Hunting For Food
I’ve really been looking forward to the food through this region with many local specialties that are hard to find elsewhere. In the more rural parts of Vietnam we run into the problems of either restaurants always serving exactly the same thing (noodle soup, fried noodles or rice) or us not being able to find the really good places with some more diverse food. In doing some research, I had stumbled on the excellent food blog at danangcuisine.com, run by a Da Nang local whose passion for food is obvious. This site tries to promote restaurants and dishes from Danang mainly, but also other parts of Vietnam and south east Asia. I’ve found resources like this to be much more reliable than western review sites such as TripAdvisor, which rarely find that amazing place at the back of an alley that only the locals know about. I tried to capture a bit of info about my favourite dishes throughout this post, particularly those that I haven’t seen in Vietnamese restaurants in London or Australia. I’ve also written this before I get to Saigon, so I reserve the right to update it later!
Bun Bo Hue
Tried at: Les Jardins de la Carambole (32, Dang Tran Con, Hue)
This noodle soup in the Hue style is delicious! Unfortunately I didn’t grab a picture but definitely worth a try. However this is also a dish that you see at many Vietnamese restaurants internationally so it wasn’t as big a priority for me. This restaurant was pretty upmarket – I’ve actually preferred many of the ones I’ve had from random street stalls in smaller places as we’ve gone south.
Tried at: 6 Dinh Tien Hoang, Hue
This dish is particular to Hue, although it is very similar to the banh xeo we tried later on. It’s a small crispy pancake made with prawns and pork (I think!), served with some vegetables and a dipping sauce. It was definitely pretty tasty, although they are fairly small so I ended up having two. I’m not entirely convinced I was eating it the correct way but as it was an odd time during the day there was nobody having one who I could copy! In any case, nobody corrected me (which happens quite a lot) so I must have been doing OK.
Bun Cha Ca
Tried at: Hon – 113/3 Nguyen Chi Thanh, Danang
I was really looking forward to this fish soup but it didn’t quite live up to its billing. This place is a short way just down a side street and although it was pretty good – I guess my expectations may have been a little high on this one. The fish itself was quite nice but the broth was a little bland.
Tried at: Ba Duong K280/23 Hoang Dieu, Da Nang
Possibly my favourite dish of the trip – I’m disappointed I didn’t take more photos, especially after you roll it up into little packages of amazingness. These pancakes are bigger than the Banh Khoai in Hue, and have more pork in them. Even better, they come with extra grilled pork on a skewer which you roll up with the herbs and vegetables all into two pieces of rice paper – the end result is absolutely delicious. Another excellent place to eat this was Ba Le Well Restaurant in Hoi An. The place in Da Nang is right at the back of a tiny alley – you have to keep walking until you find a place absolutely crammed with locals.
Cau Rang Me
Tried at: Thanh Hien, Da Nang waterfront
The tamarind sauce on this crab dish was amazing, but it was just too much effort to get to the limited meat for me to rate it that highly. A lot of locals recommended this dish to me, so if you are a crab lover, I’d definitely have a look.
Tried at: Nho (28 Phạm Hong Thai, Hue, open mornings only)
I’d heard that this dish didn’t go down too well with travellers’ stomachs, but was determined to try it anyway. It’s a dish made from noodles, tiny clams, fried pork skin, plenty of fresh herbs and vegetables and anchovy fish sauce. This was a great place to check it out, a tiny hole in the wall eatery packed with locals. When I ordered it, I was told to mix it thoroughly, which I thought I had until a local came over and remixed it for me as I was starting to eat. Very tasty (and my stomach held up OK after an interesting twenty minute or so period)! The photos show it both pre- and post-mixing.
Tried at: Morning Glory Restaurant, Hoi An (Also street stall on Le Loi, Hoi An)
These noodles are unique to Hoi An (although I can’t remember the specifics of how they are made). This dish is available absolutely everywhere in Hoi An – I tried it twice and it was extremely tasty both times. Highly recommended!
Tried at: Orange Hotel, Danang
I only had these pork noodles at the hotel for breakfast, but they were worth a mention. Next time I’ll try to get out and find the best place in town. The noodles are soft as just enough broth is added to cover them without making the dish too soupy.
Tried at: Ngoc Linh, 46 Phan Boi Chau, Pleiku
We were lucky enough to be taken here for breakfast on Christmas Day by our new friend Vu who I’d met by a kebab stand the night before. These dry noodles with shredded chicken and a broth on the side were really good! We were shown the careful preparation procedure which included adding certain herbs, sprouts, lime and chillies but not pouring the soup over as both of us had incorrectly assumed. This dish is particular to the province of Gia Lai and I have to say, I don’t understand why it hasn’t caught on everywhere yet. I’ll be looking out for it on the rest of the trip but I don’t fancy my chances unfortunately. The place we went to was pretty cool – another shop we would never have been able to find by ourselves but packed with locals. The only choices were the big bowl or the small bowl – we went for the former and weren’t disappointed!