We were enjoying the food so much in Vietnam and when we were offered to participate in a Food Tour in Hoi An for free we were so excited.
The culinary scene in Hoi An is quite unique to other parts of Vietnam. Several of the dishes that are served here have been passed down through generations and the recipes kept secret.
We arrived at The Hoi An Food Tour offices and met our lovely guide Hoa. The Food Tour would take 4 hours as we walked to 10 authentic vietnamese restaurants and homes to sample the fare.
Our first stop was a Vietnamese pancake stall. We tried two different versions, an egg one and a pate flavoured pancake. These were big hits with the kids and they devoured them quickly. We have one very fussy eater and he enjoyed them so I was happy.
Fresh Spring Rolls:
We walked a few streets down to a nondescript house where a man was cooking chicken in bamboo on a charcoal fire. When we arrived little plastic tables and footstool chairs were pulled out and put alongside him right next to the road.
Our table then began to fill up with salad, rice paper rolls and sauce. For this stop we got to make our own fresh spring rolls. The novelty of putting whatever you liked into the rolls was not lost on the children and they enjoyed it.
My fussy eater even asked if he could make me one. He didn’t want to eat it of course so I obliged. They were so fresh and delicious.
Quail Egg Rice Cakes:
Next was a roadside stall near the old quarter offering Quail Egg Rice Cakes. The rice cakes were made in mini muffin like tins and cooked till crispy. The Quail egg gives the rice a rich full flavour and the crispy rice cake on the bottoms was so moorish.
We enjoyed our stop here as it is also a favourite among the locals and many were here to sample the crispy goodness too.
Steamed Rice Cakes:
Next we visited a house down a long alley famous for it’s Steamed Rice Cakes. We were told by our guide Hoa that this restaurant (house) has been around for hundreds of years and it is very famous with the locals of Hoi An as it is the only place that makes this kind of food.
We were told that several years ago the grandmother who was the main cook got really sick and the restaurant closed down. As the Vietnamese in Hoi An keep their family recipes secret the locals were up in arms and petitioned for them to reopen. One of the children then learnt the recipe and the restaurant reopened.
Black Sesame Pudding:
This dish is also a family secret and the street side seller that we visited recreates the dish that has been passed down through generations. The Black Sesame Porridge is the consistency of a fine puree. We learnt that what makes this dish so special is the chinese medicine that is added. These herbs have a healing effect on the gut and many people who are sick flock to the roadside seller to partake.
This dish was one of my favourite of all that we sampled that night. The pudding was so smooth on the palate and the warmth of the dish made me feel like I was at home by a nice warm fire. The flavours were sweet yet slightly bitter, it was very addicting.
When we first saw the black colour of the dish we feared the children would not like it so we only ordered three for our family to share. Oh how we wish we had ordered more. A really soothing dish.
We walked to a local coffee house located right in the heart of the old quarter. We told our guide we don’t drink coffee and he said he had another local delight for us to try instead.
The drink was called Sua Da Dap. The drink was made with a lot of ice, some condensed milk and a squeeze of lime juice. As the weather was so hot the ice would melt and you mix the condensed milk and lime mixture with it to make a surprisingly refreshing drink. It was a little on the sweet side though and I did prefer the next drink we tried instead.
Cacao Da is a rich ice chocolate drink made from Cacao. We used cacao a lot at home for baking and drinks so it was so comforting to taste it again after so long.
Another Hoi An only delicacy, we had tried it before and by this point we were getting stuffed so we asked if we could skip this course. White rose are like wontons, but they use fresh rice paper rolls to make them instead and cover them in a sweet chilli sauce and fried onions.
Also located in the Old Quarter is the most famous Banh Mi restaurant in Hoi An. They use several cuts of meat for the sandwiches and a special gravy sauce. This restaurant was featured by Anthony Bourdain in his famous food show. The sandwich was the best Banh Mi we had in Vietnam. Just the right combinations of spicy pate, fresh crunch from the veggies, deliciously soft melt in your corned beef and pork and the special smooth gravy.
Cau Lao is a noodle and pork dish that is only found in Hoi An. The noodles that are used in this dish are cooked in special water from a well found in the country side. We have enjoyed this dish several times before the tour so we skipped this course also.
Our last stop of the night was a local home. We were welcomed into their home where they had prepared spring rolls, pork rolls and more rice cakes with quail egg. We were so stuffed by this point but being culturally sensitive we knew we had to eat as much as we could.
The kids did well and tried all the different dishes, the food was so delicious but at this point I felt like I was going to burst. The local couple were so kind and we talked with them about their lives and their children.
They have 2 children and 2 grandchildren. Both of their children had moved overseas and the daughter was married to a doctor and they now live in Singapore. The mother tells me she goes over often to help the daughter with her child.
We felt so privileged to be in their home and was a really special way to end a wonderful food tour.