25 Jan 2013 § 1 Comment
We just got back from a 4d/3n trip to Hanoi that was booked a year ago thanks to Air Asia’s cheap flights deal. Considering this was the least researched trip we’ve been on as I was too busy in the weeks leading up to the trip to start my usual OCD planning, we did manage to do quite a fair bit of eating and walking, thanks to the itinerary and detailed maps I’d discovered at Savour Asia’s website.
For me, Hanoi can best be described as chaotic, no thanks to its traffic. It’s a stark contrast to laid back Chiang Mai which we visited more than a year ago. Here in the Old Quarter, the streets are busy at all hours of the day, honks can be heard frequently and crossing the street is a game of stop-and-go as you try to dodge the never-ending river of motorcyclists and cars.
As a friend remarked, “Avoid the cars and the motorcyclists will try to avoid you.”
Four way traffic, a very common sight
The Old Quarter is charming with its winding streets and little alleyways, but best explored with a map in hand. Each street is named after the products that are traded there…so you have streets where you will encounter shops after shops selling silver, tin, haberdashery and even bamboo – although with modern times, some shops have changed their trade and we’ve even come across a street that sells wedding invitation cards, heh. Coupled with tiny phở bò, phở gà, bún riêu, bún chả and little tea and coffee shops that seem to pop up at every corner…you can rest assured that you will never run out of things to shop or eat.
Bamboo products at Hang Buom
Makeshift stalls everywhere
Hanoi’s cafe culture
The weather during the four days we were there was nice and cool, albeit cloudy. Our hopes of watching the sunset over West Lake as we sipped coffee at the Summit Lounge of Sofitel hotel were dashed as the fog literally swallowed up the sun, leaving only a faint orange ball in the sky instead of the spectacular sunset reflected in the waters below as we’d hoped to see.
View of Hanoi’s streets from the Summit Lounge
Sunset at West Lake
The hotel we stayed at, Church Boutique Hotel, was conveniently located at Hang Gai (the ‘silk’ street), which was a stone’s throw away from Hoàn Kiếm lake. Just two streets down from the hotel was Ly Quoc Su street which leads to St. Joseph’s Cathedral, another popular tourist spot, and Hang Manh which houses one of the more popular bún chả spots (#1 Hang Manh).
Our room at Church Boutique Hotel
A popular bánh mì stall along one of the alleys leading off Ly Quoc Su street. We bought one from her every day!
Eating was certainly a fun experience as we were determined to do as the locals do…sit along the roadside on the rickety plastic stools with our knees up to our chin as we savour hot bowls of noodles. I was careful to only eat at places recommended on Savour Asia, basing my assumption on the fact that if the author did not suffer any bouts of food poisoning after his/her meal there, we should be fine as well (and we were!).
Bún chả: rice vermicelli, grilled pork and pork patties in a sourish soup, fresh greens and fried spring rolls
Phở bò @ #49 Bat Dan street
Bánh mì: absolutely awesome here in Hanoi. Crunchy on the outside, soft as a pillow on the inside.
A streetside vendor serving all sorts of fried food (I tried the banh chuoi / banana fritters and it was yummeh!)
Sightseeing around Hanoi was limited to the usual touristy spots: a walk around Hoàn Kiếm lake, the Ho Chi Minh mausoleum (extremely tight security…seriously guys, no one’s going to make off with his embalmed body, really), Temple of Literature, Hanoi’s Opera House and a stroll down West Lake. In our meanderings, we did stumble across a popular wedding photography spot near Sofitel Metropole hotel…so popular that the maitre’d told us that on good days, he has seen up to 120 couples queuing up to pose for their wedding photos!
Hoàn Kiếm lake
The Opera House
A popular wedding photography spot in front of Sofitel Metropole Hotel
Fly fishing at West Lake seems to be a popular past time
The imposing Ho Chi Minh mausoleum
At the Temple of Literature
Most of our four days were spent exploring the Old Quarter after having paid our dues at the obligatory tourist spots on the second day. The foodie highlight of the trip for me (apart from consuming copious bowls of bún chả), was discovering ‘Chicken Street’ or Lý Văn Phức…a small alley off a main road that serves nothing but grilled chicken! If you ever plan to go there, head straight for the end of the alley to the last shop…you will see buckets of skewered chicken parts waiting to be grilled, a huge box of bánh mì, and plenty of locals enjoying their meal with beer. It’s an experience not to be missed…we had chicken wings, chicken thighs, chicken breast, and four incredibly delicious flattened bánh mì that was honey coated before being heated up on the grill and it only costs us VND250,000. Truly a hidden gem!
