From an underweight 17-year-old girl to fitness guru, Hanoi-based Hana Giang Anh has come a long way. She’s one of the leading figures in Vietnam’s fitness community with a huge and very dedicated social media following. So we wondered where she gets her health food kicks when she’s in town.
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Hana Giang Anh’s had quite a journey. She’s gone from being a 17-year-old girl weighing less than 38kg to one of the most recognised names in the Vietnamese fitness community. “I was just this skinny teenage girl,” Hana Giang Anh confirms. Despite that, she already was developing a love for exercise and dance. “Then at eighteen teenage me discovered bodybuilding,” she smiles.
Today, after working in the fitness field for eight years, Hana Giang Anh has become one of the brightest and most influential stars with 746,000 YouTube followers and tens of millions of views and shares the moment she uploads a new video. “I also received an Influencer Award in 2017 as one of the top four figures in my field in Asia,’ she adds proudly.
Behind the huge numbers and the halo of success is Hana Giang Anh’s sheer will, effort and passion. It’s a passion that doesn’t end with exercise. Naturally, as any fitness expert will affirm, diet and nutrition are key components of any fitness regime. And it’s no different for Hana Giang Anh. “I love to share my feelings on topics such as nutrition, daily habits and even personal relationships,” she explains about her success at sparking heated discussion around wellness with young Vietnamese. “I need to carefully select the food that I put into my body,” Hana whispers.
And so, when The Dot Magazine realised Hana Giang Anh was in Saigon for a business trip, we jumped at the chance to meet up. Despite the rushed schedule and the flying visit Hana was still fresh with healthy skin and body and a smile on her face. So we wondered where the fitness guru gets her fix of healthy food while she’s in town. This is her list.
Poke Saigon can claim to be pioneers of the city’s passion for poke – the Hawaiian bowl of fish and lots of other flavoursome ingredients. Amidst the plethora of pizza and burger joints cropping up, Poke Saigon provided a breath of fresh (sea?) air. Added to the fresh ingredients was the chance to customise your own bowl, spicy or straight up, tuna or salmon. It’s no wonder that Poke Saigon claimed top spot on the TripAdvisor restaurant rankings for quite some time.
“I just love this place,” Hanna says as a broad beautiful smile brightens her face. “That’s because of the freshness — lots of vegetables, and low starch.” Hana often chooses salad or brown rice instead of sushi rice.
Next is the protein. Two tablespoons of salmon or tuna with sesame oil sauce has more than enough protein for a single meal. But the part that excites Hana Giang Anh the most are the edamame, beets, mushrooms, turnips, purple cabbage, seaweed and a few slices of butter. “That ensures the body is loaded with good fiber and fat.” To her poke bowl, she usually addsa sugar-free chilled fruit juice.
Hana orders: Half salad, half brown rice, salmon with sesame oil sauce, edamame bean, beet, mushroom, radish, purple cabbage, seaweed and avocado.
Location: Floor 1, 42Bis Ly Tu Trong Street, Ben Nghe Ward, District 1
Hana’s next choice might seem like a surprise. Until you remember that Au Parc were one of the first restaurants in Saigon to serve bountiful and well-balanced salads. “I still feel excited about visiting this place,” Hana Giang Anh explains about this Saigon institution.
“Mediterranean cuisine is very fresh, bountiful, and creative,” she adds. She especially likes those trademark healthy, nutritious salads. The sandwiches here are also very attractive with the option of whole-grain barley rather than white bread “which is delicious and nutritious”. Hana doesn’t worry about the lack of fiber when ordering bread because this sandwich comes with a salad. To that she adds a glass of banana strawberry smoothie with a mixture of muesli grains.
Spacious but intimate, the atmosphere at Au Parc satisfies all its guests. “A classic with world cuisine right in the heart of Saigon. Such a restaurant is hard to find in Hanoi.” Hana Giang Anh summarises happily.
Hana orders: Mango and salmon salad with spinach, whole wheat barley bread Alexandria.
Location: 23 Hàn Thuyên, Ben Nghe Ward, District 1
“OK, I’m not entirely a vegetarian,” Hana confesses as we swing open the heavy front door of Organik House. “But this is still one of my favourite vegetarian spots in Saigon,” she smiles. Surprisingly for such a rustic, retro themed local restaurant, the food here is prepared by an Italian chef. That’s helped to make the Western dishes – nut bread, cashew pesto pasta, or thick smoothies topped with mixed nuts like macadamias – delectable. The smoothies in particular are one of Hana’s favourites, “so I just grab and go.” She often returns to Hanoi with a large tub of Organik House’s homemade pesto. “This is a really rare find in Vietnam,” she says showing us a container filled with the rich green sauce.
Besides their small but tasteful menu, Organik House also advocates environmentally friendly living. Customers are encouraged to return containers and jars after finishing their contents to minimize waste. And upstairs is an entire store dedicated to reducing waste and the use of single-use plastics. There are kitchen utensils and personal hygiene products, and reusable glass bottles for shampoo and bath oil instead of plastic products.
Hana orders: Homemade pasta made with cashew pesto sauce.
Location: 7F Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, Ben Nghe Ward, District 1
On the rare occasions Hana Giang Anh has time to stick around in Saigon, she heads with friends to Bếp Võ. The first plus point is the rooftop view where you can admire the shimmering, brilliant skyline. “Plus this restaurant has extremely affordable prices,” she nods approvingly.
Bếp Võ also has the ability to transport guests to a tranquil state of mind, “where I forget my deadlines and pressure of work.” The restaurants owners are from Binh Dinh, and that is why the rich menu is filled with idyllic countryside cuisine, and with seafood dishes, and fresh rolls prepared in the coastal city’s style.
“All the friends I bring here, whether Vietnamese or Westerner, have good things to say about it,” she says. The dishes are fit a healthy eating lifestyle, like Hana’s. Lots of ingredients are raw, boiled, or sauteed with very little oil, which helps them to take advantage of the natural sweetness from the meat.
Hana has a habit of asking restaurants for their ingredients, to help her count her calories at each meal. But with Bếp Võ, Hana eats freely safe in the knowledge that there’s minimal use of extra sugar and fatty sauces. “Somehow it’s still so incredibly delicious,” she shrugs.
Hana orders: Rice paper with beef, chicken breast with green vegetables, Stir-fried beef with cauliflower.
Location: 74/1 Nguyễn Cừ, Thao Dien Ward, District 2
It’s a contentious topic. But Smoothie Factory might serve the best smoothies in Saigon. And they’re another grab-and-go perfect for when Hana barely has chance to catch her breath. “At those times, the ‘emergency’ solution is to get a high-quality smoothie that combines green vegetables, fruits and nuts. That’s my energy to keep on working,” Hana says.
Hana was first recommended to try the Smoothie Factory by a very close friend. Normally, Hana prefers food over drinks to get good nutrition, but when busy, the detox and smoothie juice bottles here with added seeds “are a miracle”.
Of course, she’s quick to remind us, she still has to eat a proper meal later. Fortunately, for Hana and her friend, Smoothie Factory shops are popping up around town.
Hana orders: Kale Soursop Smoothies (kale and custard smoothie smoothies, Essential Green (spinach juice, kale, cucumber and green apple) and Matcha Almond Dates Nut Milk (Almond, dates) and match)
Photos by Nam Tran Duy and edited by David Kaye