A few years ago I travelled around Asia yet when I arrived in Vietnam, I didn’t get off to the best start. The first half of my trip was spent bed-ridden as I tried to keep my fluids up which wasn’t how I pictured spending my final two weeks travelling.
Luckily, by our final stopping point of Hanoi, I was back to health which was just as well as some of the food I experienced in the bustling city was some of the best during my travels.
As soon as we entered the city, we took refuge in a cafe overlooking the busy roundabout, barely making it through as we took our lives into our own hands, dodging the crazy mopeds. Asking for a green tea, I was asked, ‘Did I mean Vietnamese tea’? Learning the popularity of my favourite drink, I instantly warmed to the crazy city as they brought out large pots of freshly brewed leaves, as we chatted to a London man about how he met his wife in the city.
However, there were two moments that stood out for me, food-wise. One I had researched and knew I would be heading there no matter what, and one I had heard on the grapevine throughout our travels.
The first was the mention of a chocolate buffet. Hosted in the stunning Sofitel Legend Metropole Hotel, it may seem ridiculous to some to go all that way only to devour on chocolate. Upon hearing it was £24 for unlimited eating, you can see why it was a must-do.
(Of course, at this point in the trip, we had barely any clean clothes, let alone ones nice enough for the Sofitel Hotel, but we made do and got some dirty looks from the guests).
We were met by what I can only describe as what I imagine the afterlife will be when I meet it. Full of chocolate canapes, pancakes, hot chocolates, crepes, petit fours, mouses, waffles, macarons; I barely glanced at the savoury options and healthy fruit options because it was all I could do to restrain myself.
The next hour passed in a sweet, sweet blur. Deliciously rich, broken up by some mini sandwiches when the chocolate became too much; we actually had the restaurant to ourselves so were able to go up as often as we wanted without too much judgement. The unlimited Vietnamese tea sweetened the deal, so to speak, and even now the thought of it makes me salivate as to the sheer beauty and volume of chocolate I experienced. A must do, in my opinion.
However, the iconic thing to do in the city is head to Giang Cafe for a famous egg coffee. These were created in the 1940’s after the city suffered a milk shortage, so instead, resorted to whisking egg yolks into their coffees. And so was created egg coffee, otherwise called cà phê trúng. Don’t be put off by the name; it is similar to an eggnog with a burst of coffee and even has hints of creamy vanilla within.
Finding the cafe, however, is another story. Hidden down a tiny alleyway, we went past it many times, even after we had been there before. It is all worth it though to go to the city’s famous spot.
As you walk in, you’re met by the serving staff at a tiny counter where you put your order in, asking for the egg coffee (or egg hot chocolate, for non-coffee drinkers). Up the winding stairs, you’re up in a tiny open roof room with hundreds of plants climbing the walls, with tiny tables made for pre-schoolers so your knees are up around your ears. Bizarrely, you’re also surrounded by Vietnamese businessmen in suits, all chatting over coffee and eating hundreds of peanuts which they lazily shell on the floor.
It’s an experience to be had, and with each tiny cup costing roughly 90p each, we ended up having about four each, as well as heading back every day for a lunch break. By our final days, they just nodded as we took our seats with our tiny cups of milky, sweet coffee.
My time in Vietnam may have had a shaky start, but Hanoi helped me through as I eagerly tried to fill my stomach again with rich, delicious treats. Just make sure you ready your sweet tooth because you’ll be riding that sugar high for a long time.