After a long day that started very early in the morning at the train station in Hanoi and ended with kayaking in Ha Long Bay, Kristi and I were quite wiped out. We had a couple of hours of free, rest time that we took advantage of by taking a short nap in our nice cabin on the junk boat.
After the nice nap and freshening up, we joined other passengers in the dining room for dinner. After opening the trip with a feast for the lunch, I thought they had set high expectations for the meal that would be difficult to top. I was wrong. The dinner was actually equally if not more impressive than the lunch. The menu for dinner was as follows: kohlrabi salad with herbs to start, folled by deep-fried roll with herms, fried mantis prawn with salt and lemongrass, steamed crab with rose wine, sauted prawn with garlic butter, deep-fried chicken with read wine, grilled mackerel fish on hot pan, Ha Long fish cake with herbs, fried vegetables with garlic, steamed rice, and again fresh tropical fruit to close. Another impressive spread for a meal.
The highlight of the meal was the mantis prawn. When I was planning for this trip, I watched an episode of Bizarre Foods show on Travel Channel where Andrew Zimmern went to Ha Long Bay and tried some interesting dishes local to the area. The best one he had was the mantis prawn, which he described as a cross between two decadent seafoods, lobster and crab meat. I was wondering if we would have an opportunity to try it, and here it was, added to the menu in the last minute. It was prepared in a simple recipe, sauteed with salt and lemongrass. They looked quite strange as they resemble praying mantis — pretty scary looking. But the dish smelled so good, and Smiley and other Dragon Pearl’s crew encouraged us to try this as it’s the delicacy of the region. They helped us to peel the prawn; we had to be a little careful as there were sharp edges on the shell and the prawn’s legs. Andrew Zimmern was right about how delicious the mantis prawn meat is — it was among the best dishes I had in this trip (quite a distinction given that we had many excellent meals during this trip in Southeast Asia).
That was a great way to end the first day of our cruise in Ha Long Bay. Some of the passengers watched as our boat’s captain went out in the dark and tried to catch some squid. It was pretty neat, but after seeing one caught, the novelty kind of wore off and the exhaustion set in. Most of the passengers retreated to their respective cabins to end the day with a good night sleep.
You can see on the photo below me holding a mantis prawn in my hand before deshelling and eating it. Notice the size of it and its mantis-like look.