This wasn’t our first visit to Hanoi so we had some places that we wanted to return to but given the short length (4-days) of this visit, we were delighted to enjoy tasty treats for the first time at several new (to us) restaurants of different styles.
High on that list was Bánh Mì 25 located at 25 Hàng Cá, Hòa Kiếm; a short walk from our (Charming 2) hotel in the Old Quarter. As the name implies, the menu lists Bánh Mì sandwiches and not much else.
Orders are taken at a counter that’s not much more than an outside cart. There are a few tables next to that and a few more inside an adjacent doorway. The chairs at most tables are the mini plastic stools you see at many street food vendors but a couple inside have slightly larger chairs that Westerners will feel more comfortable sitting in.
Both Vietnamese and foreign tourists flock to this place. English is spoken and the service is remarkably friendly. There was complimentary tea on the table and free bananas were given to us at the end of our meal.
All the Bánh Mìs we tried were great. So good in fact that we decided to come back for a 2nd visit a couple days later. The sandwiches are on the small side but at VND20,000 – VND25,000 each ($0.88 -$1.10) you can afford to sample the menu. Everything about the sandwich was well done from the small freshly baked crusty baguette to the pâté to the pickled vegetables to well-prepared meats.
IMHO one of the keys to the sandwich is the size and texture of the bread and the hard crust that keeps the whole thing from going to mush before you have a chance to finish it.
Note: All sandwiches can be ordered with or without pâté.
We love to take advantage of the Hanoi Free Tour Guides service whenever we visit the city and this time was no exception. On our first full day we were met at our hotel by a very nice female college student for a ½ day walking tour of the Old Quarter. We really didn’t want a full sightseeing tour that day but more of a chance for some light exercise and to get out in the sun to help adjust to the change in time zones.
We took a leisurely walk to Hoàn Kiếm Lake where we stopped at a local shop for coffee and found a seat by the lake for some first class people watching like the group of young models in very colorful traditional áo dài dresses being photographed in the middle of the street.
Our guide helped us order and the 3 of us enjoyed a large meal of Fried dough balls kind of like donut holes, pork buns, Fresh spring rolls, Crispy vegetarian spring rolls,Baked chicken, Fried rice and a Jelly tapioca dessert.
Our last evening in Hanoi was a Saturday so we were interested in visiting the weekend night market. We again booked a guide with Hanoi Free Tour Guides but before we went to the market, our guide offered to take us to a local noodle shop.
We set off walking down Hang Ga Street. After about a 10-minute walk we reached the corner of Hang Dieu and found a small narrow restaurant at 89 Hang Dieu. The place has no sign and not really a formal name but is known by the same name as the only entrée that is served Bún bò Nam Bộ or noodles with beef.
As cheap as the meal was (something like $1.50 USD) they served a free ground pork (almost hot dog like) appetizer and then a lovely bowl of broth with noodles and fresh vegetables. Properly fueled for adventure we headed off to the market.
Our first stop was to listen to a 3-piece combo set up in the middle of an intersection of blocked off streets playing some soulful blues. Not what we expected but certainly appreciated. We passed by (and passed up the opportunity to buy) block after block of cheap clothes and trinkets and tourist souvenirs, mostly all manufactured in China. Don’t know the name of it but we sampled a crepe with a sweet toffee like filling.
After we’d had our fill of the market we set off in the direction of our hotel but made a slight detour and headed up the narrow stairway of Cong Caphe at 101 Hoang Cau Street to grab a seat overlooking the busy street below.
We also grabbed a late night local Hanoi specialty: iced coconut coffee as a night cap. As best I could figure, what we got was an iced Vietnamese coffee sweetened with coconut cream. Lucky we don’t live near this place or we would find ourselves fighting the urge for a visit most nights.