New twist on traditional Vietnamese cuisine

Vietnam Heritage, October-November 2011, Advertorial -- The dark brown wooden tables and chairs, the wooden floor and ceiling, the yellow lights: all of it painted a classy but cozy picture of a Vietnamese restaurant in a private corner of downtown Hanoi. It was lunchtime and the place was crowded with business-like clad customers, and a voice with a southern accent recommended the dishes of the day.
One of the seven Hoang Yen restaurants throughout Vietnam, Hoang Yen Hanoi brings a new touch to traditional Vietnamese cookery and a lively amiability to a formal business lunch.
Polite, prompt, and attentive are the most recognisable traits of the servers at Hoang Yen restaurants. Ms Giang, the daughter of the owner, takes pride in her staff. ‘They might not yet be as professional as those in the 5-star or 6-star hotels but it’s the gratefulness and the gentleness that strikes you.’ 

At Hoang Yen Hanoi, all the personnel come from the south to be in uniform in the manner of the other Hoang Yen restaurants within the chain. The bilingual menu features hundreds of dishes, mostly Vietnamese traditional cookery.
I ordered my lunch: La Vong pan-fried marinated fish, Tonkin creeper flowers stir-fried with garlic, crab and basella alba vegetable soup, salted eggplants, pork jelly, and, as it is a Vietnamese meal, rice.
For appetizer, a pan of fillets of fish with a delicately smell of turmeric arrived, sizzling in hot oil. The fillets were from one of the best fish available in Vietnam: Asia crystal-eyed catfish. The waitress added a handful of dill and green onion, stirred it around and invited me to enjoy. Rice vermicelli, herbs, peanuts, sesame crackers and shrimp paste: all of it came in shiny white petal-shaped bowls, decorated with pieces of purple onion that looked like lily flowers. The chilies were cut in the shape of a Gerbera daisy. Delicious! Mouth-watering. Eye-catching. Nose-tickling. And mentally stimulating.
I started the main course with the pork jelly and felt the deliciousness before I even tasted it. Through the transparent frozen broth, I could see every ingredient: lean pork, onion, black pepper, finely cut pork skin, all framed with sweetish pickles. It was just irresistible!
Lemon-like fragrant clusters of golden yellow Tonkin creeper flowers coated with oil andtopped with garlic framed the plate. Tasty, rich in carbohydrates, proteins and vitamins, this ornamental and fragrant climber is one of the most refined and wholesome dishes in Vietnamese cuisine.
Hoang Yen serves the best vegetable soup ever. The soup tempted my appetite with the inviting light-brown patches of river crabmeat topped with the appealing green leaves of Malabar spinach. It won my heart with an authentically delicate and sweet flavor. To make the dish pop, they served it with pickled eggplants.
I asked Giang what she wanted to bring to the city that has 1,000 years of culture when she decided to open the restaurant in late 2010. ‘There is no lack of Vietnamese restaurants in Hanoi, but for the most part they are north-oriented. Hoang Yen provides a broader category: Vietnamese. We specialise in dishes, which are typical of the southern, the central region and the north,’ she said.
Food safety is the first priority at Hoang Yen restaurants, Ms Giang added. The meat and seafood are provided by all the registered and reputable companies, and the vegetables come from reliable organic food suppliers.
After almost 30 years of operation, the Hoang Yen brand has spread among connoisseurs, mostly through word of mouth. ‘My family loves cooking. We didn’t plan to expand or get rich. Yet, customers complained about not having enough space. So more and more eateries named Hoang Yen have come into being.’n

Hoang Yen Restaurant
114 Bui Thi Xuan St, Hai Ba Trung Dist., Hanoi. Tel: (04) 2211-5538


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