Last month I visited Hanoi for the first time, and I loved it.
The city has a huge energy, great food, charm, history, individuality, plenty of cool trees and structures, wicked parks and amazing people.
I did have the feeling that no matter where I hid, a motorcycle was about to roar towards me and run me down, but that's to be expected. It was great fun, and little sleep was had by all.
We ended up hearing about a place called Khuong Thuong Village which specialises in some pounded frog dishes and we decided to pop in for lunch on our last day.
We didn't know Hanoi, and from the map it seemed to be only 8km from the city center. Rather close for a 'village'.
We headed off with plenty of time to spare, aware that the place closed around 1:40pm.
When we got out of the cab and asked about the legendary frog, a couple of locals nodded sagely and pointed down a long, meandering lane with some degree of confidence and certainty. Off we walked.
Every 1/2 kilometer or turnoff, we asked again and history repeated.
We had so many fingers pointing in so many directions, and apparently we never went the wrong way. Not even once.
Lane after lane unfolded, with no sign of the elusive frog shop.
As a specialty of the village, we sort of expected a smaller environment with quite a few vendors or restaurants, but this was a maze or gargantuan proportions, with no particular culinary focus.
Time grew short, and we were not too far from encountering a closed restaurant with rumbling bellies and sweat-stained shirts.
This was one of the lanes complete with thick black power cables, bird cages and colonial French balconies.
At last we found the place, if only through sheer grit and determination.
We climbed upstairs, sat down and used the cold towels, the glasses of ice and some cans of Bia Hanoi.
The frog on sale at this revered establishment came two ways.
Most of the meat (and bone!) is taken off the frog and pounded to make a mousse or paste.
These are fried with lime leaf, like little Thai fishcakes. The taste and smell is nice, but it was a bit disconcerting having the wee bits of bone still in the fried pounded frog fritters.
The remaining frog is deep fried whole, and you eat the bones as well as the meat.
The bones are actually chewable, but I'm not a big bone fan
The crispy frog was pretty good. You eat the bones on these ones too, but I ended up gingerly chewing off the meat and leaving the hard bits behind.
Here's the menu.
The most impressive dish actually the 'bun oc' – or thin rice vermicelli with snails. The snails we chose were stewed with green banana, out of the shell. Really tasty, and quite a "Wow!" moment.
The frog cakes have potential. I'd do them without the bones, similar to a Thai fishcake or 'tod man pla'.
Drop in anyway if you're in Hanoi. It's a nice walk and there's plenty of place to stop off at at eat, drink, or point the camera at.