With an emphasis on fresh herbs, soups and bland carbs, Vietnamese cuisine is sometimes at risk of leaving the stomach craving a greasier kind of abuse.
This month, Street Snacker goes in search of the best fried food Hanoi’s streets have to offer, and the result is a menu where even the vegetarian option is deep fried in a bubbling vat of re-used oil.
The recent purge of Hanoi’s sidewalks has been felt most of all by the street food vendors scattered around the Old Quarter.
Only the most popular and well-established places have both the resources and the customer base to carry on as usual.
Quan Goc Da (52 Ly Quoc Su, Hoan Kiem) is one of those eateries that seems impossible to kill off, such is the popularity of the mountains of fried stuff on offer. By moving more tables indoors and utilising the previously empty space on the second floor, business is thriving.
As usual, hygiene standards are suspect. Everything is made in huge batches in advance, and is then refried to order. The huge cauldron of oil bubbles away all day, right next to that most popular of Vietnamese marinades; traffic fumes.
The meat products, piled high on stainless steel trays, sit out in the hot weather, under the care of whatever flies and insects may happen to pass by.
Say No to Salad
If the hygiene doesn’t put you off and you’ve got a well-trained stomach, then you’re in for a real treat. Every edible menu item apart from one is deep-fried. There are complimentary bowls of herbs and leaves, but why add the risk of poorly washed salad to the already unhealthy meal?
The most popular dish here is banh goi, or pillow cake. Similar to an empanada or a pasty, you will want one as soon as you are close enough to smell it.
Deep-fried parcels of pastry filled with minced pork, mushroom, vermicelli and quail eggs can be piled onto a plate for only VND9,000 apiece. The smell is glorious, but the taste is just... fried. However, a squeeze of chilli sauce into the bowl of nuoc mam gives the parcels a much-needed flavour boost.
Another popular item is the nem cua be, or fried crab spring rolls. At VND11,000 for one large roll, they boast more flavour than their pillow cousins. The crab meat is flavoursome without being overpowering, and they are well seasoned with black pepper.
Other items include fried meat and sticky rice cakes, fried fermented pork rolls, fried sweet bean cakes and a version of the famous banh tom Ho Tay, or prawn fritters.
All the food items range in price from VND3,500 to VND11,000 so this is a great little place for those last days of the month that feel like a slow crawl to pay day.
The usual stock of drinks are all available, including iced tea (VND3,000), soy milk (VND10,000) and Hanoi/Saigon beers (VND15,000 / VND20,000).
The Quan Goc Da restaurant in Ly Quoc Su is one of the best places to try all of these fried hangover cures together, but it’s by no means the only one.
The stall at 9 Hoe Nhai, Ba Dinh, sells delicious banh goi (VND10,000) made in much smaller batches. They are more generously filled and have more flavour than the mass-produced ones in Quan Goc Da.
Yet when it comes to popularity and the to-die-for Old Quarter location, Quan Goc Da is the place to go to get your much needed dose of cholesterol.
Photos by Teigue John Blokpoel