Welcome to the second installment in a three-part series on adventure eating in Hanoi, Vietnam. If you missed the first part (which showcased balut – fertilized duck eggs) you can find it here. For this installment, we’re going to turn it up a notch with insects, amphibians and arachnids.
I searched the internet prior to our trip to Vietnam and found a promising little restaurant called Quan Kien in Hanoi. Evidently the English translation is “Ant’s Restaurant” which makes sense considering their menu is rife with dishes made with ant eggs. Other popular items included various dishes made with scorpions, silk worm larvae and frogs.
I loved the place as soon as I saw that we were required to remove our shoes and sit on the floor at a tatami table. We were the only non-Asians in the place at the time we arrived so we concluded that it was, indeed, authentic. The stage was set for a deliciously bizarre meal.
The menu was several pages long and it quickly became evident that I couldn’t sample everything. So I skipped the silk worm larvae and ant eggs dishes and opted for roasted locusts, spicy barbecued frog and crispy fried scorpions. (In the case of the latter, I think the word “crispy” is redundant.)
The locusts – which I would call a grasshopper – were good, but nothing special. They were crunchy and well-seasoned and I could see them being a popular snack while watching a football game or a movie. In fact, a local gentleman from our hotel called them “Vietnamese popcorn”!
The frogs, on the other hand, were delicious. They were evidently brushed with a very spicy glaze and then barbecued whole. They were light and crunchy and deliciously spicy. I dubbed them “Vietnamese hot wings” and would definitely order them again and again. Even my dubiously skeptical husband agreed they were awesome!
Although I had been looking forward to the crispy fried scorpions with great anticipation, they unfortunately, did not deliver. Their exoskeletons were as hard as they looked which made eating them incredibly difficult. The taste? There really was none as far as I could tell. It seemed to me that the cooking process had sucked away all the scorpion goodness and left us with a scorpion shell – literally.
Regardless of my disappointment with the scorpions, the dinner was a huge success. Each dish came with the bargain price tag of between 105,000 and 125,000 Vietnamese Dong, which converts to between $5 and $6 US Dollars. The entire dinner with a salad, drinks and tip was less than $20.