I wandered up to Xian Dieu to drop off some dry cleaning and just because I was there HAD to pop into St Honor. I couldn't resist buying a couple of their beautiful cakes (their baker is French and it shows). I took a strawberry tart and a chocolate eclair in a neat little box and strolled off to wander around the lake. Mr Hung from the Cooking Centre had told me of a great cafe in a street nearby, Yen Phu, but I'd forgotten the address. I text him to ask and before I knew it he'd rung back and we'd arranged to meet. Hung is a passionate and enthusiastic chef who has a real interest in making and decorating cakes. It was as if I'd known that he was going to ring when I'd got the two cakes...like I'd known I'd have someone to share them with...(I couldn't possibly eat two cakes all by myself could I?)
I got to the cafe first...it's a tiny narrow space that covers three stories. The cafe is famous for it's 'weasel coffee'. This is a type of coffee that is eaten by a civet cat and the animal poos out the beans which are then harvested. Apparently the gastric juices of the civet cat (or weasel) give the coffee it's distinctive taste.
|You can actually see the poo holding the coffee beans together!|
|Looks like chocolate peanuts or something similar!|
It must be good because it sells for about $3000 a kilo!
|Could it be any narrower?|
|The equiment is old but still does the job.|
I arrived before Hung and sat myself at a tiny table downstairs. The waiter bought me a noh-da iced coffee (literally translated as brown ice) without having to be asked. It was strong but not bitter and just sweet enough with the perfect amount of condensed milk. Next thing Hung arrived and in my haste to jump up and greet him I managed to tip over the entire glass! I am such a klutz. Thankfully he is well known and managed to smooth things over. We relocated upstairs which is apparently more comfortable and left the mess behind. I was pleasantly surprised to find Miss Huong from Koto upstairs having a drink with a previous graduate from Koto. Introductions were made and the four of us shared the cakes with our coffee's. A quarter of a cake is so much less damaging to the thighs. Miss Huong and her pal left and Hung and I enjoyed an in depth natter about cakes, icing and techniques. It's fun to find someone who's as obsessed as me.
I had heard that yoghurt was a delicacy enjoyed in coffee shops in Hanoi but had never tried it... I'm not that fond of yoghurt. However Hung enthused about the stuff made at the cafe and insisted we try his favorite version... with sticky rice. The yoghurt is usually served frozen with a smidge of coffee for flavour. When the glass arrived it looked a bit odd...black grains on top of the creamy yoghurt; I thought the rice was going to be quite chewy but it wasn't at all. One must stir well before enjoying.
|Sticky rice yoghurt...|
|You can see the layers in this shot.|
|It tasted much, much better than it looked.|
|My mate Hung, a great guide to the culinary delights of Hanoi.|
I have to confess that the sticky rice was so good I could have eaten the whole glass twice over.
Before I realised it hours had gone by and it was time to go visiting my pal Rosemary at her apartment overlooking West Lake. There were sights to see on the way...
Even more xmas madness...
|Let it snow...let it snow...let it snow...|
|Santa takes a little tumble...|
|Nice to see there must have been a Kiwi saint in Hanoi at some point..eh bro?|
|Not a lot of O H & S here in Hanoi..I asked the chap on the second floor if I could take a shot..he looked a bit bemused as to why I would want to but nodded anyway.|
After a bit I found Rosemary's place on Tran Vu. Rosemary is here in Vietnam working on a road safety program...road safety in Vietnam...bit of an oxymoron. We ensconced ourselves in comfy chairs facing the verandah with a glass of wine in hand and enjoyed the view of the lake with it's kitsh little swan boats. Before too long we had solved the problems of the world, agreed on dinner (pasta with marinara sauce) and decided that Rosemary's needed to set up her own blog. While I cooked dinner she logged on and began the process. By the time dinner was ready it was well and truly night...and the lake looked spectacular.
|This is a large floating restaurant that looks a bit drab during the day...spruces up well at night though doesn't it?|
|The same restaurant and the lights of the causeway that connects Tay Ho with the city.|
After our pasta Rosemary made a yummy dessert of some early stawberries, passionfruit pulp, brandy (well it is the holidays..) and more yoghurt! It was just a perfect end to a yummy meal and gave me just the energy boost I needed to embark on the walk home.
So to the end of another great day...good friends, great food and the sights and sounds of this amazing city.