Sa Pa is always very cold in winter when foreign tourists flock to the town for their Christmas holidays but warmth can be found if you know where to look.
Prospective diners can find the restaurant on the way to Cat Cat village, the most visited site in Sa Pa, by looking for the chimney on the roof.
The chef selects the best tenderloin from pigs raised locally by ethnic Mong people to cook three ways – meatballs, filets and fried.
"We order pork from the local Mong people because local farmers rear the biggest black pigs which are around 20 kilos. The ethnic group raises black pigs with natural food including grass and roots from their gardens and surrounding hills which develop a special flavour in the lean meat," the chef explained.
To prepare the meatballs, a tenderloin is chopped and shaped into balls before being marinated in a mixture of oil, basil, mint and onion for 20 minutes. They're then seared in oil and grilled.
Pork for the filets is sliced into bite-size pieces, rolled and secured into place with tiny bamboo sticks before being soaked in the same mixed spice as the meatballs.
"You can smell the warm and diverse flavours of the local natural herbs. The herbs create a scented peppery taste and flavour while the grilled pork has a nice smokey flavour," said staff member Tran Doanh.
He says European tourists tend to pair the trio with bread or rice while Japanese diners prefer it with soya sauce.
Preparation of the duck begins by cutting it into slices and then rolling it in a seasoning of ginger, citronella and salt. It's then grilled before being served with the steamed pumpkin sauce, bamboo-tube rice, sesame, salt and onions.
Locally-farmed salmon has become a popular dish for domestic and foreign visitors alike. The menu lists the dish as fried in butter, but a special sauce made of local herbs, mushrooms, wild leaves and coconut milk provides the real flavour to this dish.
To serve, the salmon is set on a banana leaf formed in the shape of a boat.
Sapa Home restaurant, which seats 100, is not only a place to enjoy different dishes, but a delightful panoramic view of the stunning Muong Hoa valley.
Open daily from 6am to 10pm, guests can choose from a distinctive special breakfast to a nice lunch and a dinner a-la-carte. — VNS