Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Quan An Ngon, Hanoi (Vietnam) by Bureaucrat

Good moooorning, Vietnam!  A few weeks ago, Beaker and I boarded a plane for Vietnam.  We had great expectations of this trip - it'd be a true foodies' trip.  We'd eat street food, we'd discover new dishes and we'd do exactly what Anthony Bourdain or Luke Nguyen would do.  In short, we'd earn our foodie credentials for eating dinky di Vietnamese food that isn't sourced from Richmond, Springvale, Box Hill or Footscray.

Laid back Hanoi.

Long story short, despite spending a small fortune on vaccinations (cholera, Hep A + B, malaria tablets, to name a few) and armed with a backpack full of Hydralyte, Imodium and probiotics, we wimped out.  We could spend seven days exploring Vietnam or we could spend seven days holed up in our hotel and fighting over who gets the last roll of toilet paper.

However, we did want to eat some genuine Vietnamese food.  So based on a recommendation that Beaker had got from a friend who had only recently been to Hanoi we had dinner at Quan An Ngon.  QAN is perhaps one of the handful of places where it has a reputation among Western travelers as a safe place to eat.  

The whole concept of QAN is that they house all these Vietnamese food stalls in the one location.  I'm told that for these stalls to participate they must pass and maintain certain levels of food hygiene practices.    

In terms of prices, the food at QAN is cheaper and/or quite competitively priced with regard to established eateries (ie those that are located in a shop).  Although, it's not as cheap as street food.  

In return, you get to sample a wide range of authentic Vietnamese food without worrying about getting sick or getting ripped off, table service and comfortable seating.  In fact, QAN is fairly popular with the locals too, as we saw many young families and large groups of people having dinner there.

On our first visit, we had to get a fresh coconut juice.  We both got addicted to these, as they were thirst quenching, safe and just plain delicious.  

Onto the food.  I got the bun cha.  Grilled pork balls and pieces of pork, which is served in this slightly vinegary, salty soup.  The soup has slices of carrot and other root veg (turnip, I think).  I wasn't expecting the pork to come in the soup.  It comes with a serve of cooked vermicelli.  

It also came with a side of beanshoots and a tangle of greenery (mint, basil, perilla).  To eat it, you mix the noodles, greenery, pork and soup in the empty bowl that they give to you.  The pork was flavoursome and had a nice meat-to-fat ratio.  I didn't really drink the soup, except to use it to moisten up the noodles, as it was a tad too greasy for my liking.

Beaker got bun xeo (pronounced 'sea-ow') - a massive paper-thin crepe filled with shrimp, shellfish, pork, beanshoots and onion.  It comes with lots of herbs, sheets of uncooked rice paper and nuoc cham.  

We needed some guidance from the staff as to how to eat this - primarily, we were puzzled with the uncooked rice paper sheets (we thought we'd have to reconstitute the rice paper in water).  But it seems that you simply use the uncooked rice paper to wrap up slices of the crepe (which they cut up for you), stuff it with herbs and drizzle with some of the nuoc cham.  

It's definitely messy to eat, but it was delicious!  It's fragrant, the crepe is incredibly flaky and crispy, while the rice paper is oddly crunchy/chewy.  The seafood and pork were like nuggets of meaty yumminess.

On our last night in Hanoi, we went back to QAN for dinner. We got the bun xeo again because we loved it so much.  We did, however, try out a different dish.  I wanted to see how different and/or better the broken rice with pork would be.  I was kinda disappointed with what we got.  

Firstly, I was hoping for a bigger serve.  Secondly, where is the fried egg?  I love a good fried egg, and I felt lost without one here.  Thirdly, where's the pate/meatloaf and pickled veggies?  The grilled pork and shredded pork skin were good but nothing exceptional.

 And finally...

I have no idea what these were, but should've, would've, could've...

Overall
QAN is a definite safe bet for those who have yet to come to terms with eating street food!  It's fun, tasty and good value.  The place gets quite pretty at night when the lanterns are lit up.

Address
Quan An Ngon
18 Phan Ban Chau
Quan Hoan Kiem, Hanoi
Telephone: 04 3942 8162

2 comments:

obelix glutt said...

I went to Quan An Ngon as well on my trip to Vietnam! Loved it and could indulge without being worried about being sick. Particularly enjoyed the banh xeo. Can't wait to go back again.

Anonymous said...

very useful information!
I will be there soon.

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