Grilling it up at Lý Văn Phức
With a late flight out of Hanoi on our last day, we extended our check-out time to 6pm and spent the afternoon shopping for souvenirs for family and friends. I managed to find two lovely pieces of silk fabric which I plan to make into qipaos and a handmade stuffed pony for the little one.
We definitely plan to come back for another visit, hopefully with a trip to Halong Bay, Sapa or Da Nang slotted in as well…but if not, the promise of bún chả itself is definitely worth a trip back!
In the meantime, here is a list of the places that we’ve tried during our short trip there, most of which are marked on Savour Asia’s Hanoi maps anyway:
1. #49 Bat Dan street. Serving from 6AM-11:30AM, then resuming again at 6PM. They serve three types of meat: chin (sliced well-done), tai (sliced rare), nam (flank).
1. #6 Le Phung Hieu. A short walk from the back entrance of Sofitel Metropole at the intersection between this street and Tong Dan street.
2. #1 Hang Manh, a local favorite and always crowded during lunch time.
Coffee/tea with a view
1. Café Pho Co @ #11 Hang Gai. Go down the alley and up the spiral stairs to the highest floor and you’ll be rewarded with a view of Hoàn Kiếm Lake.
2. The corner cafe right in front of St. Joseph Cathedral at the intersection of Nha Tho street and Ly Quoc Su.
1. #52 Ly Quoc Su near St. Joseph Cathedral for bánh gối, bánh rán ngọt and bánh rán mặn.
2. A small roadside stall at the intersection of Hang Dieu and Bat Dan for bánh chuối and bánh khoai.
Street food from all regions of Vietnam
1. Quan An Ngon Restaurant @ #18 Phan Boi Chau
7 Jan 2013 § 2 Comments
It’s been too long since I’ve written…got a little caught up in living life instead of diligently recording down moments, I suppose?
There are a whole list of draft posts waiting to be completed and photos to be uploaded including a weekend getaway to Penang where we hunted down Ernest Zachaveric’s wall murals, an eating/shopping trip to Hong Kong right before 2012 ended and an occasion that has taken up most of my time recently: my precious girl’s 4th birthday party!
So while I work on getting this blog up to speed, here’s a sneak peak at what went on over the past weekend:
Happy 2013 everyone!
28 Nov 2012 § Leave a Comment
Been doing a bit of spring cleaning the past few weeks and decided to sell off some barely used bags and shoes…one of which is a Dior Trotter Romantique Flap Shoulder Handbag.
Interested? Photos and prices HERE!
5 Nov 2012 § 4 Comments
One thing I love about weekends is the opportunity to try some of the entries on my ‘to-eat’ list. After a failed attempt to visit LOKL Coffee Co on Saturday no thanks to KL’s infamous traffic (which the boyfriend attributes to everyone going shopping as it’s the weekend after salaries have been paid, heh!), we decided to be a little less ambitious on Sunday by heading to Nosh, a fairly new café at Jalan Telawi 3 in Bangsar.
Nosh. I like the plain big fonts.
Nosh is located just a few shoplots down from CZiplee, so it’s pretty easy to find. The café wasn’t very crowded when we arrived around 11+am and we sat at a table outside as the weather was nice and breezy.
So how’s the food, you ask?
The boyfriend went for the Full Monty – a veritable feast consisting of two eggs, mushrooms, bacon, hash brown, ham, toast and four sausages. I love the presentation, very appealing to the eye! Can’t count on the boy for a food review though, as all he said when I asked his opinion about his order was something along the lines of, ‘Not bad…quite nice!’.
I was being my usual greedy ol’ self and decided to order two dishes…pancakes with berry compote and mascarpone and French toast with peanut butter. First up, the pancakes!
Doesn’t it look absolutely delish? Again, thumbs up for presentation. And yes, it tastes as good as it looks. The pancakes were nice and fluffy, and they were very generous with the berry compote – each mouthful had a nice balance of pancake+berries. The sweetness from the mascarpone and slight dusting of icing sugar was perfectly offset by the slightly sourish tang of the compote. I would definitely order this again the next time we go.
French toast with peanut butter – again, someone in the kitchen has a good eye for plating food. Sadly, this particular dish was quite a let down. The cornflakes were a nice touch, but it started to go soft halfway thru the meal. The weak link of this dish was definitely the bread. It had a very ‘doughy’ taste and texture and was soggy in the middle, which was a far cry from what I’d expected a French toast to be. I thought I tasted some nuts in the peanut butter as well – they’d either added in nuts or used chunky peanut butter – either way, there was just too much textures in a mouthful…the crunch from the cornflakes, the stickiness of the bread and the peanut butter and the gooey bananas.
Maybe it’s a personal preference but I think French toast, like all classic things – be it food or clothes – can, and should be kept simple. Get the bread right, and everything else (peanut butter, bacon, honey, nuts, fruits and whatever else you can think of) can be kept as a side dish…a good French toast can be eaten by itself.
