Of course, food experience is top of our list in this coastal haven. Exploring the night market on our first night, we come across Ms Vy’s Restaurant. The establishment is lit with lanterns, the central area with tables and around the perimeter cooking stalls featuring Hoi An street food. The maître d’ explains we can have a la carte or buffet.
We wander around watching fresh crayfish being selected from water tanks, noodle stands making fresh noodles and dumplings and the back section, featuring workers food. This includes jellyfish salad and pig brains. A kitchen display shows how not long ago, food was scarce with monthly rations of rice and pork, which the people supplemented by growing their own vegetables, fruit and herbs.
We chat to 2 Canadian women undertaking the cooking class, making crispy pancakes. We settle for fried noodles with squid and beef on lemongrass skewers, washed down with local Larue beer.
Little did we realise how influential Ms Vy is in Hoi An. Our Lonely Planet recommended Morning Glory restaurant and the next night we join a long queue of westerners outside. Finally seated we realise the menu is the same as that at Ms Vy’s. It also promotes the cooking class we’d seen our Canadian friends undertaking. Ms Vy even has a House of Hoi An restaurant in Melbourne, her first overseas venture. See http://msvy-tastevietnam.com/morning-glory/
There is evidence everywhere that food is central to Vietnamese life. Early each morning as we stroll down our street, there are workers squatting on little red stools consuming noodle soup with vegetables. Tiny stalls emerge each morning selling fresh produce and are gone at lunch time when we return for our daily dose of Pho – beef noodle soup.
On the advice of our Canadian friends, we try another lovely restaurant Ms Ly, as we shelter from another downpour. This time we try the tasting plate, which includes spring rolls, wontons, pork noodles and we supplement this with stir fried morning glory leaves with garlic, rau muong xao toi.
On our last night we discover Streets restaurant, on Dong Le Loi, a beautifully restored shop house. Streets was developed by an American businessman, as a not-for-profit social enterprise. It prepares vulnerable, orphaned and disadvantaged young people for a career in hospitality training to the standard of the Institute of Culinary Education curriculum in New York. The trainees learn culinary and hospitality skills, as well as being provided housing and learning life skills and getting medical education, aiming to lift them from a life of poverty to self-sufficiency. We had discovered a similar Australian initiative KOTO – Know One Teach One – in Hanoi.
This experience ticks many boxes for us food and nutrition people and my ex-head teacher/chef partner is most impressed with the service and quality of the food. The pomelo and shrimp salad and the pork clay pot are excellent.