Bach

Truc Bach is a quiet, peaceful part of Hanoi. Sitting between the havoc of Hanoi’s Old Quarter and the serenity of West Lake, Truc Bach is a lakeside slice of town that goes at its own pace. When visiting Home Restaurant, be sure to make an afternoon of it and explore our charming neighborhood.

Bookworm

This quaint English language bookshop should be your first stop on your trip around Truc Bach Lake. When leaving Home Restaurant all you’ll need to do is turn right, walk past the florist and the spa and then Bookworm will be just there. Laid out across two floors, you can browse these new and used books at your leisure. The shop has over 20,000 books available, covering everything from fiction to nonfiction and poetry, along with a room dedicated to Vietnamese literature, lifestyle, cookbooks and a range of artefacts.

The Silkworm

Continue to walk down Chau Long road until it intersects with Nguyen Truong To, turn right and head towards the lake, following Tran Vu left around the waters edge. At 44 Tran Vu you’ll find The Silkworm, a silk shop that is also an exhibition from Vietnam’s finest silk artisans. Each product in the shop has been handpicked from Vietnam’s famous silk villages. In terms of souvenirs, a trip to The Silkworm will leave you worlds apart from the normal tourist goods you’d find in the Old Quarter.

Thanh Nien Street

Continue along Tran Vu until you come to the larger Thanh Nien Street, then turn right and continue to walk around the lake. Formerly known as Co Ngu, this road was first constructed in the 17th century to help raise fish. It separated a part of what we now know as West Lake, creating Truc Bach Lake.

These days this road is known as Thanh Nien Street, or, Youth Street, named by Ho Chi Minh in thanks to the younger generation who improved and widened this street in 1960. At the bottom of the street you’ll find Ly Tu Trong, a statue inside of Tay Ho flower garden, with a large banyan tree next to it, grown by Uncle Ho himself.

The street itself is a 1km long stretch from Quan Thanh to Yen Phu. Lined with trees and flowers, it’s sandwiched by two of Hanoi’s picturesque lakes. Early in the morning and in the evening you’ll find many people walking this street, enjoying the shade of the trees, stretching, exercising, or just enjoying one another’s company. Due to the romantic setting along Thanh Nien, the street is a popular meeting spot for young couples.

John McCain monument

Halfway down Thanh Nien Street you’ll find a large statue with ‘USA’ written on it. This is the monument commemorating the downing and capture of John McCain, who, on October 1967, was shot down by an anti-aircraft missile. The US Navy aviator parachuted into Truc Bach Lake and almost drowned. Later taken as a prisoner of war, John McCain was held at the Hanoi Hilton.

Tran Quoc pagoda

Continuing further down Thanh Nien, you’ll come across Tran Quoc pagoda on the West Lake side of the road. Dating back to the 6th century, this Buddhist shrine is the oldest of its kind in Hanoi. Once surrounded by greenery, Tran Quoc Pagoda was favored by kings and royal families for full moons and Tet Festival.

You’ll find the main pagoda standing at an impressive 15 metres tall, spanning eleven levels. This main building is surrounded by incense-burning houses and a museum, which contains historic relics. It’s advised that visitors dress conservatively, as this is a place of worship for monks and locals.

Home Restaurant

Once you’ve left the calm of the pagoda, you’ll have likely worked up an appetite from all of the walking. Leaving the pagoda, continue along Thanh Nien and take a right at Truc Bach street. This will follow the lake itself, with a peaceful waterside stroll.

Truc Bach street will lead you all the way back to Home Restaurant, where you can enjoy the finest in authentic, high-end Vietnamese cuisine. The restaurant itself is another piece of Truc Bach’s history. Set within a former French residence, created with inspiration from traditional Vietnamese designs.

Hoi An’s Must-eat Dishes

Once a bustling trading port linking the orient and the occident, Hoi An’s specialties have been heavily influenced by the outside world and are unlike anything else in Vietnam. Shaped by Chinese, French and Japanese cuisine, tastes from the sea itself and the special water used within the dishes, Hoi An’s food has become totally unique to the province. Don’t leave Hoi An before trying these five must-eat dishes.

Cao Lau

A dish exclusive to this ancient melting pot, you can see its various influences within the bowl: the fat rice noodles are soft and yellow and resemble Japanese soba noodles, while the distinctly Chinese influence shows up in the stir-fried pork, which is marinated in star anise and cassia bark.

If you want a dish that defines Hoi An, this has to be it. This hearty bowl can only be created here as the noodles must be cooked using water from the ancient Cham wells. You can try Hoi An in a bowl at Ngon Villa in our all-you-can-eat menu.