We were given a scoop of lemon yogurt ice cream each, on the house, to finish off our meal (thank you!). Tangy and light, it was a nice end to the meal.
I would definitely like to go back to try some of their other dishes, plus the service was impeccable – the guy who waited on our table was unfailingly polite and friendly. It’s still early days, hence the lack of the usual morning crowd, so do pay Nosh a visit before the place gets wayyyy too crowded for a nice and quiet Sunday morning brunch!
5 Nov 2012 § 2 Comments
Here’s a quick and easy recipe from Gordon Ramsay (via BBC’s Good Food) for a lovely bacon, mushroom, onion and rocket quiche that I made over the weekend. I omitted some of the ingredients and replaced the crème fraîche with light cream instead, but the quiche still came out beautifully light with loads of flavor…makes for a lovely weekend meal!
I’m posting the original recipe with my comments in brackets and italic:
For the pastry:
- 250g plain flour
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 125g cold butter , diced
- 1 tbsp thyme leaves (omitted)
- 1 egg , beaten
- 1 tbsp olive oil , to brush the tin (I used leftover butter)
- 1 egg yolk , to glaze
For the custard:
- 3 eggs
- 3 egg yolks
- 200ml crème fraîche (I used light cream)
- 200ml milk
- small handful tarragon leaves, chopped (omitted)
For the filling:
- 200g smoked streaky bacon , roughly chopped
- 5 tbsp olive oil (I only needed about 3 tbsp)
- 1 large handful red onion , chopped
- 250g flat cap mushrooms , sliced
- 200g wild rocket (I chopped this up into small pieces)
- 100g cheese
1. To make the pastry, rub the flour, salt, butter and thyme into fine crumbs.
(Make sure the butter is slightly soft, else your fingers will be aching after a while!)
(Once mixed, it’ll start to resemble breadcrumbs)
2. Mix in the beaten egg and 1 tbsp ice-cold water, then draw together to a moist pastry, kneading lightly. Wrap with cling film and chill for at least 20 mins.
3. Heat oven to 190C/fan 170C/gas 5. Brush a deep, loose-bottom, 24cm tart tin with oil, then season it. Set a small ball of pastry aside and roll out the rest on a lightly floured surface to a large round, 38-40cm. Lift the pastry into the tin using the rolling pin and press into the sides. Press any cracks together and let the excess overhang. (I used a round, flat-bottomed Pyrex bowl instead as I didn’t have a tart tin)
4. Use a small ball of pastry to press the tart case into the flutes. Prick the base lightly with a fork and chill the tart case, preferably in the freezer, for at least 30 mins.
5. Cut out a circle of baking paper larger than the tart, scrunch it up, unravel and press into the case. Fill the case with baking beans, stand on a baking sheet and bake for 20 mins. Remove the paper and beans and brush with the remaining yolk. Return to the oven for 5 mins, brush again and return for a final 10-15 mins until glazed and golden. Remove from the oven. Turn the oven to 140C/fan 120C/gas 1. (I did not use baking beans, and didn’t have a problem with the pastry puffing up in the oven)
6. To make the custard, beat together the whole eggs, yolks, crème fraîche (or cream), milk and tarragon and season to taste.
7. For the filling, sauté the bacon in 1 tbsp oil until browned and beginning to crisp, about 5 mins. Add 2 tbsp oil to the pan and sauté the onion and chicory with the bacon, stirring until lightly cooked, about 5 mins. Strain any juices through a sieve, then tip into a big bowl.
8. Heat 2 more tbsp oil and stir-fry the mushrooms over a high heat for 3-5 mins. Strain and mix into the bowl. Wilt the rocket in same pan over a high heat and leave to cool.
9. Mix the cheeses and rocket into the custard and whizz with a hand blender until well mixed, then stir in the rest of the filling ingredients. (I did not use a hand blender, so both my cheese and rocket leaves were in pieces instead which was fine)
10. Put the tart case back into the oven. Leaving the shelf slightly out, ladle as much filling into the case as you can. Try to ladle the solid filling in first, then top up with custard. Push the shelf in and bake for 50 mins-1 hour until the quiche is set in the middle, turning for even baking. (I left it for 1 hour without turning, and checked that the quiche was set by poking a wooden skewer in the middle – as with all Gordon Ramsay’s recipes that I’ve tried, the timing was spot on)
11. Remove and trim the pastry edge so that it’s in line with the top of the tin. This is easiest with a small, serrated knife. Cool the tart for at least 1 hour before removing from the tin and serving in slices.
