Tag Archives: pork hotpot

Vietnam: Ha Noi

8 Mar

I didn’t much like Ha Noi, which surprised me.  It took me a while to be able to articulate why.

The City is dirty, faded and crowded.  The traffic is suicidal and the only sign of progress is thick low hanging electrical wires.  Much of the same could be said of Bangkok and Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC, Saigon) but I like those two cities.

Motorbike madness

Motorbike madness

The thing about Ha Noi that I didn’t like is that it seems very backward looking and not very progressive.  It has all of the negative elements of a large Asian city but none of the positives.  I may be wrong – I wasn’t there for very long  – but quite a lot of the city seemed focused on the supposed “charm” and old-style architecture of the Old Quarter.  Perhaps because I have seen the charms of faded French (and indeed other) architecture close-up in Trinidad and the rest of the Caribbean, it didn’t impress me much.

The food, also, is not as good in Ha Noi as in Ho Chi Minh City.  Although there is less traffic and less crime in Ha Noi, I found it to be less accessible than HCMC.   The streets are narrow and labyrinthine and it seems more like total disorder than like organised chaos.  Perhaps this is something else the French left behind?  It is also cold and grey.  Oh, and everything shuts down at midnight.

Anyway… Rather than focus on the negative let me show what I thought was good about Ha Noi.

My first impression on the way to the hotel was of the greenness of the rice fields – I have heard that this is a feature of the North of Vietnam and it was certainly so in Ha Noi.

The hotel that I stayed at “floats” on the West Lake (Ho Tay).  The houses on the lakeside were very attractive and a number of couples were having their wedding photos taken on the Sunday that I was there.

Floating Hotel

Floating Hotel

 

Sunset Bar

Sunset Bar

 

There is some attractive architecture and there are a number of lakes in the town. The streets were attractively decorated, from Chinese New Year festivities.

Pagoda in the lake in the Old Quarter

Pagoda in the lake in the Old Quarter

 

Decorations for Chinese New Year

Decorations for Chinese New Year (Tet)

 

Woman carries goods for sale

Woman carries goods for sale

 

On the second full day that I was there, I took a cooking class, which was well organised and interesting.  We first went to the market.  It was quite informative to see how much was very similar to the central market in Port of Spain.

Herbs and Vegetables

Herbs and Vegetables

There were all parts of the pig available: Trotters (which the women were diligently shaving)….

Pedicure with a difference

Pedicure with a difference

 

Ears, Tongue, Heart, Kidneys, Liver and Brain…..

Brain, Tongue, Liver and Kidneys

Brain, Tongue, Liver and Kidneys

 

Sitting cross legged while butchering

Sitting cross legged while butchering

There were frogs being skinned and black pudding (French style as is found in Trinidad but very fatty and not twice cooked as ours is).  There were snails and duck embryos – I think that these are different to eggs – they looked like yolks on their own.  There were all sorts of herbs, similar to Thai herbs plus there was Shadon Beni all over the place.

After our market trip, we went back to the kitchens of the Hanoi cooking school to prepare our meals.

Staff at the Hanoi Cooking Centre

Staff at the Hanoi Cooking Centre

 

I include a recipe for the best dish, caramel pork hotpot:

 

Caramel Pork Hotpot

Ingredients:

Pork Belly – 1 kg

Fish sauce – 2 tablespoons

Garlic cloves (chopped) – 2

Shallots (chopped) – 2

Cracked black pepper – 1/3 teaspoon

Vegetable oil for frying

Caramel sauce – 1 ¼ cup (fairly liquid)

Fish sauce – ½ cup

 

Method:

Slice the pork belly into 2 cm strips, place into a bowl and marinade with the 2nd to 5th ingredients for at least 20 minutes.

Heat oil and sear the pork pieces.  While frying, heat the clay pot.  Add caramel sauce, fish sauce and water (½ to 1 cup) to the pork and bring to the boil.

Transfer to the clay pot and cook at 160C for an hour or more.  Remove lid and taste.  Adjust by adding water / fish sauce as necessary.

Caramel pork hotpot

Caramel pork hotpot