One of the most beautiful and colourful ancient towns I’ve ever visited. We stayed just by the river that runs through the middle of it, bridges so low that only the local fishing boats are able to pass – this was one of my favourite places in Vietnam. Whilst it was a little too touristy for my liking (the gazillion tailor shops), the sweet local women carrying fruit in baskets hanging off their shoulders just waiting for you to take a picture with them and the loud buzz of the street market nearby just drew me in… the vivid scents of all the fruits and fresh coffee from the stalls made me never want to leave.
Speaking of fresh coffee, one of the local fave’s is egg coffee. Now I realise later on that this is actually Hanoi’s speciality but we weren’t going there for a while so I figured there is no time like the present and tried it at one of the many Hoi An Roastery’s about town. I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect… coffee omelette? But when it was served, what I saw resembled more of a creme bruleé without the hard shell, it was thick, foamy and custardlike and floating atop a sea of freshly brewed Vietnamese coffee. This is definitely not your everyday coffee, I’d deem this a meal or at least dessert!
Since we had enjoyed the food so much in Vietnam, we had decided that here we would have a dabble in making some of those delicious dishes ourselves. I had booked a class with Green Bamboo Cookery School, the host of this school is the lovely Van. She picked us up in the morning and took us with a few others to the market in order get our groceries for the day. We were all made to don straw hats as we ventured through the various markets, veg, spices, meat and fish; now I thought I knew my food, but there were just SO many things I didn’t recognise! Van was ever informative, picking up random items and telling us how they use it in their local cuisine; we sat down to have a break and a glorious cup of Caphe Sua Da (Vietnamese Iced Coffee) for a quick break before the cooking begins.
Once we had got to her house, we were all given aprons and set up to prep all our veg, meat etc to cook with, each of which Van patiently showed us how to prepare. I mean, who knew there was a correct way to cut pork belly for Pho? I totally learnt how to make carrot flowers too! After everyone had prepped, we were called up to the hob one by one to cook and serve our dish to everyone, honestly, my husband hasn’t been in the kitchen for about 5 years and was dreading this, but I think he even had more fun that I did! I highly recommend this class, the food was beyond incredible and Van sent us away with a bag of kitchen goodies, including my very own set of cooking chopsticks!
Obviously we weren’t going to leave Hoi An without a Banh Mi from the Banh Mi Queen! Now the ancient town is little confusing, there a ton of windy streets which to me, look exactly the same as each other .. so we did struggle to find this place but I AM SO GLAD we didn’t give up and turn back. Don’t expect anything fancy, this is a plastic furniture, paper plate kinda place but don’t let that deter you, the banh mi’s in here are just unreal! I went for the pork and ham (it’s a must!) with Hoi An Chilli Sauce … it is to die for. I soon came to realise that each city within Vietnam does chilli sauce differently and from all that I tasted, I preferred Hoi An’s the best! It’s furiously red and glossy, almost like Chiu Chow Chilli Oil.. but don’t let it fool you, it is incredibly hot! (As is the weather!)
By night, the quiet town has cooled down, and the crowd has rolled in.. mainly the locals from Danang. The ancient town is flooded with people, all the restaurants are buzzing, the sound of laughter and talk floating over the river … the river itself lit up by the light and colour of the 100’s of chinese lanterns people have lit …. I have never seen such a surreal sight – it looked like something straight out of Disney, it’s not a sight I’ll forget. Hours later, we found ourselves in the Dive Bar (not A dive bar, but people come here to arrange diving haha), making our way through the extensive cocktail menu and the DJ’s playlist. After one too many, we decided to finally call it a night, and came out to a completely silent street… once where there were crowds were now deserted, you could hear a pin drop. There was nothing left to do apart from walk home by the river in the moonlight… the dying lights from the chinese lanterns casting a yellow glow against the rivers banks.