Anddddd a video I forgot to post earlier:
I’ve tried macarons everywhere I can get my hands on them in Portland, there are some good but majority aren’t… EARLIER MACARON POST .
While abroad I’ve made it a point to find Laduree and Pierre Herme– I’ve had Laduree on the Champs-Elysees, Switzerland, London etc. I know that there are a lot more to try but these were at the top of my list for best, both had the right consistency, amazing flavor combinations and presentation. There was also that time, a crazy 24 hours in which I made 3 batches of macarons by hand (see here!), in which I ended up with a hundred coconut and peanut butter macarons :*) I feel like now I really understand the intricasies of such a small and complicated pastry.
When purchasing macarons I always look at how they are stored and displayed. Refrigeration increases their lifetime to about 3-5 days but obviously by the 5th day it won’t be as great as the fresher one. I’ve seen that Costco is selling them now and assume that whatever is preserving these will make it quite unlike a real macaron in texture (I would love to know if anyone has tried these, comment below!)
Here in Hanoi there are some local French bakeries and a few offer some pretty looking macarons. Sadly these turned out to be the worst I’ve ever had, from a place called Salsa (go figure) based on their oddly small size and outside texture as crunchy as a cookie. The inside texture was so hard that it took me a few tries to get my teeth through the middle. The more commonly buttercream middle was closer to the likes of cement, haha. I should’ve taken pictures but it was so crumbly I would have lost the thing before finding my camera. I also could discern no recognizable flavor of any kind. It was red? If I have to guess that is a really bad sign. Discouraged by that incident I decided to stop searching for those here.
Anyways, Kenny surprised me with lunch and DESSERT from Dean & Deluca. I was really excited because these looked amazing! Vibrant colors (one was glittering for goodness sakes) consistent size and fresh appearance. I was starving but I actually waited till after lunch to dig in. (Lunch was wagyu beef lasagna and a passionfruit drink)
The first one I tried was this tye-dye green and red one which I guessed correctly after a bite: pistachio and raspberry! I appreciate that they put two traditional flavors together in a really nice way, the real tartness and crunch of raspberry with the more mild nutty pistachio.
Next I tried the most dazzling one — This one was tougher for me to describe because it was pear and chili! I didn’t notice any heat from it but I will admit that it takes a lot to for me to judge something as spicy.
This one looked odd to me by its color and my visual guess was maybe caramel or another pistachio. One small bite and wow… BANANA crunch! The filling was thick with real banana and taste that packed a punch. It was truly enjoyable to have such a legit banana flavor in a macaron no less, I didn’t even think that was possible.
This one is, as you probably guessed – strawberry but technically Strawberry Jam if you could see the inside and taste the real fruit in this! Somehow the macaron still retained its perfectly light and soft outer shell with a seedy sweet red filling. No sogginess or staleness at all. So impressed! I think I let out an exclamation as I ate this because it was so surprising. It wasn’t a demure and coy flavor, but just as the banana one had that wow factor.
So, what am I saying now? These are a bang for your buck and quite possibly a lot more accessible than Laduree. Give them a try I think they are quite well done, American take on French macarons.
While most people go home for Tet, we decided to get away to Bangkok and explore some more. We had a few missions: check out the night markets, pick up some clothes for Australia, barber shop for Ken, manicure for myself, workout and of course trying a lot more food!
Tim Ho Wan in Hong Kong
It was our last day in Hong Kong and we hadn’t gotten enough of their amazing dim sum. We figured we’d have just enough time to walk there, get in, eat, walk back and make it to the airport in time to catch our flight to Vietnam. By the time we walked there, it was about 10 minutes to opening time and there was already quite a line. Typical.
They passed out some menus so we could mark off what we wanted.
It was no problem, as soon as the garage gates started rolling up the people ran in and filled up the empty seats. We grabbed a tiny table without thinking, thankfully securing our place. I noticed tea cups and bowls preset on the table and everyone was using their hot tea to clean these with their napkins. I did the same, except knocking over my cup and spilling tons of hot tea all over the table and myself!
We handed them our menu only to have them return and hand us a green menu, saying the blue one was outdated or something. Lol. So once again we mark off what we want. Not too much later the food quickly starts pouring out of the kitchen. We ordered the Baked bun with BBQ pork, pan fried coconut custard cake, steamed pork dumplings with shrimp, vermicelli roll stuffed with pork, and steamed rice with beef and pan fried egg!
This last dish was the coolest thing I ate. I can’t figure it out and I do not know how they did it. It wasn’t simple cuts of meat, rather ground or pounded meat that was slightly breaded with a heavenly soft texture and really good sauce over the whole thing.