Banh Xeo

There are many aspects that make Hoi An’s food so delicious and unique – as a location, it seems to have everything. One of the key elements, however, is the fresh greens and herbs produced in the rich soil in the province. At Ngon Villa we’ve decided to make a banh xeo that really shows off these succulent greens in our banh xeo cuan la cai, a crispy pancake made with local herbs.

As well as being stuffed full of veg, banh xeo shows off all of the fantastic meat nurtured within the province. The dish itself is a pancake made of rice flour, coconut milk and turmeric, which is then stuffed full of ingredients like vermicelli noodles, chicken, pork, or beef slices. The best way to eat banh xeo in Hoi An, however, has to be with shrimp.

Mi Quang

 Mi quang, which originates from the central province of Quang Nam, is so popular in its hometown that it is eaten at every possible occasion: parties, death anniversaries (sort of like the anti-birthday), Tet holiday, everything. It’s easy to see why this dish is so popular, too – it exemplifies all of the fantastic ingredients in the area. People claim that, unless it has hand-cut noodles, countryside chickens and water from the local well, it simply isn’t mi quang.

Mi quang starts with a bed of vegetables, then the yellow rice noodles are added, followed by the flavorsome bone broth, which is well seasoned and made out of fish sauce, shallots and garlic and finally topped with a variety of meats, herbs and local greens. While many people add a range of different meats, at Ngon Villa we like to stick to tradition and add pork and shrimp.

Com Ga Hoi An

Though it may appear to simply be your average rice and chicken dish, Hoi An’s com ga distinguishes itself from the rest simply by providing the tastiest rice and finest farm-raised chickens. Made up of a mix of pandan leaves, chicken stock, and turmeric, cam ga has the wood-fired clay ovens to thank for its pale yellow exterior.

At Ngon Villa, we understand that Hoi An’s com ga isn’t any old com ga, so when you come along, look for the proudly titled com ga Hoi An on the menu.

Hoi An’s Seafood  

Perhaps our finest produce, seafood in Hoi An is abundant and fresh due to the once thriving port that we dwell on. We’ve already spoken a bit about traditional dishes available in our Ngon Villa restaurants, so let’s take a minute to look at the fish you’ll find at Home in Hoi An.

We create our dishes with the same mentality that we put into our restaurants: A mix of comfort and tradition, with a focus on authenticity. We have a range of dishes, like wok-fried crab with chilli rock salt, steamed grouper with soya salt and deep-fried squid with tamarind sauce, delicately blended with local vegetables, created perfectly for a high-end, authentic meal.

Exploring Hoi An’s traditional food market

Vietnamese food is diverse. It’s sweet, savory, sour and spicy, but there’s one thing every dish has in common – the freshness of the ingredients that go into it.

Hoi An is a fantastic example of this. On one side of the town is an abundance of rice paddies. On the other side is the sea, with a wealth of fish and seafood. The rice and fish, along with fresh vegetables and free-range chickens, are delivered to Hoi An’s markets every day, waiting to be hand picked by everyone, from high end restaurateurs and street food vendors, to local men and women choosing ingredients for their daily meals.

If you’d like to take a trip to the Hoi An market, bear in mind that it’s advised to get there before 7am. As the day moves on, the temperature will rise and the strong smell of the market will only get more pungent. More tourists will start to gather in the market, more loud voices will begin to permeate the area, and the market stall owners may start to disappear as they sell out of produce.

The market is just a stone’s throw from Viet Deli, so make sure you come back to the area for lunch or dinner.

Visiting the market in the morning

Visiting the Hoi An market in the morning provides a genuine insight into everyday life. If you get to the riverside before 7am you’ll be able to watch as the market unfolds. Enormous piles of colorful vegetables are found at every corner and the herbs and spices stalls make for excellent photo opportunities. Best of all is the fish and seafood area: customers and fishmongers, predominantly women, haggle animatedly for the freshest fish, shellfish, and molluscs aboard their modest stands.

Time to suit up? Be ready to barter

Away from the fresh fish, you’ll be hit with a mix of different, more alluring smells. Fragrant herbs and spices drift through the air, and an explosion of colors adorn the stalls, with a range of Vietnamese silk available. Prices towards the entrance tend to be inflated for tourists, so you’ll need to take a deep breath and head into the belly of the beast if you want a bargain.