30 Oct 2012 § Leave a Comment
With Halloween fast approaching this Wednesday, some of the malls around PJ/KL held early Halloween celebrations over the past weekend with costume competitions and trick-or-treatin’ for the little ones. It was so nice to see the normally more conservative Malaysians taking part in the celebrations – there were many well-dressed-up kids…we spotted Ironman, Jack Sparrow, Shrek, a zombie bride and groom and plenty of witches! My girl had a ball of a time going trick-or-treatin’ around the shops, collecting an assortment of sweet and chocolates in her costume – she dressed up as a princess on Saturday and a fairy (complete with wings!) on Sunday!
My little princess – decorating her ‘eyeball’ cookie
Japanese inspired zombies
MJ’s Thriller dance-off
Halloween decor @ Publika
My girl and her lil fairy friend going trick-or-treating
Walking dead spotted @ BSC
Off they go…
Zombiefied construction worker and Shrek!
Another zombie standing at a dimly lit corner – creepy!
This cook must be working in the same restaurant as the waiter, heh.
Yours truly trying to scare off the werewolf that frightened my lil girl…growllll!
Cooling down at BSC’s Epicurious Brunch 2012 with a Sparkling Pop from The Potong
Lost his head?
The loot at the end of the day
24 Oct 2012 § 3 Comments
When I heard from a good friend (mark of a good friend: she immediately texts you when she hears news of your favorite café closing down!) that The Haute Food Co. will be closing its doors for the last time this Sunday, my first reaction was a mental, “Noooooo!!”. SMSes and WhatsApp messages started flying to and fro furiously with friends reacting in the same manner – incredulity, resignation followed by a determined, “I must visit the cafe one last time before they close!!”
Long-time fans of Haute Food would know exactly how I feel.
It’s a loss of a friendly neighborhood café that constantly and consistently serves up hearty sandwiches and seriously the best cakes and desserts I’ve had in a very long while. More than that, it’s a place where I’ve had lots of good foodie memories with friends and loved ones! I’ve been visiting Haute Food for more than two years now, and it has become a standard fixture in my life whenever I need a dessert fix. The familiar sight of its distinctive bright blue façade and the cheery hello from the owner, Li, is always a welcome sight whenever one craves for a good meal followed by a mean sugar high.
This place has seen me thru countless brunches and teas with my girlfriends, it was the ‘café with the awesome food and desserts‘ that I proudly raved about to the boyfriend when I first met him and subsequently brought him there, the place where we had countless brunches on lazy Sunday afternoons while he sat shaking his head in resignation as he watched me eat my way through different variations of bread and butter puddings, sticky date puddings, cakes and tarts and pies and the mysteriously-named ‘hedgehog’ (I’ve never found out why!), and also my go-to café for my daughter’s birthday cakes. It’s a place where I know I can always count on for chocolate banana bread and butter puddings, chicken+mayo+basil sandwiches and a banana pie that is so amazingly awesome that 14 adults ceased talking when they took their first bite.
And so, I decided to make one of my crazy lunch time trips (and trust me, there were many over the past 2 years) from Shah Alam to Plaza Damas just to enjoy the food one last time in case I can’t make it over the weekend before it closes. I guess I wasn’t the only one with the same idea as I found the place packed to the brim when I arrived, with people waiting for tables in the midday heat, and half the cakes gone…what a befitting testament to the popularity of this home-grown café!
If you’re a fan of Haute Food, or you’ve never been there (oh the sacrilege!) and want to find out what you’ve been missing all this while, there are still two more days so head on down this weekend before it’s too late…and mark my words, you’ll regret it if you miss out on trying Li’s cakes.
As a farewell tribute to the café, here’s a series of photos I’ve taken over the years of the scrumptious food that we’ve had there…or as their website puts it: “Just honest good food”. I could not agree more.
Bread and butter pudding
Chicken, ham and cheese omelette for brekkie
Sticky sticky sticky date pudding…mmm…
One of the few occasions when we arrived early enough for breakfast
Pineapple and passionfruit crumble
My standard order
More bread and butter pudding
This trial dessert – french toast – made one appearance and for some unfathomable reason, never made it to the menu! It was fab!
Eggs sunny side up, sautéed mushrooms and toast
Strawberry shortcake for my daughter’s 2nd birthday
Ridiculously awesome chocolate and strawberry tart
Chocolate and strawberry cake for my daughter’s 3rd birthday
THE banana cream pie to beat all banana cream pies
One of the very few shots I have of the interior
What happens after two years of good dining at Haute Food
Here’s wishing you a good break, Li, and I think I speak for everyone when I say: Please keep us updated when you decide to start baking again and thanks for all the good food, extra kgs and memories…=)
The Haute Food Co.
H-0-2 Block H
60 Jalan Sri Hartamas 1
Sat and Sun: 9am to 5pm