After you’ve settled into your new Hoi An custom-tailored wardrobe, hit the streets in search of food and burst a few buttons on those new duds of yours. Your well-dressed taste buds will notice a flavor that resembles a blend of Chinese, Vietnamese and fusion (i.e., experimental and not traditional). Some dishes even purportedly (and oh so exotically) call for water from a local well. Anyhow, it’s all fairly satisfying, if questionably authentic.
Here are a few of our favorite Hoi An dining experiences:
Mango Rooms – Deliberately hip ambience, playful decor and fusion food served up in what feels like your interior decorator’s living room. Every dish has – surprise! – mango as one of the ingredients. We noshed on tempura fried vegetables (okra, sweet potato) with mango curry sauce. Salads included mango slices, rubbed chicken pieces, vermicelli, basil, coriander, and various other greens.
Finish yourself off with yellow sticky rice, topped with mango, coconut milk, and toasted peanuts. Even more beautiful looking dishes come out of the walk-through kitchen…we’re told that those are reserved for the owner and his friends or guests.
Address: 111 Nguyen Trai Hoc, Hoi An, Vietnam
Cafe des Amis – On the riverfront with a small indoor and outdoor eating area. Take your choice of a seafood or vegetarian taster menu (90,000 Dong or $6). One menu proved more than enough for two people. Seafood taster includes:
- White Rose dumplings (a must, as only one Hoi An family has the recipe, and thus a monopoly on their production) – rose-shaped shrimp dumplings topped with fried garlic and onions and, sided with a swab-worthy spicy sauce.
- Crab soup with soy
- Rice chips (like a crunchy rice pappadum) served with a warm squid salad (squid, peppers, onions, greens) and generous fish chunks sautéed in a golden baby shellfish sauce, sided with a lemon ginger dipping sauce.
- The meal ended with crème caramel in a cup.
Address: 52 Bach Dang, Hoi An, Vietnam
Cafeteria Ly – Not too far from the main market, this modest place serves up some of the best wantons and Cao Lao in town. Wantons are generously stuffed with meat, freshly sauteed shrimp and dished with peppers, onions and tomatoes on top. Sweet, fresh, crunchy, and salty all play nicely on this Chinese flavor playground.
Cao Lao is a famous Hoi An specialty of thick (thicker than bucatini?) round noodles, thinly-sliced pork, and cilantro. Pieces of broken rice cake transform this into a savory texture play. The soy sauce is not your average Kikkoman either. It tastes brown and earthy, like a cousin of Tamari.
Both dishes far exceeded our expectations and were fresh, full of different tastes and outfitted with adequate piles of fresh herbs.
Address: 22 Nguyen Hue St, Hoi An, Vietnam