Hoi An is renowned for its cheap tailoring and this is fuelled by the fabric market. The tailors are located in a section all their own, with a selection of fine silk tailors cheaper here than anywhere else in the city. For every purchase you make, however, be sure to haggle for the best deal and don’t be afraid to walk away.

Top 10 Things to Do in Hoi An

Dating back to the 15th century, this port was the heart of Vietnam’s trade for 400 years. Thanks to the preservation of the Old Town, Hoi An is teaming with historical architecture, with Chinese shophouses and temples, French colonial buildings, and ornate Vietnamese tube houses lining the streets. While public transportation within the city is sparse, walking or cycling will paint a unique and vivid picture of this ancient city.

Eat Cao Lau

This noodle dish is a must-eat for anyone visiting Hoi An, as the ingredients that go into it can only be sourced here. It may seem odd, but it is the water that makes them so unique. The lye water from the local Cham wells is full of ash, which comes from the wood of the Cham islands. The well itself is a well-kept secret, so you’ll just have to have some faith in your chef and enjoy these noodles while you’re here. You can find the best bowl of Cao Lau at Ngon Villa within the city.

Take a bike tour

Pushbikes are the main mode of transport inside the centre of Hoi An, as cars and motorbikes are banned. There are many places to rent bicycles and many English-speaking tour guides are willing to show you around. The surrounding area is full of charming villages, so all you need to do is hop on your bike and venture out through its narrow backstreet and alleyways until you reach the country lanes. From here you’ll be able to explore its lush landscape, full of rice paddies and winding waterways.

Hoi An barbeque

Street barbeque is a permanent fixture in Hoi An’s food scene, with small charcoal braziers lining the bank of the Thu Bon river after dark. Grilled pork, chicken or prawns make up the range of barbequed meats, along with some herbs and greens on the side to wrap in rice paper. At Ngon Villa, we’ve taken traditional Vietnamese street food and turned it into high-end cuisine, using the freshest products and recipes that have been handed down to us through generations. You can try our approach to the Hoi An barbeque, with our table BBQ experience.

Find the source of Vietnam’s fresh veg

The real key to Hoi An cuisine is the abundance of fresh vegetables available to us. Hoi An prides itself on local rice paddies and free range chickens. Many vegetables can be sourced from Tra Que, the small farming community between town and An Bang beach. Visitors are free to wander the farms and chat to the villagers.

Visit the spa

If you find yourself stuck indoors on one of Hoi An’s rainier days, or you just fancy indulging yourself in a bit of relaxation while you’re on holiday, check out one of Hoi An’s many spa and wellness centres. While many hotels and resorts offer their own spa treatments, Hoi An is full of local day spas, which may offer a more authentic experience.

Fix up look sharp

These days, one of the marks of Hoi An is its famously affordable tailoring services. The streets are littered with tailors, from small, family run businesses to larger, more corporate affairs. They all remain very cheap and quick though, and can often speak French and English, as well as Vietnamese. Your custom made suit or dress can usually be created and picked up within 24 hours, or delivered to your hotel.

Take a craft class

Along with Hoi An’s many tailors, a large portion of the shops are non-profit organizations, selling souvenirs made by disadvantaged and often disabled locals. You can support these causes in two ways: By buying the souvenirs, or joining the traditional Vietnamese painting or lantern-making classes that they hold.

Galleries and museums

For an insight into Hoi An’s rich culture, you can visit one of the many art galleries in the Old Town, where notable Vietnamese artists display their paintings and photography for sale. The larger portion of this work depicts traditional Vietnamese life. If that doesn’t take your fancy, however, you could try the Museum of Trade Ceramics or Hoi An Museum of History and Culture, for a different perspective of the town.

Scuba diving and snorkelling

With a rich sprawl of coral reefs and warm, tropical water, snorkelling and scuba diving are a must for the more adventurous traveler. There are hundreds of different varieties of tropical fish and coral lining the ocean floor in Hoi An, with the Cu Lao Cham Marine Park just 21km from Hoi An’s Old Town.

Take in the city on a walking tour

As a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Hoi An is teeming with history, through its colorful streets and grand designs. Another perk of Hoi An’s no-auto policy is the ability to take it all in on foot. The city has such an eclectic mix of architectural designs, across French, Japanese, Vietnamese and Chinese heritage buildings, all of which can be discovered simply by wandering around.

9 Must-Have Dishes to Eat During Tet

Tet holiday, known as Lunar New Year through most parts of the world, is the biggest celebration in Vietnam. When it comes to Tet, nothing brings the family together quite like food, both the cooking and the consumption of it – it is, after all, the main event of the holiday.

