In the heart of Saigon, an original Hanoi touch


A few capital city specialties, including the shrimp fritter, have their ‘primitive flavors’ well preserved at a District 1 restaurant

 
(L,R) Bánh tôm (fritter of shrimps and sweet potatoes), bún chả (grilled pork meat served with rice vermicelli, fresh herbs, and sweet and sour sauce), and nem rán (fried rolls) /PHOTOS: TAN NHAN

There are two things many residents of Ho Chi Minh City find diverting about the famous Hanoi specialty – bánh tôm – fried patties of wheat flour, shrimps and long pieces of sweet potatoes.

First, they use the same name for a crispy cake that is an optional side dish served with bánh ướt – thin rice pancake (literally, “wet cake”); or with bánh cuốn (literally, “rolled cake”). This “faux” bánh tôm is made of rice flour, shrimp and mung beans.

The second thing is that the Saigonese can actually enjoy the “original” bánh tôm from Hanoi in the heart of Ho Chi Minh City.

What’s more, what is served here is more original than found in many establishments that serve the dish in its place of origin. 

Kudos are due to the Ho Tay Restaurant in District 1 for keeping pieces of sweet potatoes in its bánh tôm – an ingredient missing these days even in many old restaurants in Hanoi.

Even the dipping sauce is very close to its original version – a fish sauce that has sweet, sour and spicy tones, and totally does not affect the shrimp fritter’s crispiness when it is dipped. Then there are pickled vegetables and fresh herbs as accompaniments.

HỒ TÂY RESTAURANT

20 Tran Cao Van Street, Da Kao Ward, District 1, HCMC
 
Open: 9 a.m. – 2 p.m.; and 
4 p.m. – 9 p.m.
 
Prices: bánh tôm (VND38,000/5 pieces), nem rán (VND42,000/5 rolls), bún chả (VND32,000/portion)

 

Of course, the best place to have bánh tôm is still the Banh Tom Ho Tay (West Lake bánh tôm) Restaurant in Hanoi, which is well-known nationwide.

But while you are in Saigon and have a hankering for the capital city’s specialty, I would highly recommend the Ho Tay Restaurant.

Moreover, the restaurant sells two other famous dishes of Hanoi: bún chả (grilled pork meat served with rice vermicelli, fresh herbs, and sweet and sour sauce), and nem rán (fried rolls), also known as spring rolls.

If you are in HCMC missing Hanoi; or if you are in HCMC and want a sneak preview into the famed Hanoi cuisine – you don’t have to go far to get to the Ho Tay Restaurant.

By Tan Nhan, Thanh Nien News (The story can be found in the August 30th issue of our print edition, Vietweek)
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