Hẻm Quán indulges gourmands in a space of southern cuisine and culture. Minh Thu gets ready to wrap-and-roll.
When I stepped out onto the patio of Hẻm Quán, I felt the modest atmosphere of the garden restaurants in the south with bamboo chairs, brick walls and no sophisticated decor, just photos of life and landscapes in the southern region.
Though Hẻm Quán looks simple like any draught beer inn, it offers a wide range of southern delicacies that always remind me of the region. I've been slowly melting in recent days due to the scorching heat, so there was nothing better than a glass of beer and a tray of wrap-and-roll dishes, southern style, at Hẻm Quán.
I knew that southern people love wrap-and-roll dishes. Grilled fish, pork and beef can be wrapped with various kinds of herbs and aromatics and dipped in sour, sweet, spicy and salty sauces.
The must-try dish at Hẻm Quán is bánh hỏi cuốn thịt nướng (fresh rice vermicelli and grilled beef wrapped in rice paper).
Bánh hỏi is rice vermicelli woven together into intricate bundles. One roll of bánh hỏi, a slice of grilled beef, aromatic herbs, slices of cucumber, pineapple, mango and chilli can be rolled together to create a mixture of flavours. The beef is very soft and tender as it’s grilled in pork fat.
Chicken braised in pumpkin indulges both adults and children. The chicken is soft and well-marinated. It’s well-cooked inside the pumpkin so it’s very sweet. The texture of the pumpkin is also soft as it’s cooked for hours, and it’s wonderful with rice.
Another signature dish of southern gastronomy is kho quẹt (caramelised pork belly and dried shrimp) paste. It’s used as a dip for boiled vegetables like broccoli, carrots and turnips, as well as crispy fried rice.
After the side dishes, we ordered a hotpot cooked with ingredients typical of the south. The lẩu xí quách (hotpot with broth cooked from pork bones) really stood out. The popular southern dish originates from China. It’s nutritious with the broth cooked from bones for hours with a similar recipe to those used for noodle soups.
Đỗ Quang Huy, the owner of the restaurant, said he opened the Hẻm Quán chain to introduce the quintessence of southern gastronomy to people in the capital. Apart from the delicious food, he also wants to create a cultural space for the dishes.
“We expect that during a visit to Hẻm Quán, our guests will enjoy the delicious food as well as the authentic space,” he said.
Hẻm Quán is a family favourite when we go out for dinner. The rich menu features 150 dishes including rolls, grilled dishes, salad and hotpot. The ingredients are imported from southern provinces so gourmands can enjoy the authentic taste of the region. VNS
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