You’ll find the whole family rubbing shoulders in the kitchen during the build-up to Tet. The customs of Tet are told mostly through the food, which is steeped in tradition and therefore central to Vietnamese culture during this festive period.

Sticky rice squared cake

No Tet dish carries as much significance as this savory rice cake. The story is regaled across Vietnam each year, often told while the sticky rice cake is being made, which takes some time. Following a victory over the Shang Dynasty in the 17th Century BC, the King gave his 18 sons one year to prepare their best dish, with the winner of the contest to become successor to the throne. His 18th son, too poor to travel in search of exotic ingredients, created two cakes of rice, pork and beans, emulating the sky and the earth. The youngest son won his father’s admiration and went on to become king, with his culinary legacy being celebrated by Vietnamese families every year since.

Boiled chicken

Simply prepared, a boiled chicken acts as a focal point for any Tet meal. It’s another dish that brings the symbolic weight of history and tradition to the table, for a boiled chicken is considered an emblem of purity. The finest chickens for Tet are bright red – a lucky color across East Asia – with smooth feathers and small legs. You’ll find many well decorated chickens out on display in family’s altars, with roses or trimmed carrots in their beaks.

Braised pork

Given the significance of food during the Tet holiday, cooking tends to take a lot of time, but it is a labor of love and always a worthwhile investment. Take the sticky rice cake for example; hours of work go into perfecting the dish and the braised pork is no different. With hours spent covering it in herbs and spices, braised pork is gently cooked over the course of a day to become extra tender and indulgent.

Fried spring roll

Though not exclusively reserved for the Tet holiday, these crispy bites make for perfect finger food, but they also serve as an ideal side dish during the Tet holiday dinner too.

Salad

It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that the table at Tet can be a little heavy on the meat and somewhat lacking in the vegetable department. Fortunately, no Tet dinner would be complete without the traditional Tet salad, which incorporates plenty of traditional Vietnamese herbs and vegetables and, yes, more meat.

Vietnamese sausage

A Vietnamese sausage is undoubtedly a unique creation. A little different and a little surprising to anyone expecting a western style grilled sausage. Made from lean pork, potato starch, garlic, ground black pepper and fish sauce, the sausage is ground down into a patty and wrapped in banana leaves as an embodiment of all that is delicious and Vietnamese.

Soup with pork skin

For this unique dish, dried pigskin is left to soak in water, before being put in the refrigerator from anywhere between eight hours and three days. The skin is then removed and left to boil with an assortment of vegetables, such as cabbage or bok choy.

Soup with softened bamboo and pig’s trotters

So, you’ve used the skin, but you’ve still got the trotters lying around, that’s fine, there’s another soup that will be perfect to make the most of your pigs. While it may seem unusual to some, Vietnamese cuisine traditionally uses an array of ingredients, where nothing – especially from an animal – goes to waste.

Momordica cochinchinensis sticky rice (a.k.a Xôi Gấc)

You’ll be able to spot Xoi Gac easily due to the distinctive red color. The Gac fruit may have found its way to dinner tables around the world, but it was first discovered in Vietnam. The tradition of eating sticky rice with this bright red fruit is subsequently an absolute must for Tet.

6 Reasons Why Viet Deli is the Perfect Choice for a Tet Party

When it comes to a Tet holiday party, there are a few boxes that need ticking. Good food and quality drinks are a must. Great atmosphere and suitable spaces are an important bonus. Fortunately, across all of our Viet Deli restaurants, we’ve got the ingredients to throw a roaring and memorable office party.

Here are six reasons why Viet Deli makes the perfect choice to welcome the turn of the lunar new year with your colleagues.

1.     Private rooms of all sizes, from intimate to extravagant

Whether it’s a small celebration with a few close colleagues, a big show of appreciation for business partners, or a lavish romp for an entire company, our restaurants have got you covered.

You can book a party of almost any size with Viet Deli, from the intimate 8 guest rooms at The Chopsticks in Saigon, to larger parties in our 40-guest rooms in Home Moc, Hanoi.

2.     Traditional Vietnamese cuisine

Tet is a Vietnamese holiday so why eat anything but Vietnamese food? We pair traditional Vietnamese cuisine and modern cooking techniques for every dish, with ingredients bought free range and fresh from local farmers wherever possible. You can rest easy knowing that, when you choose a Viet Deli restaurant for Tet, you’ll be served traditional Vietnamese meals, handcrafted by our chefs, drawing upon recipes passed down by generations.