The baked bun with BBQ pork was unlike any I’d had before. The outside bun was almost like a candy shell, sugared on top with savory pork. It was a nice change from all the BBQ steam buns I’ve had in my life. Pan fried coconut custard cake came out in the middle of our dining, but I didn’t mind the sweet break. It was super moist and smelled wonderful — of course I love anything coconut… The vermicelli roll stuffed with pork is something I’ve enjoyed in America but done a little differently. The vermicelli here is super gelatinous! I love that texture though and the umami of shoyu and green onion with pork… Mmmmm!
We were about done and ready to pay so we could get off to the airport. I was going to pay with my card when I realized that they probably only accepted cash. Kenny had some cash but was just a couple dollars short… WHOOPS. He ran out to find an atm which actually turned into quite an ordeal. I stood by the register for awhile waiting… About 15 minutes until they suggested that I take a seat at a table, dining with an old lady who was eating alone. Haha. I couldn’t help but laugh at the situation, especially when she started cleaning her bowl with tea and knocked it over spilling it everywhere just as I did! LOL.
I was thinking about how far Kenny might have to go to find an ATM. The area of this restaurant wasn’t exactly an urban spot, and he actually had to run over a mile back towards our place to find a place to take out some cash. I almost threw all the money I had and ditched the place in fear of not making our flight but just when I was about to get desperate I saw Kenny return 🙂
Not bad. $14 for a legit Michelin star meal. Amazing really.
This is by no means a showcase of the most authentic Hanoi dishes, just my favorite places that we go back to for good food… fresh, affordable, quality food – ESPECIALLY if you’re missing anything familiar from home!
Joma Bakery — With a few locations you shouldn’t miss it — Healthy breakfast and lunch options, a few that I’ve tried (Hummus plate, turkey sandwich, chicken pesto sandwich, Philly cheesesteak and all of these come with a side salad!) After your meal check out the desserts! They have an amazing Nanaimo bar which is a 3-layer bar with chocolate base and coconut in the middle with chocolate on top. Along with actual brownies, cinnamon rolls, cookies, chocolate croissants and coffee you really can’t go wrong.
O’douceurs French Pastry and Bakery – Chocolate-y brownies, to die for truffles and yummy fruit tarts…Yes, I’ve tried them all
Namaste Hanoi – My first meal in Hanoi, quite the experience. The owner will help to navigate the extensive menu, asking you a few questions and writing down numbers on your table corresponding to dishes that he suggests you consider. He was definitely spot on with our meal!
The Republic – an Aussie bar with the best (really large portion) burgers in town (spendier but it is a nice enough place, the mixed drinks are okay, beer probably better lol). Also the wedge French fries are amazingggggg
Ca Cha Va Long – hailed as the oldest restaurant in Hanoi (circa 1871), they serve one dish and it is 170k VND. It is a catfish fried at your table in tumeric with a bunch of fresh greens like dill and leak. Totally worth it.
Sesame – Vietnamese vegetarian restaurant, not always the easiest thing to find but it does exist 🙂 Fresh and delicious food and lunch sets for only 60k VND! This place has lunch hours from around 10-2 and dinner from 5-9 or so. We tried the mushroom patties and pineapple cake — yummy!
Salt n’ Lime – This is the place to go if you are missing Mexican food, or dare I say Chipotle? This is what fresh and natural Mexican food should be and I believe once home you would actually miss the big burritos here! I know I will–They have a range of salsas to choose from and they are all tasty — The corn salsa, verde, roja, and garlic are the ones I keep returning to. No joke I crave these burritos DAILY!
Gelato Italia – The ONLY gelato in town, and it is wonderful! Nice flavors, extra creamy as gelato should be and they have sorbet options as well. We tried coconut, valentine (strawberries and cream), and rum raisin. It was a real treat enjoying such a good gelato outside of Italy.
Annam Gourmet Market – Import goodies and a bakery that serves pretty good macarons! (Also get the Salt&Pepper potato chips, so worth it) — They also have almond milk which is hard to find and other fun drinks to try. On the second floor going up the staircase they have things with reduced prices and we were able to get some good chocolate for half off!
May Taste – Lunch specials at only 60K VND that include drinks and dessert (bananas)! You can’t beat the amount (I wasn’t able to finish my meal) or quality of food for that price… they also have a delish pineapple smoothie
Cong Caphe – For those with caffeine running through their veins try a milder version of Vietnamese coffee with their coconut slush coffee combo only 45k VND
Japanese Sweets – A chain found in most “malls” here. They have mochi filled with ice cream and even mochi donuts (which I was told would take 20 minutes to make). I got a coconut cream mochi instead which was nice and not super sweet!
