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A specialty from Vietnam’s Pearl Island



A bowl of Phu Quoc-style “ken” noodle soup – PHOTO: TAUCAOTOC

HCMC – Phu Quoc is referred to as Vietnam’s pearl island due to its beautiful scenery. Yet there is another aspect about the island which is worth trying—its gastronomy. Among the local dishes is “ken” noodle soup with its herbs. This specialty can be said to be typical of Phu Quoc Island off the coast of Kien Giang Province.

According to locals, “ken” is a word of the local Khmer language used to designate dishes made from coconut milk. Several versions of “ken” noodle soups are available in Chau Doc and Can Tho cities in the Mekong Delta. However, Phu Quoc-style “ken” noodle soup is different from its counterparts in one way or another.

The broth of the dish is cooked from nhau or ngan (Salangidae) fishes instead of snakehead fish like normally found in other versions of the noodle soup. The fish to be used are cleaned and boiled until they become soft. Next, they are filleted and pounded finely. This phase is indispensable as it helps the noodle soup have a special flavor.

In fact, making the broth is quite complex. Pounded fish flesh is stir fried with garlic, ginger grass and chilies until it turns crispy. Then, the crispy fish flesh will be cooked with coconut milk and the broth from boiled fish flesh. This mixture should be simmered to make it thicker. Among the accompanying spices, five-spice powder or curry powder is essential to create an eye-catching yellow for the dish.

The Phu Quoc-style “ken” noodle soup is served with herbs, green papaya salad and sweet and sour fish sauce. Moreover, diners can enjoy the broth with bread instead of noodles.

The noodle soup is an ideal combination of a wide range of ingredients such as coconut milk, sea fish, chili and green papaya, to deliver an unforgettable taste.



Bark paper drawings enliven Hanoi coffee shop



For those interested in the art of “dó” paintings, which are made from “dó” tree bark, a small café on Hanoi’s Ly Quoc Su Street is just the joint.

Located at 25A on Ly Quoc Su Street, only about 150 meters from Hanois St. Josephs Cathedral, Do Cafe & Art stands out with its elegant sepia color. At first glance, the cafe looks like a gallery. This coffee shop not only serves guests with signature drinks like egg coffee but also displays paintings drawn on Do (Poonah) papers, which has been widely used in Vietnam’s famous Dong Ho and Hang Trong folk paintings.

Dó Cafe & Art at 25A Ly Quoc Su Street, about 150 meters from Hanoi’s St. Joseph’s Cathedral, stands out for its elegant sepia color. While serving signature drinks like egg coffee, the cafe displays drawings on paper, widely used in Vietnam’s famous Dong Ho and Hang Trong folk arts. The paper is made from the bark of tree (Rhamnoneuron balansae), which is native to northern Vietnam.

Thu Hang, the cafes owner, said that the shop was named Do after her interest and preference for do paperm the type of paper used for painting in Vietnamese folk art. Do paper, which comes from the bark of poonah trees in northern provinces of Vietnam, has long been used for painting or writing, as seen in renowned folklore paintings, calligraphy and documents from past dynasties and family annals.

Owner Thu Hang explained paper had long been used in renowned folklore paintings, calligraphy and documents from past dynasties and family annals.

These paintings on do paper at the shop do not belong to folk art but the modern art school, drawn by painters Ngo Thi Phuong Binh and Dinh Y Nhi. What makes the female owner passionate about this paper material is because it bears the typical Vietnamese imprint and needs a certain meticulousness. Drawing on do paper requires high technique and care, because the paper is very thin and easy to be torn, said Hang.

Works on display include modern art created by painters Ngo Thi Phuong Binh and Dinh Y Nhi. Hang is particularly passionate about the paper for its typical Vietnamese imprint and need for meticulousness.
“Drawing onpaper requires great technique and care, since it is very thin and easily torn,” said Hang.

Each painting has its own story and guests can drink coffee while enjoying them.In the picture is a painting by artist Ngo Thi Phuong Binh, with the image of a man’s face assembled from countless women’s bodies. Hang shared, the number of paintings at the shop will increase in the future and the way the paintings are displayed at the shop will change after a certain period of time.

Artist Ngo Thi Phuong Binh’s work features the image of a man’s face assembled from countless female bodies. Hang said the number of paintings would increase in future, along with the style of display.

