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Ngõ Nooks: How 2 Brothers From Punjab Spread Their Love for Indian Food

Some names that immediately come to mind when the topic of Indian food is raised are the old favorites, such as Namaste on Tho Nhuom Street or Foodshop 45 in Truc Bach. But have you heard of a small restaurant called Eat List right in the heart of the Old Quarter?

With decorations that blend into the colorful scenes of the Old Quarter, it is not easy to find Eat List. However, I spotted two chefs cooking at the entrance of the Hotel Charming House at 25 Hang Thiec. A strong smell of spices welcomes guests through the open kitchen at the front of the little restaurant.

The men, who are brother — 29-year-old Maan and 24-year-old Aman from Punjab, India — welcomed me with a lot of enthusiasm. Eat List was founded around March 2020, during the pandemic but before lockdown, with much passion for cooking. Although they had already lived in Vietnam for four years, working in hospitality down south, the pandemic prompted the brothers to move to Hanoi and open a restaurant of their own.

Here in the north, they felt a sense of belonging and started gaining cooking and business experience. One day, they were lucky enough to be wandering around the Old Quarter and came across a “for rent” sign on a door and arranged a good deal with the owners. Unfortunately, because of the lockdown, they had to close in April 2020 and could only open again last August.

"We prepare our dishes with traditional ingredients, from the different paratha breads to the natural herbs and spices, which sometimes have to be imported from India through Cambodia. As you know, India is the hub of spices and our lands are good to grow them. [In Vietnam], our biggest challenge [is] the language barrier," Maan explains. "At first, when doing business, we would constantly need to use Google Translate or have a translator with us, but now our Vietnamese is getting better and we’re at a stage where we can say that our restaurant is running smoothly."

Maan and Aman specialize in northern Indian food; although their menu is not big, they do have vegetarian options, including cheese and curry soup and multiple potato dishes. Patrons at Eat List can watch the brothers cook fresh hot meals right in front of their eyes. I was really entertained and intrigued by the number of ingredients that they combined, from creams to a rainbow of spices and sauces.

We tried the Non-veg combo Thali Maska (VND115,000) which consists of chicken curry, garlic lentils, two parathas, radish salad, and mint sauce with onion and yogurt. Everything was so tasty that it changed my whole perspective about Indian food.

Another interesting fact: their starter menu is called “Sharabi Starter,” which translates to “Drunk Starter.” Why? Because the fried potatoes, aloo pakoda, along with fried cheese and onion pakoda are specific to and popular in northern India where they are usually accompanied by a drink.

Northern India does not have an abundance of seafood as in the south, so local staples are usually chicken and vegetables. For me, there are definitely two things at Eat List that cannot be missed: their chicken masala cheese wrap, and the specialty masala tea.

With richly marinated meat and eggs, the wrap entices you to take more bites, its slight spiciness heating your tongue in a very curious way. Just by writing it down, I already sense a craving for it again! Another delight is their masala tea. It was actually my first time with the drink and my first time watching it being prepared in a pot with cloves, fennel seed, Indian tea powder and fresh milk. It was the most intense flavor of tea I have ever tried. It is sweet and bitter, like candy in your mouth with a heavy milk flavor. It also helps digestion and keeps you awake.

When asked about the restaurant's unique name, Maan says: "We wanted to differentiate ourselves from cliche names, therefore making it versatile so we could include and mix [in other cuisines] in the future, that is our plan, ‘Eat List’ is simple and it doesn’t limit our creativity."

Last but not least: Eat List makes one daily “special” dish outside of their normal menu. On the day we went, the special was a combo of two lacha paratha, a multi-layered Indian flat bread, and mattar paneer for VND149,000.

Eat List is open every day from 12pm to 11pm.

To sum up:

Taste: 5/5

Price: 5/5

Atmosphere: 4.5/5

Friendliness: 5/5

Location: 5/5

Out of all the places she has been to, Daoni still likes to hide within the clouds of her imagination, sometimes.

Indian food

25 Hàng Thiếc, Hoàn Kiếm

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