I’ve recently finished travelling through Vietnam – Somewhere I’ve dreamt about going to since I tried my first Pho some years ago in New Zealand.
I spent a month making my way from North to South, taste testing my way around each town I visited.
Vietnamese food in my opinion is the perfect balance for all the senses! – Incredibly fresh and bursting with flavours. It’s a harmonious relationship between sweet, sour, salty, bitter and heat!
I love the food culture there, and their simple way life. Vietnamese women say they always know when it’s time to stop eating, because at mealtimes, they sit together on the floor with their legs crossed. When it’s too uncomfortable to lean forward and reach for more food – That is when they are full. Such sweet simplicity.
I spent 4 days in Hoi An, a charming little tourist town on the east cost of Vietnam. It’s in the evening when this town comes to life. The streets are illuminated by multi coloured lanterns, and bustling with visitors strolling the streets.
I hit the jackpot with the places I chose to dine, which is not always the case when visiting somewhere new.
I explored all options from upmarket lounge bars to the gritty local street stalls and I’ve highlighted for you a few of my top picks.
Mango Mango is located on the far side of the canal, right in the hub of all the action. It’s a great place to dress up a little and enjoy one of their many amazing cocktails on the front terrace. There’s some great people watching to be had, and fabulous views of the ancient town and the Japanese bridge.
Though slightly upmarket, and one of the more pricey places I visited, it doesn’t disappoint in flavour. The cuisine by chef Duc Tran is Vietnamese/Asian fusion with a slightly modern approach to traditional dishes.
Must try: Red snapper in banana leaf
Sweet potato mini pancakes with peking duck
Set off the main strip on a quiet street, you could quite easily miss this little gem.
Little Menu is housed in a beautiful 100 year old house, oozing with charm. The floor space is set up as one part dining room, and one part open kitchen.
They have a great outlook on food, sourcing all their produce from local growers and farmers. They even hang, age and smoke their own meat.
Must try: Banh Bao Vac (the famous Hoi An white roses) a shrimp dumpling made from translucent white dough bunched up to look like a rose and covered in crispy shallots.
And of course the crispy duck spring rolls, Little Menus most popular dish.
An excellent little restaurant that concentrates on street food and traditionally prepared dishes. Morning glory is one of the more famous restaurants in town and for good reason. The food is outstanding.
Many of the dishes come deconstructed so that you can assemble yourself – something I personally love to do!
I was so impressed with this place I bought their cookbook to take home.
Must try: Bahn Xeo – Small savoury pancakes made from mung bean flour and turmeric, filled with shrimp, pork, and beansprouts. These bite-sized pancakes are constructed at the table with fresh herbs, rolled together with super fine rice paper and dipped in a tangy peanut sauce.
Local markets/street food
For a much cheaper, authentic experience, check out the Central Food Market. It’s a bustling chaotic scene that offers a great feeling of ‘the real Vietnam’.
On the outside you will find every kind of exotic fruit imaginable. Beautiful fresh herbs and Vietnamese greens as well as ginger root, turmeric and incredible chilli varieties.
On the inside you’ll find a foodhall of local eateries. You can get all sorts of Vietnamese specialties like Pho soups, banh khoai crepes and Hoi An’s own – Cau Lao. This place deserves more than one visit though, it’s a smorgasboard of flavour!
If you want to try a cracking Bahn Mi (Vietnamese sandwich) make your way to Mi Phuong (The Anthony Bourdain claimed best Sandwich in the world) I had the tofu Bahn Mi, which came drenched in unami flavours, fresh herbs and crunchy greens. The perfect mid day meal for only NZ$1.20. Too easy!