You really don’t have to look very far to find loads of great eating spots, and all of them are incredibly cheap with really good food in generally enormous portions. And, while all the restaurants have their own names, we’ve kind of devised our own way to refer to them that’s familiar to everyone and easy to recognise. It’s not very technical, as you’ll see below!
Pho Place / Beef Rice
This has become a serious staple in my life, and generally when I wonder in there, there’s at least one other person from the internship eating there! They know us pretty well by now and always bring over extra bits and pieces that we all add to our food, such as soy sauce, which doesn’t seem to be something that the Vietnamese eat with, but rather only use in their cooking. They were super confused the first time we asked!
Chihuahua place / Wine Apple Cat
Named so for the Chihuahua that’s always around in the evenings, and secondly for one of the menu items that we particularly enjoyed (no one has actually ordered it yet as we have no idea what it may be, but there are always great translations on the menus here and they’re usually harmless). Here you can get huge portions of noodles, usually just the two-minute variety which have been fried with a few bits and pieces added, morning glory piled with garlic, which is one of the main veggie side dishes here, especially in winter, and also loads of hot pot options – where everything is brought out and you chuck what you want to cook into a pot on a hot plate. These can generally be shared, and depending on how many people you share between, they’ll bring more ingredients – usually about 4 – 8 people.
If you’re looking for some serious protein and something a little bit different and definitively Vietnamese, try the buffalo place on Quan Nam street. They serve buffalo cooked in a variety of different ways, including with bamboo, in garlic, a tofu blend with the blood (it’s nothing like black pudding) and usually with rice.
Pork place / Chicken Thigh Fever
Another awesome menu translation, the chicken thigh fever place is where we go when we really feel a protein need. You can order a pork chop, with a fried egg and a sausage on a bed of rice (among other things) in a variety of portion sizes and the cost ranges between 30k and 40k VND which is basically the price you’ll pay for any of the other meals in the area. It’s super cheap and really good and the only struggle we sometimes have is how to eat a pork chop with chopsticks – challenge accepted. The pork place is also on Quan Nam street and it’s opposite a Bia Hoi place where you can get tankards of beer for 5k and take them across to the place where you’re eating, and just walk the glasses back afterwards. And usually sit for a few more beers, of course.
Build your own Banh Mi
Just up the road there’s a place where you can order a variety of different options, which are cooked on the skillet in front of you on the side of the road. These all then arrive plated but separate, with a small baguette and some cucumber and carrot in a pickle-type sauce and you can build your own baguette. This is a place we often go for breakfast as most of the options include egg, sausage and various other kinds of pork, meaning you can build yourself a breakfast baguette!
This is nice and easy for a basic Banh Mi, burgers, chips, pizza and some of the familiar bits and pieces from home. They also do coffees, teas and cool drinks and they have great wifi. One of the guys there speaks really good English and if he’s not around they have a menu in good English which you can just point to to order. It’s a really cute little place and is a nice, indoors spot where you can get away from the hustle a bustle a little bit.
If you’re looking for vegan fare, then The Loving Hut is the place to go. A slightly further walk than the others mentioned here, The Loving Hut does a buffet style vegan food. There is not a lot of English going around so you need to just point at what you want and they’ll put a plate together for you. This has become a favourite with the vegetarians in our group, as well as with the some of the non-vegetarians. If you go early enough in the day apparently they have amazing spring rolls as well!
The Secret Garden
Tucked away off the main road in a little oasis of calm and prettiness, The Secret Garden is the perfect place to stop and sit. Their coffees are great (try the yoghurt coffee), the fruit salad delicious (except for the green jelly bits, but those are easily removed) and the surrounding lovely. Their wifi is good, space is plentiful and it’s a great place to sit and do some writing, read a book or just decompress. Their dog has just had puppies so there’s also that at the moment!
Tous Les Jours bakery
A stunning little french bakery with a hige variety of sweet and savoury items to choose from, tous les jours is a great place to grab some treats. It’s not always easy to know what’s what and sometimes you pick something up thinking you know exactly what you’re getting only to bite into and it discover something very different, however it’s still a worthwhile stop on the list.
A taste of home
If you’re really missing home and looking for something familiar, then Pizza Hut delivers. Their options may be slightly different but they’re still pretty good and similar enough to cure the craving. Texas BBQ is a western restaurant that does pretty good burgers and pastas. They have an extensive menu with things like Nachos, chicken parmigiana and cheese and bacon burgers that probably won’t find anywhere else in Hai Phong and while they’re on the pricier side, the food is pretty good.
If you go to the bigger supermarket here (MegaMarket) you can also find things like a variety of white wine, which is particularly difficult to find anywhere else, a great cheese selection, including Philadelphia Cream Cheese, and things like Sweet Chili Sauce and crackers. Sometimes, all you really need is something familiar and totally delicious to tide you over.
There is no shortage of great coffee shops around and you won’t walk more than about 50m in any direction before you pass a spot to stop for a coffee on the side of the road, on the edge of a lake, or tucked away in a garden in the back.
Banh Da Cua
Last but not least, Hai Phong is famous for it’s Bánh đa cua which is a broth with red noodles and crab meat, along with other seafood. There are hundreds of places where you can stop and get this, some just around the corner, some down the road, but one of the most recommended places is at 48 Lach Tray. We stopped there a few weekends ago for a meal after we watched Hai Phong’s football team draw in a match at the Hai Phong Football Stadium, which is just down the road, and it was amazing!