Tuesday, January 29, 2013

"Taste of Hoi An" Street Food Tour

"You live in Hanoi? Then why do you need to do this tour?", one of my fellow food-tasters asked me. Stunned, I stared at him. For a minute or so my mouth gaped open, it opening and closing with no words coming out, me wanting to say something, but really having no idea how to respond to that. I like to eat and I like to discover new things, and in a country FULL of tasty treats and regional variations, how could he even think that living in Hanoi meant I had nothing left to discover?

I've recently hit my two-and-a-half year mark of living in Vietnam, and yes, I might know more about Vietnamese food than most people who don't live here, but I wouldn't say my knowledge is all that extensive. I don't even know all about all the Hanoi specialities, never mind delicious goodies from other parts of Vietnam!

Thus, when I booked a trip to Hoi An for just after Christmas and people started suggesting the Taste of Hoi An Street Food Tour, how could I resist?

The tour started early, with a 7:30am pick-up from my hotel. Luckily, the first stop was a small cafe for sinh tố, a fruit shake. These come in all varieties, but the one we had was mixed chunks of fruit (rather than blended) with ice and coconut milk. The perfect breakfast!

Next was the market tour.

I didn't take many pictures in the market, as I've taken so many before and while pictures of vegetables are colourful, they get a bit old after a while! One thing I did think picture-worthy was this:

Now, I'm no expert and no one said anything or made a big deal out of it, but that looks a lot like a shark to me! And I feel like that's something you don't see too often in the markets here! (Ok, Hanoi's not on the coast...)

I also liked this large billboard advocating the use of re-useable shopping bags rather than zillions of plastic ones! Yes!

We stopped to chat to this gorgeous old woman selling root vegetables. She's in her 90s and a long time ago painted her teeth black, as was the custom in her village. Isn't she stunning?

We were also joined on our market tour by Jim, a veteran of the American War who just likes to come hang out with Neville and his group of tourists. Jim doesn't really speak any English but he figured out that I could speak a bit of Vietnamese, and from then on he took it upon himself to tell me the Vietnamese name of EVERYTHING we looked at. Of course I don't remember any of it!

Just outside of the market we found this woman who sells xí mà, which in my menu of things we tried is described in English as "Sweet Water-Grass & Black Sesame Seed Elixir" - it's kind of a slightly sweet pudding made of various things that are supposed to be ridiculously good for you. It reminded me a lot of black sesame chè we made in our Hanoi Cooking Centre class, but less sweet and thick. This was one time when my Hanoian-ness showed itself: while everyone else was exclaiming how strange the texture and flavour was, I was gobbling it up pretty quickly because it all seemed quite normal to me!

Despite that, Jim decided that I wasn't eating my xí mà fast enough and that he had to spoon-feed me!

Jim left us shortly after this, and it wasn't until he was about to go that I looked down and realized that half of his right leg was made of metal.

It was a time of the lunar month when the locals don't eat much meat, so there was a lot of tofu and fish for sale, with various sauces and pickled veggies to accompany it. 

The tour leader, or "Teacher", Neville, has obviously made many friends along his route!

We then stopped at a cafe for a sit-down and a chance to try a few Hoi An specialities.

First, the ubiquitous bánh mì...

...and some samples of cao lầu and mì quảng, two Hoi An noodle specialties, as well as cà tím (eggplant roasted with shallots and oil) and rau muống xào tỏi (stir-fried morning glory with garlic), the last of which is a dish I've had more times than I could possibly count!

The eggplant up close.

And then some samples of gỏi cuốn (fresh spring rolls), bánh xèo (Vietnamese pancake filled with pork, shrimp and bean sprouts), bánh bao (White rose, a small shrimp dumpling that is famous in Hoi An), and hoành thánh chiên (Fried wontons with pork, shrimp, and salsa).   

This is getting long and I've got lots more to show you, so I'll just leave you with that teaser! Come back in a couple of days to see more of my Taste of Hoi An Street Food Tour!


  1. yum!! shouldn't have looked at this before lunch!

  2. I think you have an interesting holiday in Hoi An. You can visit Tra Que Vegetable Village and take the GoAsiaDayTrip cooking class


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