You may have noticed from the change in logo that I am once again enjoying a relaxing vacation. This time I have traveled to the beautiful city of Hoi An in Vietnam. I was very excited to try as much of the local food as possible on this trip and figured the best way to do that is by getting a tour from a local. Hoi An is a wonderful destination for food lovers as cooking classes are incredibly popular here and there are so many unique street foods that you can only find within the walls of the ancient city. Our tour led us around all the different neighbourhoods of Hoi An where we ended up trying over 10 dishes, in fact I think it ended up being over 12 as we kept seeing other foods we wanted to try along the way. I haven’t included everything we ate as it would take me until next week to finish writing about it, but below are some of my favourites.
The first dish that we tried on the tour was the Grilled Cake. A wafer thin rice cake topped with rich duck pate, and a shrimp cake both of which were dipped into a sweet and spicy sauce. My guide told us that this is the snack that most school children will come home to, certainly beats a bag of Quavers and a carton of Ribena.
The white rose dumplings are one of the most famous foods in Hoi An. All of the dumplings that are in the city restaurants are made by one family, at the restaurant we visited. Three generations sit for 12 hours a day making dumpling after dumpling with their expertly skilled hands. Like Korea many copy cats came along but none lasted and now this is the only restaurant that makes them. The dumpling of course gets its name from the white colour that the rice flour skin has, they are then filled with shrimp and a mix of other secret goodies. They were absolutely delicious.
After eating the rose dumplings we went to a truly local restaurant that isn’t in the guide books or on trip advisor, it’s in the home of a wonderful woman, located in the myriad of back alleyways where people serve food straight from their houses. The specialty at this restaurant was the Water Fern Cake and was probably my favourite dish of the day. The bottom or the cake part is made from rice flour which is then topped with a sauce made from a mix of shrimp and bean paste, then topped with deep fried crispy noodles. You eat the fern cakes with traditional bamboo knives and there is quite a knack to using them. People eat piles and piles of these all day long, but since we had so much yet to eat we had to stop after eating a couple each.
The second most famous food in Hoi An is the Cao Lau noodle dish. The noodles get their distinct flavour and colour from using the ash from the trees that grow locally, then the water from a local well is used and all the vegetables come from a local village, you can only find this dish in Hoi An and it is a must try. The thick noodles and spicy sauce are topped with slices of pork and some local greens.
After a few filling dishes it was time to relax with a Vietnamese coffee and some tea. I’m quite partial to the rich strong coffee they serve with ice and condensed milk and have been working my way through a couple of cups every day. It’s strong and sweet and a great way to relax and watch the traffic go by.
After the break it was time to get our Bahn Mi on. You can’t swing a dead cat in Vietnam without knocking over a bahn mi truck, but not all bahn mi are created equal. Our guide took us to Banh My Phuoc, which Anthony Bourdain claimed to be the best bahn mi in Vietnam which basically means it’s the best one in the world. When we arrived there was definitely a queue of people waiting,although the queue couldn’t compete with the likes of Street Churros in Seoul it was still pretty busy none the less. .
Thanks to our guide we skipped ahead and got a nice table in the restaurant. Before long the famed bahn mi were winging their way to us. The bahn mi was definitely the best I’ve ever had, though I cant say it was the best sandwich I’ve ever eaten. I’d be more interested if it was just stuffed to the gills with the lovely BBQ pork slices instead of the mix of meats. The bread was incredible though, it was just so perfectly crisp and chewy. I definitely plan on eating more before I leave that’s for sure.
For dessert we tried black sesame seed pudding which we ate right out on the street, the way it was intended to be eaten. While I’m more of an ice cream girl, I think the pudding could be very popular with Korean travelers as they would be sure to enjoy the mix of sweet potato and black sesame.
Overall I was very happy with the tour we took, our guide was wonderful and we got to experience so many foods we never would have found without her help. At $33 per person we certainly got our money’s worth as we were so full by the end we could hardly walk. if you are are traveling in Hoi An then I would certainly recommend the tour we did to get yourself acquainted with what the city has to offer. For more information about the Hoi An Food Tour please see their website.