Vietnamese cuisine is gaining more devotees in Singapore and a wave of restaurants has opened in the past few months to cater to the demand. Located in 100 AM Shopping Mall (besides Amara Hotel), Hanoi Vietnamese Restaurant serves up an array of lesser known yet amazingly tasty authentic Vietnamese cuisine.
With Vietnamese owners and chefs helming the kitchen, Hanoi Vietnamese Restaurant has moved beyong common bowls of pho (beef noodles) and fried spring rolls and are introducing many more traditional dishes from their homeland.
Have you ever wondered why Vietnamese women has such slender figures and youthful complexion? That’s because Hanoi’s cooking methods often involve steaming or stir-frying. Fresh herbs, lots of vegetables and seafood, and cooking techniques that use water or broth instead of oils help to ensure that her dishes are lower in calories and healthier. A good example is the lady boss of the restaurant. She has perfect figure!
For starters, the spring rolls are appealing. Spring rolls are my favorite, the crystal rice paper wrapper concealing a filling of chopped shrimp, rice noodle, mixed vegetable and sprigs of mint. Dressed in a sweet Vietnamese sauce and ground peanut, the Fresh Spring Roll ($6.90/2 pcs) were refreshing and a real palate cleanser.
Beef & Vegetable Roll ($8.90/2 pcs)
Especially the Vietnamese-style Rice Flour Rolls with Pork ($9.90/5 pcs) called bánh cuốn, I am somewhat obsessed with that. It is traditionally made with a rice flour batter, steamed to perfection and then filled with minced pork with wood ear mushrooms. Take a small piece of bánh cuốn and and dip it right into the tangy sauce, like a twin of chee cheong fun!
Fried Spring Roll ($7.90/3 pcs)
Los Leaf Rolls with Beef or Pork ($9.90/8pcs)
Sugarcane Shrimps ($12.90/3 pcs) is another good dish to try. Crisp-fried prawn is well balanced, with the fresh sugarcane cutting through the richness of the prawn crust. It was a pretty dish, enhanced by its sweet and spicy chili dip.
Fried Chicken Wings ($7.90/5 pcs)
What makes Vietnamese cuisine so exciting is the balance of contrasting elements, such as sweet, sour, salty and hot flavors. The Green Mango Salad with Shrimps ($7.90) is heaped with shredded green papaya tossed with chillis, mint leaves, peanut and shrimp crackers, balanced with just enough fish sauce to pull the whole thing together. The sour, spicy flavours neutralise any feeling of heaviness.
Fried Spicy Squid with Lemongrass ($11.90)
Viet Style Wok-tossed “Shaking” Beef ($11.90) is a simple hot beef salad, bo luc lac in Vietnamese, and makes a tingling dish. The ‘shaking’ refers to how the beef is tossed in the pan while cooking, and it jumps with flavour. The beef has good tender, flavorful and tasty.
Stir Fried Chicken with Cashew Nuts ($12.90)
The most famous noodle dish from Vietnam is undoubtedly the Pho. Pho Bo (beef noodle soup) is probably the closest the country has to a national dish. The restaurant’s Hanoi Beef Noodle Soup ($8.90) was hearty and beef. Their broth is painstakingly made by simmering bone marrow over 34 hours to bring out the authentic aroma. Staying firm to their traditional recipe, they insist on no MSG, no colourants and no preservatives.
Apart from the commonly used basil leaves and spring onions, there was Vietnamese coriander too (laksa leaves). How were the noodles? Very good. Smooth, slim and clean-tasting. The best part was the beef. The freshly cooked lean meats were all nicely tender. The non-greasy soup was packed with a beefy goodness that’s very satisfying. It has a very pleasant natural sweetness that came from fresh good-quality meat.
Hanoi Grilled Fish with Rice Vermicelli & Mixed Herbs ($23.90) is the restaurant’s signature dish and this is also the most expensive dish in the menu. This dish (Cha Ca Hanoi) is named after the restaurant in Hanoi that first popularized this method, Cha Ca La Vong.
Cha ca simply means “grilled fish” in the local language, and the fish is marinated with tumeric, ginger, fish sauce etc and grilled on a skillet. Then, loads of spring onions and fresh herbs are added into the skillet. The fun part of eating this is watching the dish cook right in front of us. The server places a small stove on our table and a skillet on top. He will first cook the fish before adding in heaps of greens. When the fish turns golden brown, we pair it with rice noodles and shrimp paste.
What makes cha ca la vong such a popular and famous dish? The taste, and the experience. Fillets of freshwater fish such as snakehead or catfish are first marinated for hours in a delicious blend of pepper, fish sauce, tumeric and ginger, and left to chill. When the flavours have seeped in, the generous chunks of fish are served to you, together with a heap of spring onions, ginger, dill, and fresh herbs – raw.
Part of the fun is watching the dish cook right in front of you. The server places a small stove on your table and a large pan on top. In goes the fish first, sizzling in the fragrant oil. Heaps of greens and the rest of the condiments are then stirred in. When the fish is perfectly browned, enjoy it over your own mix of pho (rice noodles), herbs, fish sauce, and shrimp paste. Garnish with peanuts extra crunch and texture!
For a sweet finish, the Lotus Seed and Logan ($5.90) is something to savor.
Food here has a good variety and they are affordable. They also have promotion for set meals at $59.80 for 2 pax; $98.90 for 4 pax; $27.90 per pax for a table of 5 pax or more, with a choice of appetizer, chef’s recommendation, special dish, noodles, beverage and dessert.
Hanoi Vietnamese Restaurant
Address: 100 Tras Street, 100 AM Shopping Mall #03-13
Tel: 6444 4406
Opening hours: 11am to 9.30pm daily