Family recipes from old Hanoi served in a colonial-era Vietnamese house in District 1. By Chris Mueller. Photos by Alex McMillan.
The French architecture of the colonial-style building housing Mam Son, mixed with the yellow walls, exposed brick and warm lighting, gives the restaurant the air of something old. If it weren’t for the simple Vietnamese decorations and the quiet classical Vietnamese music playing out of the speakers, Mam Son could be mistaken for a French restaurant. Instead it looks more like a home where a wealthy Vietnamese family might have lived during the 1930s.
Everything about Mam Son is a nod to the past. Brother and sister Tuan and Tu, already well-known for their home-style restaurant, Tuan and Tu’s, have taken their grandmother’s special recipes from old Hanoi and painstakingly tried to keep them authentic. One example of this is the cha ruoi (VND 95,000), a meat pie of sorts made from sandworm paste, minced pork, eggs, dill and tangerine zest. The sandworms used in the cha ruoi come from the north, where they are found at the bottoms of rivers or mangrove swamps. Since the worms only appear two times a year, and only in the north, Mam Son uses frozen worms they keep on hand year round. If you are too squeamish to eat worm pie, don’t worry, they are minced up enough to be unrecognisable and they add a nice crunch to the cha ruoi. We wash down the worm pie with some apricot juice (VND 50,000), a sweet, cider-like drink made from apricots left in a jar with sugar and water for one year. Although I’m not usually a fan of sweet drinks, this one goes well with the savoury Hanoian dishes.
For a main course we try the fish with herbs cooked on a hot rock (VND 440,000). Like many dishes in Vietnam, this one is wrapped in rice paper with vegetables and herbs before being dipped in fish sauce. The dill that both the fish and fish sauce are seasoned with provides a tangy compliment. On the side we try the sea crab and prawn fried spring rolls (VND 115,000), which are made with special, extra-thin rice paper from Hanoi for an added crisp. We also try the clam with tomato and dill soup (VND 90,000), which is full of clams and whole, juicy tomatoes, a light finish to a filling meal.
If you’re looking for some home-style traditional northern cooking, Mam Son has it, all in the comfort of a quiet and tastefully decorated building.
35 Ton That Thiep, District 1
08 39 15 36 53
11am to 10pm, seven days a week
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