Connect the dots

Monday, June 11, 2012

Eat street or in a seat?

There are plenty of great restaurants here in Hoi An, but as we make our way through the streets to go to one, nearly every time we are distracted by or rather more attracted to the offerings on the streets. Case in point, having Hoi An's signature, Cao Lau. Every restaurant serves it, but how can you not join the locals on those ankle-high plastic stools, point to the items you want, and wipe your mouth clean with a small square of paper??? 

Cao Lau is the thick chewy rice noodle that gets it's characteristic look and texture from lye and water only from a well in Hoi An. A bowl gets filled with fresh herbs, especially mint and lemon basil, a pork-anise broth, fresh slices of roast pork and crispy pork cracklings or fried rice crackers. The Vietnamese know how to balance fresh green herbs, rich meat or seafood broth and noodles. They are king when it comes to one-bowl meals. 

How could I say no to a Banh Mi Saigon cart right outside our hotel? This one had homemade pate, roast pork, and all kinds of sauces and homemade mayo to top it off. Extra brownie points: hot baguette in a charcoal oven. 

Then there are these riverside ladies, at a triangle, cooking and chatting over a barbeque and using an old well as a table. 

Just the smell passing by convinced us that we had to make this our lunch. Pork BBQ on a stick with fresh herbs, cucumber, rice noodles, rice paper and a peanut-y/chili dipping sauce. Take a fresh noodle to line the dry rice paper, add the herbs and meat, roll it all up, and pop into your mouth.

5 minutes later...

Sure enough, while we're eating BBQ another vendor ambles over and we have to try the street version of the bahn bot loc or steamed clear shrimp dumplings. 

Let's not forget the last (and best) course, for dessert: hot tofu with a jaggery-ginger sauce and street snacks with my favorite arrowroot cookies. 

In Hoi An, for a bargain and a treat, forget the seat and take your stomach to the street!

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