Pepperonis – Haha. We found this spot wandering late at night. Cheap pizzas, good drinks (this one on the left was called “Tropical” turned out to be a plain yogurt with ice mix 😛 The pina colada was relish as well! If you want a little more bang for your buck head to Dominoes (way better than the Pizza Hut’s I’ve encountered in Asia) and they give you dipping sauces for your pizza without asking for it or paying extra —
Starbucks – I’ve been surprised. Besides free wifi, they have different (better even?) food/juices/pastries than in America. In the States I would go there for an egg white breakfast sandwich or the egg white wrap. The menu never changed but here there’s been quiche, chorizo pizza, wraps and specialty drinks that are really good (and I don’t go to Starbucks often). Below is the sesame crunch frappe and a warmed blueberry muffin, mmmm
We took a trip to Ha Long Bay and stayed on Cat Ba Island —
It felt like a true vacation should, as it was the low season and the island seemed deserted!
We had a lot of fun exploring here and tried to film a lot of it for this video below!
1. Crossing the street is a sport. No matter if cars and mopeds are “stopped” at a red light, they all continue to flow through the street whenever there is a chance. Where does this leaves pedestrians? Playing frogger for dear life!
2. Fruit is abundant, cheap, sweet and delicious. Mangosteen, pineapple, papaya, dragonfruit, vietnamese cherries, etc.
3. Merchants really want exact change when you’re paying in cash. They will try to search through your bills looking for smaller ones, which can be annoying. If I had exact change I would give it to you… right? I don’t.
4. The attitudes in the South are different than the North. For understandable reasons in the countries history… the South is a lot more relaxed and westernized. Hanoi is where the expats are which makes that city more expensive.
5. Ho Chi Minh has great food, cheap street food that is really delicious.
6. Business cards are the way. All shops and restaurants will have them near the checkout! If you want to get somewhere just show the taxi driver the business card — he will understand easily.
7. Service isn’t always great here but you don’t need to tip —
8. Do not drink the tap water. Ice is okay if it’s in cubes or cylindrical shapes. Beware the chipped ice.
9. Uber is cheaper than a taxi and a great way to get around the city
10. There are a lot of weird smells. I often wear a face mask when going out at a busy time but it help filter out the strange poopy smells and gasoline fumes
11. Be vigilant with your money, especially in markets. Check the price before you pull our your bills and never let them grab what they decide is the right price. Always double check your change, it wouldn’t be uncommon to receive the wrong amount back
12. If you rent or buy a moped here be aware that you would be riding illegally. You will never get pulled over or anything but if there was the unfortunate accident you will probably be gouged for money (even if the accident was NOT your fault) and without insurance be paying loads of cash to all involved
13. As in some Central American markets, they may want to seal up your purse or have you place it in a locker while you shop. Just be sure to take out your cash beforehand so you won’t have to loop back around to get it (or as I do, go without purse altogether)
14. If you are in Hanoi, you can check the air quality
15. Food portions at Vietnamese restaurants are a lot smaller than in America (obvi) but really they do not eat a lot here… so while a dish may be cheap you might also not get so much. This may be improving though with so many foreign travelers
16. I get the impression that everyone feels what they are doing is more important than what you are doing. For example… the way people drive on the road. While it would be more than possible to wait a few seconds for someone to turn or merge, a lot of honking occurs when it is not necessary. It seems very impatient. In the market when everyone is waiting to pay, others may try to cut you if you’re not standing close enough to the next person. Even so, it may be your turn and many people will STILL try to cut just because they have less items than you. I understand being kind and letting someone go, but it gets ridiculous when it happens 3 times in a row and its not because you have told them to go ahead, but they have just decided to “cut”. It is not so civilized yet.
17. Locals here walk slowwwwwww. They don’t workout or take the fitness thing seriously like we do in the US. Haha. They drive like maniacs and walk like snails. Oh well.
Check out our crazy train adventure to Hanoi and some of our time in the city itself 🙂
We started our around the world adventure!
–Traveled through Central America
–Went to Disneyworld (first time!) for my milestone birthday and it was magical
–Lived in Japan for a month during Spring sakura season which was on my bucket list (plus owl cafes and bunny island!)
–Did a road trip throughout America to see the great national parks and natural wonders
–Took my most successful star pictures in these remote dark spots
–Finally made it to Canada, Banff is amazingly pristine
–Ate some of the most diverse and best food ever in Chicago
–Hiked and camped in Norway
–Lived in Finland when the sun never set
–Spent the perfect summer in Denmark and met my Bf’s family there
–Got to experience my first Yayoi Kusama light installation
–Had my preconceived notions about China altered
–Went to our first Michelin star restaurant for dim sum and it was great, of course
(there will be a separate blog post about this with pictures)
–Traveled around SE Asia and finally got to visit Vietnam with my longtime friend
–Temples, food, and shopping in Thailand, finalllly
–Spent our first Christmas together!
Hit up 16 countries in 2016 and really got to experience life in each one
Lot’s of big things planned for 2017 – Can’t wait 🙂