The pollution almost did me in. I am back from a short visit to Vietnam, where I took in some of the filthiest air on the planet with some of the most incredibly delicious food.
First, 24 hours in Hong Kong. Despite jetlag, I dragged my lazy bones to the Jordan neighbourhood in Kowloon. Sat on low a stool at Aberdeen restaurant, somewhere around Temple Street, and downed truly great scallops, topped with vermicelli, bread crumbs, coriander and garlic (so much of it, I should take some Ottolenghi customers here to show them what garlicky really means). Also on the menu, and I quote precisely: Fried affluent prawn with spiced salt; Big shell in boiled water till cooked; Deep fried stomach fish; Pigs intestine and goose intestine.
Next day I managed to squeeze dim-sum and jellied pig’s ears, incredibly tasty, at King’s Lodge, 67-71 Chatham Road South, Kowloon.
Hanoi greeted me with a thick veil of misty smog that never lifted during my 5 days there and eventually brought me down with a violent flu. Prior to this unfortunate eventuality, Alex (my travel companion and Ottolenghi’s designer) and I managed to find the best restaurant in town on the first day. All other paled in comparison so we just kept on coming. We must have eaten at Quan An Ngon (18 Phan Boi Chau, Quan Hoan Kiem; Tel: (04) 942 8162/3) five times, turning into regular fixtures. It is not quite a restaurant but more of a cluster of stalls, serving what they do best in Hanoi, street food. The freshness of ingredients and the light touch when bringing it all together are the signature features. Fish sauce, nuoc mam, the common denominator. Everything was good, but some wonderful highlights were: Banh Xeo (Vietnamese pancake or crepe, light as a feather); Goi Bo Bop Thau (beef salad); and Mien Xao Luon (stir-fries cassava noodles with eels).
Check out this Hanoi food blog: www.stickyrice.typepad.com