beachside hotel for a brief chillax and didn’t waste too much time in heading into town to reimmerse ourselves in this unique UNESCO listed town. Not even five minutes had passed before I dragged us into the first place I saw selling white roses. Not the flower, but a local specialty I was keen to try. Bánh bao vac, as it’s referred to locally, is a type of shrimp dumpling made using two round sheets of rice paper. A bit like ravioli, really.
It was the French that nicknamed these dumplings white roses and it’s just one place in town that makes them (find it at 533 Hai Ba Trung Street) before being distributed to various restaurants about town. Secret recipe, you see, now three generations old. The flavour of the shrimp filling is subtle and with it comes a sweet dipping sauce plus a generous sprinkling of fried garlic. A few white roses, a couple of cold brews and a small plate of delicious cha gio hoi an (fried local spring rolls) and we were ready to hit the streets along-side all the other tourists.
Viet.com Cafe 730 Hai Ba Trung 0510 3910 104 The preservation of the buildings in Hoi An’s old town has been done tastefully enough to not make everything feel like a theme park; stunning old buildings dating back to the trade port it once was. The bulk of these buildings sell wares geared mainly for the tourist. Ceramics, tailors, art and silk lanterns colour up the narrow, car-free streets while old ladies tout clay whistles and boat agents vie for your dong for a river cruise.
On arrival we discovered a full restaurant but I asked if we could sit at the lone table in the atrium near the rear bar. Much cooler out there, quieter and the lighting (for me) was better for photo’s. Local beers gets us started, of course, and a procession of food like roll-your-own bánh uot thit nuong, barbecued pork with rice paper. As delicious as the pork was, I was also in love with the delicate flavours of the bánh cuon - rice flour pancakes filled with ground shrimp, pork, bean sprouts, mushroom and carrot.
There was much more on the menu we were keen to try so another visit just had to occur. Ca nuong gnhe (fresh mackerel in banana leaf) is a parcel of cubed fish with chopped wood ear mushrooms, glass noodles, chilli, turmeric and spring onion. There’s saltiness from fish sauce and a little too much oil but overall it’s damn tasty. Ram tam huu (three best friend spring rolls) is a special occasion dish created by farmers. The delicate spring roll contains a trio of sliced and marinated pork, baby river shrimp and spring onion. Sheets of rice paper are used to wrap the accompanying rice noodles and herbs with the spring roll, before dunking into some dipping sauce.
Morning Glory 106 Nguyen Thai Hok +84 0510 2241 555 Open 9am-10pm 7 days website
Hoa Van Le Nghia Temple 64 Tran Phú
The Bale Well menu is printed on the napkin packet and is a set meal of nem nuong (grilled pork satay), banh xeo (rice pancakes), ram cuon (spring rolls) and thit nuong (grilled pork). Assuming you need help in constructing your meal, the friendly and very cheeky owner insists on showing you how to roll each component in the provided rice paper. There’s a method to each one and it must be done right otherwise she’ll come back and show you again. A great meal made even better with the homely service.
Bale Well Restaurant 45/51 Tran Hung Dao Street Hoi An 0510 3864 443 Open 7 days 9am-9pm
ps.. this is an abbreviated edition.. please visit John's blog for the full post..