Hello, 2021! I’m starting this year’s recipe with a sweet treat.
Are you a brownie lover? I sure am. Frankly speaking, I’ve never heard of anyone disliking brownies. But, what about dark bitter brownies? Between the dark, regular and milk chocolate of any kind, I always go for dark. The darker the chocolate, the bitter it is and the more cells in my body light up. Haha Personally, I can go up to +80% cacao. Anything above 90% is just TOO BITTER!
For this recipe, I used Lindt Excellence 85% cacao. Please use good quality dark chocolate of the same percentage. That way the brownies will turn out like how it’s made in this recipe. By the way if you’re looking for gluten-free and dairy-free brownies, checkout my adaptation of Rachel Allen brownies.
Rich dark bitter brownies… Mmmmmmm! ❤️😍
First of all, thank you for hanging out here with me while I blogged everything Hanoi, Vietnam for the whole year. This may or may not be my last post about this beautiful country. Meanwhile, I would like to wish everyone an advance Happy New Year 2021! Let’s keep on doing our magic 🪄 in the kitchen.
If you’ve read: Chocolatey Goodness @ Maison Marou Hanoi, then you would know why I’m writing this post.
Yep, I’m dedicating this post for the outrageously awesome Mekong Kumquat 68% Tiền Giang single origin plus chocolate bar. It’s so amazing that it earns a blog post from me.
When I was at Maison Marou Hanoi in Vietnam late last year, of all the chocolate bars there, I went and bought only one that is the Mekong Kumquat 68% Tiền Giang as a souvenir for myself. I’m not a fan of citrus in chocolate and would avoid it at all cost but I choose this bar because it had just received a Silver award at the Northwest Chocolate Festival Awards right before my trip. My curiosity was piqued.
Behold! The amazing Vietnamese chocolate bar that is Mekong Kumquat 68% Tiền Giang. I love the packaging design and color combo.
Fancy some roasted peanuts? What about lạc rang húng lìu which hails from Hanoi? Lạc rang húng lìu or spiced roasted peanuts is a delicious snack that can be enjoyed by all ages (well, as long as you have good teeth 😜). It’s awesome with a cup of tea, wine or beer. I reckon it’ll be awesome in ice-cream, pastry or salad. Lạc rang means roasted peanuts while húng lìu is a spice seasoning powder comprises of four or five ingredients such as cinnamon, star anise, cardamom, cloves and sometimes sweet basil.
Húng lìu is the Vietnamese version of Chinese’s five-spice powder though they are quite different in flavors. Besides roasted peanuts, húng lìu is also used in meat marinating especially pork, beef, duck and seafood. The meat is usually roasted, grilled or stewed. The flavor of húng lìu may differ slightly depending on the proportion of the spices used and mixing method. Btw, húng lìu means sweet basil. Surprise! Surprise!
Bảo Hương lạc rang húng lìu. Notice that the peanuts are quite similar in size. It’s an important aspect of lạc rang húng lìu.
Have you eaten or heard about bánh chả before? Literally, bánh chả means meat cake/roll. It’s called what’s it’s called because the crunchy golden brown morsel looks similar and share the similar shaping technique to the meat roll. The special thing about bánh chả is the use of lime leaves, fat blocks and sugar in the filling. Wait till you try one and you’ll know how different and unique bánh chả is. I bought the sweet and savory bánh chả as a souvenir from two different brands; Bảo Minh and Hương Trà when I visited Hanoi late last year.
The bánh chả from Hương Trà looks like chocolate chips cookie, eh?
Bánh đậu xanh or mung bean/green bean cake was the best souvenir I discovered in Hanoi. Hải Dương, located about 75km by car southeast of Hoàn Kiếm Lake, Hanoi is famous for its fragrant bánh đậu xanh. When Emperor Bảo Đại (in 19th century) tasted the bánh đậu xanh from Hải Dương, he was so surprised by how good it is. Hence, he issued a royal decree to commend it. On the decree is the Rồng Vàng (golden dragon) symbol. Only Hải Dương bánh đậu xanh uses the rồng vàng image & sentence: bánh đậu xanh rồng vàng (golden dragon green bean cake) on their products.
While researching for my Hanoi trip last year, one of the thing that came up many times was bánh đậu xanh. As you may or may not know, I love anything mung bean. I professed my love for it here not too long ago. The thing about bánh đậu xanh is that I have never heard or seen anything like it before. I’ve eaten many food products made from mung bean in my life but this one is a big mystery. I just cannot imagine how it would taste like. I quickly bought a box of bánh đậu xanh on my first night at Hanoi. But I didn’t try it on the same night. I only tried it on the 2nd day, and before I knew it I’m hooked big time!
Bánh đậu xanh from Hương Nguyên & Bảo Hiên enjoyed with cuppa Hanoi green tea.
When we were staying at Emerald Waters Hotel Trendy, we passed by AHA Cafe at least twice daily. This is because the cafe is less than a minute walk from our hotel. On our last night (day 3) in Hanoi, we decided to visit this cafe that’s been drawing our attention daily with its fragrant coffee and crowd.
While in Hanoi, we wanted to try Cộng Cà Phê but somehow couldn’t find the right time. In total, we sampled two coffee places in Hanoi, and they are AHA Cafe and the rather disappointing Cafe Giảng.
I find Aha Cafe’s logo simple and yet captivating.