Rupali Dean unlocks her adventurous culinary spirit and experiences the epicurean delights of Vietnam’s foodie capital
Having known Hoi An to be the foodie capital of Vietnam, we arrive with perilously high expectations from the meals we are about to consume. And how many times do we end up being disappointed? NONE! Cooks in Hoi An really know their way around a flavour rack.
A warm welcome and the ancient town
We start discussing our list on the flight. “Banh Mi (Vietnamese Sandwich) for sure,” says Chef Vaibhav Bhargava, my travel buddy on this trip. He’s opening a Vietnamese restaurant back in cyber hub Gurgaon and we are here for some research. Disembarking at DA Nang Airport, we find our way to our cab. The cheery guide has already done her homework and knows we are foodies. We stop by for a local lunch of decadent Banh Xeo (Vietnamese pancake), Pho and some Vietnamese coffee but of course! A quick check in later, we are out to explore. I have never seen a city with a more charming Old Town. The streets of the ancient town are creased with shops and cafes all highlighted in smiling shades of yellow. Vibrant lights rule over every shopfront and each street.
We walk around taking in the periodic advent of a host of antique temples, and old homes bursting with character. Technically, entry into the Old Town is ticketed. I say theoretically because we were at no time required to display our tickets at any point other than when entering the momentous houses and temples. However, I endorse buying a ticket on your first day and keeping it on you for the length of your trip. We take a boat ride alongside the river of the ancient city before heading to Morning Glory, the best Vietnamese restaurant in town. Here Vaibhav discovered many dishes, which he later planned to learn to cook and incorporate in his menu of VietNom.
We are up and ready at 7 a.m. because we have booked ourselves on an ‘Original Taste of Hoi An’ tour. The tour promises to provide us with an infrequent chance to experience and absorb Vietnamese ethos through its exclusive gastronomy. The excursion is in two parts: the primary is the rambling part, stopping at the multi-coloured native Tan An Village Markets where we encounter stall holders and talk about their food.
The walk then lingers along both high streets and back streets learning outlying makers and merchants creating and vending an extensive diversity of unusual foods. Our concluding destination is a relaxed reserved tasting room where we taste an extensive assortment of these indigenous delicacies bought straight from the sellers outside the trip route.
The Old Town is of course teeming with stimulating and delightful Vietnamese dishes each with its individual exclusive ethnic profile; however much of this food remains unidentified and many people miss the occasion to experience this enticing realm of exceptional flavours. On this tour we unlocked our adventurous culinary spirit and experienced the epicurean delights of Hoi An.
Some more food
Studying our constantly expanding list, we make a quick stop at Long Coffee for tasting the real Vietnamese version….which is decadent to the core and by the way this coffee shop with low seating stools serves over 3,000 coffees a day. Next, we speed to AM for outstanding vegetarian dishes. On the way back, we manage to stop by at The Sea Shell restaurant foe the tempura battered cat fish, at Son for the Cassava Salad and Prawns with Garlic Sauce and Phi Banh Mi for the famous sandwich. Admittedly we look happy and how…. We have ticked off 100 per cent of that list!
(Rupali Dean is a Travel & Food writer based out of Delhi
She can be reached at [email protected])