3.     Historic buildings and fantastic décor

From the former residence of the Vice President of the South Vietnam Government before 1975 to the beautifully preserved French villas that make up our Ngon Villa restaurants, we take pride in offering the finest in stylish heritage dining experiences. Need photos of your team enjoying the festivities? The Viet Deli restaurants provide the perfect backdrops.

4.     Private floors for large groups

 While some of our private rooms can offer functions for up to 40 people, sometimes that’s simply not enough. For bigger parties, you may want to consider one of our many expansive floors for your office party. We’ve got a full range available, from capacity for 55 people in Saigon’s Home Finest, 60 in Home Moc, Hanoi, 40 in The Chopsticks, Saigon, 50 in Home, Hoi An, and 60 in Ngon Villa, Danang.

5.     Expert staff

Any Tet holiday party will have a few concerns surrounding it. If everything doesn’t go just right, you never know what could be in store for you the following year. Fortunately, our expert staff are on hand to make sure nothing goes awry. Thanks to our well-oiled team of waiters, seasoned chefs, and professional planners, you’ll be able to rest easy knowing we’ve got everything covered.

6.     Handpicked wines and expertly crafted cocktails

We’ve got the finest in professional sommeliers and masterful bartenders to produce the best celebratory drinks list around. You can choose from imported wines on our wine list, paired to suit your meal, or a signature cocktail from our cocktail list. We’ve got an innovative selection available, like our signature Saigon at Night or the Legend Coffee cocktail.

Looking for Restaurants for Your Family Tet Celebration?

At Viet Deli, we understand the importance of family during Tet Nguyen Dan. Tet holiday is a time to rid yourself of any bad omens and welcome a prosperous year with the ones you love.

We understand that any mistakes made during your Tet holiday meal would be disastrous, that’s why we’ve got Tet-experts on hand to make sure your celebration is delivered perfectly.

Tradition is of the upmost importance when it comes to a good Tet holiday meal. We believe that any meal at one of our delicious restaurants would make the ideal way to say goodbye to one lunar year and greet the next.

We specialize in traditional Vietnamese cuisine, created with modern flair but by expert chefs that have been nourished by generations of tradition. We’ve combined our chefs’ expertise with fresh, locally sourced and free-range ingredients, ensuring the finest in traditional Vietnamese cuisine.

A mark of any Viet Deli restaurant is the pride we place in our residence. We’ve handpicked locations across Hanoi, Hoi An, Danang, and Saigon for their heritage and style.

Our locations range from the renovated art deco style villa of Home Finest in Saigon, to Hanoi’s Home Moc restaurant, where our expansive floors could accommodate parties of up to 60 people for an extended family celebration.

All of our restaurants come in a range of shapes and sizes, draped in various styles, from the dark, earthly tones and navy hues of Home Finest, to the playful French Colonial colors that make up Ngon Villa’s various locations.

Of course, when it comes to family, no celebration is too big or too small. Fortunately, you can book a party of almost any size with Viet Deli. Smaller family gathering can take their place in our restaurants, which range from 100 guests in Home Finest, to 180 in Danang’s Ngon Villa and Hanoi’s Home Moc.

For a private affair, we’ve got private rooms available from the intimate 8-guest rooms at The Chopsticks in Saigon, to more spacious 40-guest rooms in Home Moc, Hanoi, along with everything in-between.

With room available to accommodate every family size, along with the finest in traditional Vietnamese cuisine, you can feel safe in the knowledge that Viet Deli will see you safely into the year of the pig.

How to Make Banh Chung

Banh chung is a savory rice cake heavy with history and heavier still with sticky rice. It’s traditionally eaten around Tet holiday, Vietnam’s Lunar New Year, and is known as the dish that brings families together. Making banh chung can be a laborious task, one which takes many hours and requires the help of several people. The story of banh chung is repeated each year during the making of the dish, bringing families together over this legendary tale.

The story goes that when King Hung Vuong had to pick his successor, he asked each of his 18 sons to prepare a dish worthy of an offering to the ancestors. The princes sourced the rarest and finest ingredients for their dishes, knowing that the best dish would procure the throne. The youngest son Lieu, however, lived a modest existence in the countryside and, inspired by a dream, invented a humble dish. Using rice, mung beans and pork, Lieu created a round cake to symbolize the sky and a square cake to symbolize the earth by wrapping the ingredients in leaves from the forest. The simple dish won him the throne and a place in Vietnam’s rich tradition.

