What surprises me about every country we visit on this trip is that right when you think you understand the country, it always has something new to throw at you. That is what just happened here in Vietnam on a food tour we took in Hoi An.
To elaborate, we had been in Vietnam for almost two weeks and had already tried many of the regional dishes. From phở to bánh mì, from papaya salad to cao lầu, we had tried everything, or so we thought. It was only today that we went on a food tour of downtown Hoi An that we were exposed to many more foods that we never knew existed.
It started off easily enough; our guide took us to a restaurant that served bánh mì, a type of Vietnamese sandwich. We have had these often in Vietnam, and they are a great snack when you are hungry. Here, however, they use a certain type of bread that was supposed to be superior to the others. However, I did not taste much of a difference. A bánh mì is a bánh mì and they are all great.
Next we began to branch out. We went around the corner to a small street food stall with a set of tables out front. This turned out to serve a type of fried egg cake. It appeared to have been an egg that was fried, deep fried, and then served upon a plate of veggies. There were also small bits of meat reminiscent of breakfast sausages. It was here that we learned that the more garbage on the ground, the more popular the place is. Odd, but a useful hint nonetheless!
Afterwards we went right into the heart of the city to try the local Hoi An specialty: cao lầu. Unfortunately for our guide, we had beat him to it, and had already eaten some the day we got into town! Luckily, it was good enough that we were fine with having some more! For those of you who don’t know, cao lầu is a Hoi An specialty using a type of yellow noodle only available there. While it is similar to phở, the texture and make of the noodles set it apart. There were also crouton-like bread bits scattered on top, giving it a feel of bygone French colonialism.
Next we went to a street corner to have a kind of spring roll. It was made with rice paper filled with meat and veggies, wrapped like a crepe, and dipped in soy sauce (and eaten). Coincidentally, just the day before we had learned on a bike tour how these wraps were made. Adding to the crepe analogy, they were cooked like a crepe with a rice flour batter. They were very good, but quite simple.
Afterwards we moved farther down the street to try a local dessert. It was highly reminiscent of rice pudding with tapioca in it. I think I might have enjoyed it, were it not for the gag reflex it triggered. The rest of my family agrees too!
Finally, we retired to a restaurant to sip beer (and coke) and munch on some white rose. For those who don’t know, white rose is a sort of open dim sum. It has a center of meat that is only partially enveloped by the wrap, with the excess covering spreading out to the side. After a long evening, this was the perfect way to relax.