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Food, glorious food! And of course lovely Hoi An!
November 27th, 2009 by Kate
Fresh, hot baguettes by the giant basketful!

Fresh, hot baguettes by the giant basketful!

We are pretty much eating our way through Vietnam.  The food here is SO good.  The seafood is probably the best we’ve ever had.  You can get white meat chicken (non-existent in China), and when you order pork or beef, you don’t need to worry about getting what we not-so-affectionately call “inside meat” (brains, organs, etc) that is so popular in China.  Aside from breakfast, Tessa has had squid, clams or mussels for every meal for six days.  I am not kidding. 

 In China, we stuck very faithfully to our “no ice or water, veggies and fruit only if cooked or peeled” mantra.  By our second meal in Vietnam we threw that rule out the window.  It just seems cleaner here and SO much of the cooking is done right out in the open you have a better feel for what you are getting.  Plus, all the food looks so good and fresh on the plates being served around you – you feel like it would be a shame to miss out on the fresh spring rolls and the tasty fresh herbs they are piling onto everything.

Lovely Hoi An

Lovely Hoi An

 

Hoi An's waterfront - looking towards the Morning Market

Hoi An's waterfront - looking towards the Morning Market

After our week on Cat Ba Island, we head down to the UNESCO World Heritage city of Hoi An.  It was for centuries the largest seaport in Vietnam, and the buildings there have strong Chinese and Japanese influences, with enough French influence too, to make it quite pretty in a really old city kind-of-way.  Hoi An is known for its food – and having been in the country for two weeks at this point (and having eaten at places you can not even fathom in the States), we didn’t even pause for a second eating anything that caught our fancy.

 And the prices for food – it is almost shameful how little things cost, even in really nice, hip, well decorated, clean restaurants.  We could easily enjoy an appetizer (almost always fresh spring rolls – we loved tasting the different ways they were made), beers for the adults and fresh juices for the girls, four entrees, dessert and coffee for $12 out the door.  And this was not for a couple of sandwiches – I’m talking snapper in passion fruit sauce, tuna in tamarind sauce with veggies, chicken with chili and lemongrass (one of Jeff’s favs throughout Vietnam), and a lovely curry or claypot, PLUS some insanely good dessert like fresh coconut ice cream or mango with sweet coconut milk rice (my fav!).

 And the coffee here – OMG!  Yes, I know I’m not supposed to be drinking coffee.  They typically serve it here very very strong with sweetened condensed milk.  Jeff has at least one at every meal.  I have been cheating on my no caffeine rule in the mornings, I order a coffee, split in half, then fill up the difference with “fresh milk” that actually comes in a box (I turned up my nose at first but now I actually kind of like boxed milk!).  It is SO tasty.  Coffee farming in Vietnam is an important part of the economy in the mountains, and I hope that next time you’re shopping for beans that you’ll consider trying some Vietnamese Fair Trade java.  Pick up a can of sweetened condensed milk (or put aside a bit when you’re making those pumpkin pies this week) and combine an ounce of the milk with a few ounces of strong coffee, drink up, and think of us!

We went to the Moon Restaurant the first time because the building was just so darn cool (yes that is real moss growing on the outside), we went back (over and over again) because the food was OMG GOOD!

We went to the Moon Restaurant the first time because the building was just so darn cool (yes that is real moss growing on the outside), we went back (over and over again) because the food was OMG GOOD!

 A few of our other favorites in Hoi An from our favorite restaurant called “Moon Restaurant and Lounge” were carmelized eggplant in a clay pot (clay pot cooking is one of the local specialties), squid in coconut milk, mussels in lemongrass broth, and crepes with bruled bananas and pineapple with vanilla gelato.  I became obsessed with the fresh spring rolls and the divine dipping sauce.  I inquired about what was in the sauce, but we had a bit of a language barrier so they to me to come back tomorrow morning and make the sauce with them.  Phoebe and made our way back the next morning and we spent a lovely hour in the 8×8 foot kitchen chopping, sautéing, mixing and tasting.  I was so happy to be in a kitchen.  When we get back home we’re going to have a big party and this is going to be one of the tasty things we serve for sure.  Right now, Phoebe thinks we should keep it our secret recipe – but I’ll keep working on her and see if she’ll give it up – and I’ll post it for sure!

Ducks in the Morning Market

Ducks in the Morning Market

One of 100 market flower ladies

One of 100 market flower ladies

 On our last day in Hoi An all four of us took a cooking class from the Red Bridge Cooking School.  Our morning started with drinks at their restaurant in downtown Hoi An, a trip to the Morning Market with the chef, a charming boat trip to the cooking school, and then four hours of observing the chefs, learning some of the tricks-of-the-trade of Vietnamese cooking, and practicing our new skills (oh yes, and then feasting on everything we made!). 

Cooking School - I've learned yet another way to make eggplant (yippee!)

Cooking School - I've learned yet another way to make eggplant (yippee!)

The best part of the cooking lesson was we learned to make rice paper.  I didn’t even know what rice paper was when I was 12.  Watching Tessa & Phoebe over their pots of boiling water flipping their rounds of paper was a really good “this is why we are doing this crazy trip” moment.

Phoebe after finishing the "garnishing" lesson at cooking school - oh so Montessori!

Phoebe after finishing the "garnishing" lesson at cooking school - oh so Montessori!


5 Responses  
Cricket Bourget writes:
November 27th, 2009 at 5:43 pm

Brutal Kate, just brutal….. I thought I was going to be so happy with my rich and densely nutritious day-after-Thanksgiving turkey soup until I started reading your tantalizing talk of passion fruit and tamarind sauces, and caramelized eggplant and fresh spring rolls.
(Glad you’re able to start enjoying coffee again, hopefully with no ill effects?–and I surely WILL try that condensed milk suggestion.)

M.M.B.CO. or Maggie B writes:
December 3rd, 2009 at 9:49 pm

What a wonderful place, and the food. Gosh, you are in PARADISE! Too bad I don’t drink coffee. Anyways your daughters are going to be models by the time this trip is over. Well, I guess its what makes it interesting for the onlookers (A.K.A. all the others back home). Good luck, for remember, you’ll always be after Vietnam’s lucky charms of coffee beans.

M.M.B.CO. or Maggie B writes:
December 3rd, 2009 at 10:03 pm

Now really mean it. Your girls are gonna be models! Their are developing more of that actor type of face than I thought! Tee hee hee, I congratulate you, they’ll totally be ready for Middle & high school. Anyways, all your blogs are AWESOME, I’m gonna weave around my HW & 6th research and see anything else ya got. You’ll always be after the Magically delicious coffee! P.S. Lucky Charms are good!

Tiffany Scharn writes:
December 8th, 2009 at 2:03 pm

OK I am starving and drooling now! Beats the heck out of chicken knuckles! :0)

Did I mention how much I brag about my friends The Wells? You guys ROCK!!!

Charlotte Norris writes:
December 31st, 2009 at 9:53 am

Thanks so much for the update!! You sounds so good. I can think of no place more beautiful than Sidney Harbor…and on New Years Eve. You guys made a fabulous life-time decision full of life-time memories.

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