The shop consists of 3 floors. In addition to do paper paintings, the shop also displays collections of oil paintings and sculptures. The second floor í sfavored by many customers with a balcony with a view of Ly Quoc Su Street, home to the capitals signature food stalls.

The shop consists of three floors. In addition to paper art, it also features collections of oil paintings and sculptures.
The second floor ís favored by many customers for its balcony with a view of Ly Quoc Su Street, home to the capital’s signature food stalls.

Drinks of the coffee shop costs from VND30,000 to 70,000, inclusing chocolate layer and espresso egg coffee.The only minus point of the restaurant is that there is not much parking space.

Drinks cost from VND30,000 to 70,000 ($1.30-3.04).
The only minus is the café’s lack of parking space.

Inside the shop, there are two plates drawn by the late writer Nguyen Huy Thiep who presented them to the owner.

Two plates decorated by late writer Nguyen Huy Thiep who presented them to the owner. The plate on the right, featuring a mouse gifting a cat a fish, celebrates the Year of the Mouse in 2020, while the other plate decorates Thiep’s famous work “The Retired General.”


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New Covid-19 wave challenges Vietnam’s tourism sector



The domestic tourism industry places high expectations on the peak season for domestic tourists, which falls in the coming summer months. However, the ongoing wave of Covid-19 once again has posed challenges for the recovery of Vietnam’s tourism.

The 4-day holiday of April 30 to May 1 was a positive start for the tourism industry. Before the 4th wave of Covid-19, many resorts were almost full during the holidays. The room rates at some resorts were even higher than those at the same time in 2019.

In mid-April, hotels and resorts in Da Nang, Phu Quoc, Phan Thiet and Ho Tram all recorded high demand for bookings for the April 30-May 1 holiday. Inner-city hotels recorded a good occupancy rate of over 75%, while coastal resorts had a higher rate with 80%, and even some resorts almost reached 100% during the holiday of April 30 -1/5.

According to the Da Nang Department of Tourism, during the holiday of April 30 to May 1, the total number of visitors and tourists in Da Nang was estimated at 74,000, down 42% compared to the previous plan. Major events and festivals in Da Nang were halted due to the complicated developments of the epidemic. The number of tourists staying at hotels and resorts in Da Nang during the holiday reached only 40,000, down 30% compared to the pre-holiday estimate.

Tăng cao kỷ lục rồi bất ngờ gãy đổ, nín thở trước mùa cao điểm
Tourists at the beach during the April 30-May 1 holiday. (Photo: VietNamNet)

According to the Airports Corporation of Vietnam (ACV), during the peak period from April 28 to May 2, Vietnamese airports served nearly 1.5 million passengers, an increase of 30% over the same period of 2019.

On April 29 alone, the number of passengers passing through Tan Son Nhat airport in HCM City reached more than 108,000, the highest in history. That shows that the demand for domestic tourism is huge. As international commercial flights have not yet been reconnected, domestic tourism is the focus of tourism development.

However, the new outbreak of Covid-19, which started in late April, hit the tourism industry when it was preparing for the peak season.

Tourist destinations that needed to be reached by air such as Da Nang and Nha Trang reported many canceled room bookings just before the holiday when information about the first infections was announced.

The impact on tourism activities of localities was also different. The provinces and cities that were mainly accessible by air were immediately affected when people limited air travel. Locations that are easily accessible after only a few hours of drive such as Ho Tram and Da Lat are expected to be less affected.

According to Google Destination Insights, as soon as the first cases of community transmission were confirmed, the demand for hotels in Da Nang as recorded on May 1 decreased by nearly 50% compared to April 26. The demand for flight searches also recorded a corresponding decrease.

Tăng cao kỷ lục rồi bất ngờ gãy đổ, nín thở trước mùa cao điểm

Hanoi’s Noi Bai airport was deserted after the new outbreak of Covid-19. Photo: Ngoc Ha

Mr. Mauro Gasparotti, Director of Savills Hotels Asia Pacific, said that the market recorded many positive signals in recent months when demand for accommodation and conference services gradually recovered. However, the 4th wave of Covid-19 once again caused a heavy impact on the accommodation service industry, and some hotels even had to suspend some facilities.

Hotels and resorts received many requests to cancel room booking or change the date of stay. In addition, MICE activities and event business at hotels in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi were also affected, when conferences were postponed or canceled.

