Sunday, January 4, 2009

Hanoi - an afternoon around Hoan Kiem Lake

Happy New Year and greetings from Hanoi!
New Years' Day was spent traveling to Hanoi and as soon as we landed and checked into the hotel, we started our food exploration of the Hoan Kiem Lake area, near our hotel.

Of course, you can't start a trip to anywhere in Vietnam without the national food, Pho Bo or Beef Noodles Soup. So we head to Pho 24 just by the lake. It is not the best, but if you are not that adventurous, the cleanliness of the joint, and the many people that stream in and out, certainly gives the tourist a whole lot of comfort. For the McDonalds'-type set up, I was satisfied enough with it although my suggestion is to have the pho with beef brisket since the beef slices used tend to be too chewy given the ordinary cuts.

A short walk away, we found dessert. Or rather, curiosity got the better of us since we had never seen so many people squatting or leaning over the scooters along the sidewalk for ice cream. Yes, you heard right. Since 1958, Kem Trang Tien has been serving up ice creams on sticks and more recently, soft serve in a cone.

The soft serve is not served when you order but brought out from a "kitchen" every now and then in trays such as the above. Our choice of each of the coconut and milk ice creams on a stick were reminscent of childhood in Singapore where the ice cream from the traveling vendor is not too milky but has enough of ice in it to allow any kid to down more than one! If you like traditional tastes, try it although the pushing and shoving (there is no queue system) might get you down.

After ice cream, you gotta have coffee so we explore a little bit more and then chancing upon Aqua, which we realised was a full fledged restaurant after we stepped in. But in my opinion, probably has one of the best Vietnamese and French-pressed coffees I've had and the Creme Brulee is traditionally good with enough egg and cream for just the right texture, creamy but firm enough and most importantly, eggy enough! And with the crystallised top, very impressive.

A great start to a promising trip of more foodie adventures.. stay tuned!

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