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We like to think of Peterman’s Eye as an old fashioned interactive community newspaper (if there is such a thing) focused on travel and curiosities. Talk with us about today’s post. Tell us about the places you’ve been. Or take a trip using J. Peterman’s exclusive travel services (coming soon). Read more...

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I’ve come to Hanoi for some adventurous eating. It's a city of great contrast where you can have an excellent dinner of noodles while perched on a tiny red plastic chair on a sidewalk in a kind of gloomy half light, or dine in elegance at any number of grand restaurants.

I chose Club Opera, a short walk from Hanoi’s shimmering Hoan Kiem Lake. The waitresses wear gold and black áo dài (a flowing silk tunic dress with silk pants), their long black hair pulled back with gold ribbons. As in all restaurants in Vietnam, I am given a hot towel when I am seated. Before I can order, I'm served a platter of beautifully pickled vegetables: cucumbers, cabbage, onions and others that I can't identify.

My second teaser arrives, and I have no idea what it is. The tiny dish in front of me apparently contains an open-face turnover. My waitress closes it with chopsticks and then motions that I should scoop it with my spoon. It is gelatinous and filled with tiny shrimp the size of rice, and for contrast something crunchy (what? I don't know). It slithers down like a raw oyster.

I start with a Hanoi specialty, shrimp cakes. They arrive on a carefully arranged bed of shredded lettuce and herbs. The cakes are made of potato and taro and formed into pinwheels with a shrimp in the center and deep fried. Each spoke of the pinwheel is a potato stick.

I combine the salad with the cakes, dunk the combination in dipping sauce and float in culinary heaven.

The pleasure continues with garlic encrusted sole accompanied by what is called sautéed morning glories. I have no idea what they are! The fish has just the right amount crispy texture to seal the soft, moist flesh. The morning glories taste both sweet and sharp.

I am deeply content until I see what our neighbors have ordered: crispy looking tubes of something stuck elegantly into holes inside a flaming pineapple. What could they possibly be, I wonder.

Would you be willing to find out?


J. Peterman


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3 Members’ Opinions
March 12, 2009 1:09 PM
Bwme 10photoviewsCom-100Com-300Com-500First-comFirst-photoHr-1Hr-10Hr-5 nachista said...

Mmmmmmm I'm hungry.  There used to be a really great Vietnamese restaurant here in my home town but it closed down a few years ago when the family that operated it moved.  The food was always fresh, tastey, and cheap.  When my oldest sister was pregnant it was the only food she could eat that didn't give her heart burn so we went for mid-morning pho 3 or 4 times a week.

March 12, 2009 2:17 PM
First-com luludemajorque said...

I would love to try the morning glories to go with the gloriously sunny morning I experienced today sitting on my lounge chair as my husband skinny-dipped in the pool next to me. As for the crispy looking tubes next door, what comes to mind is that the grass is always greener on the other side. I bet your morning glories were more delectable than the tubes!... probably a more sophisticated hue of green. Furthermore, flaming pineapples are overated I hear. Apparently the ones in Hawaii are better. No!... My husband, who's now clothed and seated near me begs to differ. He says  those Vietnamese pineapples are amazing.

March 12, 2009 2:33 PM
First-com bolo said...

Yes the food indeed reigns supreme in Hanoi and all of Vietnam for that matter. Some of the best food in Vietnam most assuredly is eaten on the side walk in little plastic chairs. These chairs unfortunately are made in Vietnam and they do not accomodate my 6 foot 2 inches and 250 pound frame...I have ended many meals on the sidewalk!

As you all know, Vietnam was most prominent in the opium trade. I say this because the morning glories (ipomoea aquatica) referred to are also known as water spinach, or swamp cabbage for us Westerners and as Ong-Choy or Kang-kung (this is not the Mexican name derived from a famous resort in the Yucatan peninsula!) by the autochtones. These little flowers are classified, in the USA, as a Federal Noxious Weed....Weed being the important word. You must know get my allusion to the opium trade.  The bottom line of it all is that these little flowers are delectably hallucinogenic in any form. No wonder the dish was appreciated.

I am a little disapointed that our Traveler Emeritus did not mention the wonderful coffe "Viet Kafe" that is omnipresent in any Vietnamese culinary feast. This coffee is grown in the mountains of Vietnam and packs a puch, very complimentary to the effects of the morning glories. Should you finish off your meal with a traditional Vietnamese Vodka (not what is known the world over as Vodka) you will reach a nirvana no longer accessible (or should I say legal!) in the Western world. The Vietnamese Vodka is a moonshine mixture to which you add the blood of a cobra snake killed in front of you at your table. To mimic the 3 step process of the tequila shot (salt, lime and tequila), the Vietnam Vodka 3 steps are the moonshine, the cobra blood and the cobra's beating heart!

To my great shame I must admit my ignorance about the pineapple dish. Pineapple are omnipresent in Vietnam and was most assuredly a local dish. Vietnamese pineapples are succulent and rival the Hawaiian ones. The street vendors have a wonderful way of cutting a fresh pineapple for you with a huge machete. The vendors will carve it in a spiral. It looks so beautiful that you almost feel bad eating such a masterpiece.


Honor Roll

still thinking about today...

Yesterday's Discussion

Next to the spice dealers, there are sweet shops: Turkish delight, baklava, and traditional ice cream, stretched and rolled like fudge but thicker.


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