This was a blow on hotels as April and May are the peak season for conference activities.

Resorts also suffered the same impact when more than 50% or even up to nearly 80% for some resorts room bookings were cancelled. Some hotels decided to temporarily close until the outbreak is controlled.

Mr. Mauro Gasparotti said that the recent long holiday is proof that domestic tourists are the driving force for the recovery of the tourism industry.

In 2021, the tourism industry aims to serve 80 million domestic tourists, equivalent to the number of visitors in 2019, a growth of more than 42% compared to 2020.

Duy Anh


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‘Pho’ – a Hanoian’s exquisite cuisine



The simple yet exotic delicacy of piping hot noodle soup with beef has captured the heart of many culinary connoisseurs locally and internationally.

A simple pleasure

The weather turns harsh, the chill of winter penetrates, and it is to soups and stews and comforting ritual meal we turn with gratitude. And it’s the time for Hanoi Pho, which basically is a series of variation’s on beef noodle soup, and has been described as the national dish of Vietnam.   

 A bowl of Pho in a restaurant in Ly Quoc Su Street. Photo: Bich Hoi

“Your order upon arrival: a bowl of rare or well-done beef Pho, with or without onion and, of course, no seasoning. A few minutes later the Pho is served at your table. The ritual begins. Squeeze in some lemon, add chilli and pepper, then mix the soup with your chopsticks. Bring the bowl level with your mouth and start to eat while drinking the broth with a porcelain spoon.”

“After finishing your Pho, pay for it on your departure, then take the traditional toothpick and move to the tea shop next door for a cup of green tea or coffee. Now, you are ready to start the new day.”

A leading expert of Vietnamese spices, Chef Didier Corlou, wrote these words about Pho in his cookbook. “People should first sample a bowl of the rice noodle soup with beef before going on to discover the mystery of Vietnamese culinary,” he recommended.

Pho could be found in luxurious Pho eateries or cheap-eat Pho stalls in the streets or markets. 

But Chef Didier Corlou, who has nearly 40 years of cooking experience and has been in Vietnam for more than 30 years, is just a “latecomer” in the journey of discovering the dish that is considered the “national soul” of Vietnam.

In the 1940s, pho was already very popular in Hanoi. Renown Vietnamese writer Thach Lam used to write on a book entitled “Hanoi’s 36 streets” that “Pho is a special gift of Hanoi, not only Hanoi has, but it is because only Pho in Hanoi is delicious”.

The special food that “its aroma alone is enough to chase winter from the soul” begins with the steaming of beef shinbones in a huge cauldron until the gelatinous consommé is concentrated – this takes about 24 hours. It is then spiced up with a dedicated balance of herbs, spices and salts.

When you place your order, the cook add slices of raw, cooked or sauté beef (depending on the order) to a bowl of the broth, on top of rice noodles, then sprinkles it all with sliced onion, chopped green onion and fresh coriander. 

Not only an ordinary meal

Diners are patiently waiting for their Pho orders. Photo: Bich Hoi.

Unlike other Hanoi specialties, eating Pho is a very common habit to Hanoian. Its popularity is explained by its usefulness, Pho can be a good start to the day, a quick meal during lunch or a really heavy meal for dinner.

In Hanoi, the Pho at any ‘Pho Ly Quoc Su’ stalls are worth trying once that any visitors to the capital should not miss. The Ly Quoc Su Pho’s owners may have its own reason to be so self-conceited. The brand of Pho Ly Quoc Su is the unique one in Hanoi which has keep the traditional Hanoi Pho original recipe since the years of 1948-1949. The host seems to be over fastidious about Pho spices.

Warning. There will be a long line of Pho eaters waiting in queues for being served at any Pho Ly Quoc Su in Hanoi. 

They might not take dumpling, sponge cake or other foods, but they must take at least a bowl of Pho more than once or twice a week for their whole of life.For Hanoian, Pho not only a food that helps to fill stomach but is a cultural habit that is rooted in each mind.

They are willing to wake up earlier in the morning to wait patiently for a bowl of Pho in some famous stall then happily claim as one of their most important gratification of the day. One Pho’s fan has found the best Pho for him, he may be the most faithful client of this Pho stall for the remainder for his life.

And the last but not least, do not ne hestitant of the tiny and simply Pho stalls or you will miss your chance to test the real original Hanoi Pho that not to be found anywhere else on the earth.  



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