 

Making Banh Chung is a challenging endeavour and can take the better part of a weekend. We don’t expect you to actually make it, but the recipe below will give you an idea of how much work goes into it, making it all the more delicious to eat. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how it’s made:

Ingredients:

Gelatinous rice (soaked overnight)

Fatty pork

Sea salt

Cold water

White onion

Mung beans (soaked overnight)

Black pepper

Banana leaves (fresh or frozen)

Fish sauce

Preparation for the night before:

  1. Soak the bamboo leaves in a large roasting pan, keeping them submerged with a plate or bowl.
  2. Soak the rice in water and let it sit overnight.
  3. Rinse the mung beans under cold water, then soak in cold water overnight.

 Cooking for the day after:

Finely slice the onion and fry on a medium heat until caramelized. This will take around 30-40 minutes.

While the onions are frying, boil the mung beans in a pot with just enough water to cover. Bring to a boil then reduce to simmer, stirring occasionally for around 20-30 minutes until soft. Once they’ve reached a desirable consistency, mash to a paste and add 1tsp salt, 1tsp pepper and half the fried onion.

Season the soaked rice with 1tsp salt and the pork with ½ tsp salt, fish sauce, 1.5tsp pepper and the shallots.

Spread mashed mung beans onto saran wrap, adding a few pieces of pork, and wrap it into a square.

Lay two sheets of partially overlapping banana leaves and add a cup of rice into the centre. Place mung beans and pork on top of the rice and then cover with another cup. Fold tightly into a square, ensuring no content slips. Consider folding another banana leaf on top if you’re worried about it not being tight enough. Make sure no water penetrates into the cake when cooking.

Bring a large pot of water to the boil, adding the cakes and topping with a heavy object to make sure they stay submerged. Simmer for around 6-8 hours, adding more water as required. This is usually done overnight.

Once the cakes feels plump and the rice feels congealed, unwrap the cakes and cut into wedges to serve. Eat with pickled onions, pickled vegetables or fish sauce.

 So, there you have it! Ready to make your own?

Hanoi’s Edible Essentials

So much to eat but so little time. Hanoi is full of great dishes, but here are four you simply can’t do without. Grab a chair, pull out the chopsticks, and dig in.

 Bun Cha

 This dish is probably best known in the West for its cameo in Barak Obama’s Hanoi trip and meal out with Vietnam food fanatic Anthony Bourdain. Bun Cha is a hearty meal comprising rice noodles, grilled pork patties, pork belly, fresh herbs, and a rich sweet and sour broth.

It’s Hanoi’s favorite lunchtime dish, and with good reason. The best bun cha should come accompanied with fried spring rolls, especially those that are stuffed with crab. This is harder to find than you might think, but you can tuck into a delicious bowl of bun cha with a side dish of crab spring rolls at Ngon Villa.

 Pho Bo

 It’s hard to talk about Vietnam without mentioning pho (pronounced like “fur”). It’s a dish, like many, that has a variety of flavors across the country. Ask someone in the south who does the best pho and they’ll say the south, ask someone in the north and, well, you get the idea.

Consisting of rice noodles, thinly sliced beef, and beef broth, pho is a canvas for you to paint. Garlic lovers can add their own garlic. if you’re a fan of citrus, a squeeze of lime with give you your desired tastes. And anyone looking for a kick can beef their dish up with a jar of chilli. You’ll find Hanoi’s tastiest beef broth at Home Restaurant.

 Cha Ca

 Cha ca is a dish so beloved in Hanoi that it has a street named after it. Once the freshly caught fish is thrown into the pot, which resonates in the centre of your table, an explosion of herbs will wash over you.

If you ask a Hanoi local which way they prefer to eat cha ca, they’ll likely attest to the unique flavors of mam tom – though it must be said, mam tom is something of an acquired taste. Visitors to Vietnam may, instead, prefer to enjoy this dish with fish sauce of soy sauce.

You’ll find Home Restaurant’s “grilled catch-of-the-day with Hanoi’s herbs and rice paper roll” to be one of the most authentic versions of the dish available in Hanoi.

Che    

Che, which, in Vietnamese simply means desert, comes in many varieties. There is che with mung beans (che ba mau), che with black beans (che dau den), which is one of the most popular varieties in northern Vietnam, a jelly che called che thach or any number of fruit, jelly, bean or dumpling rice variety.

Che can be hot or che can be cold. It can be a sweet beverage, a dessert soup, or a pudding. Needless to say, che can be a lot of things.

If you want to try a truly delicious and unique che, head to Home Moc for the coffee jelly and almond che. It’s a hit with locals and foreigners alike.