Archive for the 'Hoi An' Category

Pass the Chè on the Left Hand Side

Che is evidence that with enough sugar and coconut milk, just about any characteristically savory food can be transformed into dessert. I’ve consumed a lot of che during my stay in Saigon and thought it was high time I recounted the good, the bad and the ugly.

Che Thap Cam

A little bit of column A and a little bit of column B—that’s the gist of che thap cam. Whatever the dealer is selling, she’ll spoon in a smidgen of each. You’ll most likely receive layers of beans, jellies, tapioca, coconut milk, shaved ice and more beans. This tall glass came from Che My in District 1.

Che Dau Hu

My current favorite! The Astronomer and I each had a bowl of che dau hu for dessert today—his with coconut milk and mine without. I love che dau hu because its spicy, sweet and maybe even a little healthy. This pretty bowl was from our visit to Hoi An.

Che Troi Nuoc

I was obsessed with che troi nuoc when I first arrived in Saigon. The tapioca orb is filled with mung bean paste and served soaked in coconut milk with a sprinkling of toasted sesame seeds. Too chewy for The Astronomer, the texture is lovely in my eyes. Each individual ball goes for 1,000-2,000 VND. The dealer up top sold this bowl to me at her shed in District 1.

By the way, while I was enjoying my che, The Astronomer spied a huge rat scurrying under me! I didn’t see the rodent, but The Astronomer reported that it was a big one and inches away from touching my feet.

Che Bap

I ordered The Astronomer a bowl of che bap (corn) while I had the che troi nuoc. Although corn is one of his favorite vegetables, he was not much of a che bap fan. My grandma makes this che often for my grandpa, but never employs coconut milk. I may have to give Saigon che dealers a citation for coconut milk abuse.

Che Chuoi

After I finished the che troi nuoc, I still wasn’t ready to give up my stool at the che shed. I ordered a bowl of che chuoi, which consisted of caramelized bananas, sesame seeds, tiny tapioca peals, salt and coconut milk. Sweet plus salty equals magic.

Che Thach Dau Xanh

Also from Che My, this tall glass is filled with mung bean paste (dau xanh) and Vietnamese Jello (thach). Not much to say about it except that it was simple, straightforward and good. Without the thach and shaved ice, the che’s texture would have been reminiscent of mashed potatoes and gravy.

Che Buoi

Easily the most disappointing che I’ve consumed in Vietnam. With a name like che buoi, I was expecting some sort of pomelo and citrus creation. Instead I received a cup of boring featuring layers upon layers of more boring topped with peanuts.

Che Troi Nuoc Mang

This was my first bowl of che in Vietnam. The che troi nuoc mang was part of a set lunch from a very pretty restaurant in District 1 called Sen. Unlike the the che troi nuoc above, this one was filled with a savory mung bean paste and a bit of meat. The tapioca spheres sat in a clear, sweet, ginger broth. An interesting departure from the original, but I prefer the sweet version.

Che Dau Tran

Although it’s difficult to make out from the picture, this che features black eyed peas and glutinous rice. The usual suspects (coconut milk and tapioca pearls) are also present. I bought this bowl of che dau trang from an alleyway dealer in District 4. Perhaps the most pudding-like che, its mushy texture is a treat. Trust me.

Nhà Hàng Phố Hội – Hoi An

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August 26, 2007
Cuisine: Vietnamese

69 Phan Chu Trinh
Hoi An, Vietnam

Phone: unknown
Website: none

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Wonton Dumplings

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Cao Lầu

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Chicken with Bamboo Shoots

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Sauteed Octopus with Onions, Scallions, and Tomatoes

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Crispy Fish

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Water Spinach Soup

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Banh Gai – Sweet Black Tapioca with Mung Beans

For our final dinner on the retreat, the staff headed to an eatery in the town of Hoi An called Pho Hoi. Our group was half an hour late for our reservation and by the time we arrived at the restaurant, our food was sitting on the tables getting cold. This was not an auspicious start. The meal was decent, but more or less unspectacular compared to the seriously good eats we’d been treated to earlier. I was considering not blogging about Pho Hoi at all, but there was one special dish that deserved some press—Cao Lu.

Hoi An is known for Cao Lầu and every restaurant in town serves up their own version. In a country chock full of broth and noodle entrees, Cao Lầu is a real standout, especially for its unique noodles.

Rumor has it, Cao Lầu noodles can only be made with water from a specific well in Hoi An called Ba Le, which explains why I’ve never encountered this dish until now. The noodles are nothing short of stellar—they’re wheat-y, thick, and have some bite to them. The Cao Lầu is topped with shrimp and pork and garnished with mint, basil, bean sprouts and lettuce. A light soy sauce broth finishes the dish off.

Whereas most people visit Hoi An to get custom made clothes for cheap, Cao Lầu is what draws me to the town.

Vietnam Village Resort – Khu Du Lịch Làng Quê

Staff retreats stateside and in Vietnam have two things in common—ridiculous amounts of food and not so much productivity.

On the road from Da Nang to Hoi An, the site of the retreat, the entire East Meets West staff (80+ people) stopped at the Vietnam Village Resort for a cultural experience and lunch.

The Vietnam Village Resort is a Vietnamese version of Colonial Williamsburg, but instead of observing butter churning demonstrations and visiting the shoemaker, we saw silk being spun from cocoons (!) and learned the art of making banh chung. Although I usually shun tourist traps, the exhibits were so interesting that I couldn’t help being a fan. I was particularly fascinated by the sugaring demo, which transformed sugar cane into raw sugar. The Astronomer had a more hands-on experience and learned how to make banh cuon. We had a blast.

After perusing the food and craft stalls for an hour or so, we sat down for a multi-course lunch prepared by the Village staff. We started off with three appetizers: banh dap, banh beo, and banh nam.

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This was my first time trying banh dap, which is banh cuon (tender rice flour crepes) laid atop a crispy rice cracker, broken in half, and eaten with fish sauce. Dap means to hit/slap in Vietnamese, which is what one does to break the banh in half. I found banh dap a little bland, but enjoyed the texture. A little Internet research has revealed that some versions of banh dap are made with scallions and meats; I’m sure those preparations are much more desirable.

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The banh beo was very unique in that it was portioned in a small dish, topped with a salty shrimp paste, and eaten with a wooden stick. The banh beo I’m familiar with is arranged overlapping on a plate, topped with mung bean paste, sautéed scallions, dried shrimp, and sweet fish sauce, and eaten with chopsticks. The Village’s version was alright, but I prefer the one I’m used to.

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The banh nam was very well prepared; everything tastes better wrapped up in banana leaves!

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Next came an intermezzo course of my quang, which was far from amazing. The dish tasted like it was thrown together and the flavors didn’t meld at all. Preparing a meal for a large group is tough and the noodles really suffered as a result. Following the my quang, we enjoyed a number of dishes with rice.

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I didn’t have any of the chicken, but my table ate it up.

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The braised fish was wonderfully marinated and my favorite course of the afternoon.

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The water spinach and shrimp soup provided a good source of greens, but was nothing special.

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For dessert we were served sweet tofu in a ginger syrup, which rocked my world so much that I ate three bowls. There’s just something about the tofu’s delicate texture mixed with the sweet and spicy syrup that I clearly can’t resist.

Vietnam Village Resort ([email protected])
Cam Nam, Hoi An
Phone: 0510936089

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