A Taste of Colonial Vietnam at Hanoi’s Indochine Restaurant
The Indochine at 16 Nam Ngu Street in Hanoi’s Hoan Kiem district is one of the favourites among expats and tourists.
It’s tucked away in a little alley and if you don’t know where to look, you’re likely to walk right by it.
The sign isn’t very big or flashy and the entrance is just an unobtrusive walkway into the nether regions of the building.
The dining areas still have their old tile floors and are furnished with tasteful antiques.
The service is friendly and the food tasty, though a bit pricey for Vietnamese standards.
And since the portions aren’t very big, you shouldn’t really go there with growing boys (unless you don’t mind ordering five or six dishes for them and leaving a whole big pile of Vietnamese Dong behind).
Last time we were there, we had veggie spring rolls and a hot and sour vegetable soup as appetizers.
Unfortunately, the soup wasn’t as spicy as expected, but I guess the place caters to what it thinks are the foreigners’ tastes. The soup tasted mostly of tomatoes and pineapple. Not bad, but not spicy enough for my taste.
One thing that was unusual for us in the shrimp dish is that the cooks hadn’t taken out some hard pieces of lemongrass. Every time you took a bite, you had to chew on some pieces of lemon grass that felt like wood or straw in your mouth.
When I use lemongrass in my kitchen, I either cut it up in very small pieces that will cook through so you won’t really notice them when you’re eating, or if I use larger pieces of lemongrass, I take them out of the dish before serving.
The fish was glazed before it went into the hot pot and that added a very slight sweet taste to it. Wonderful!
One thing that’s reassuring about the food quality and the cooking at the Indochine is that you can watch the cooks prepare the food.
When you cross one of the restaurant’s courtyards, you’ll automatically walk by the kitchen. There, you can see pots and pans, spices and herbs – and watch half a dozen cooks and helpers slaving away in the heat produced by the stoves and ovens.
But – oh oh! – what’s that microwave in the top right corner of the picture doing there? I guess that’s the curse of modern civilization…