Vegetarian Vietnam - Vibrant, Great Value and Very Very Yum

in ecotrain •  last month

16 years in Asia has given me just cause to be careful with what I eat, especially when it's really hot & food is unrefrigerated. On those days and where it's obvious there is no fridge anywhere handy, vegetarian dishes are smart and a pre-emptive choice for tummy stability, comfortable travel & good health. I'm not a vegetarian (albeit eating largely plant based, most of the time) and it was with a little skepticism that I went for dinner here in Hoi An, Vietnam, with my vegetarian friend, Kate, to an exclusively vegetarian restaurant. Partly because most Asian vegetarian food contains tofu (which is a serious no-no-avoid-at-all-costs in my world) and simply because often Asian vegetarian food is a poor-cousin taste-wise to the 'real' spicy, exotic Asian flavours I adore. Let's say honestly say, up front, I was not prepared to be wowed by the flavours.

And oh my goodness, was I wrong this time.

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The papaya salad was truly surprising after Thai som-tum (which we live on back home in Chiang Ma, Thailand). Complex flavours and much less spicy than the Thai version, but with lots of fried garlic, lime, freshly roasted peanuts and Vietnamese mint. Original and a delight.

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The crispy pancake was a real WOW dish. The 'pancake' is very thin, crispy egg topped with spics, herbs and fresh vegetables. How to eat?

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Take a piece of pancake, pop it on top of the rice paper, and apply the fresh Asian greens on top. Roll it up and....

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.... in to the spicy chili-tamarind-lime-onion-garlic sauce. Like I said, WOW.

Did we have the ubiquitous Vietnamese fresh spring rolls? Oh yes, but they were not what we expected. Not at all.

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Served warm, they had a combination of slightly cooked and raw vegetables inside. Again, a truly flavourful, original dipping sauce.

The surprise of the evening was their own, home-brewed "fresh beer" for an incredible 5000 Vietnamese Dong per glass. How much is that? 7.7 Thai baht (yes you DID read that right - under 8 baht per glass) or USD $0.28 (give or take a cent).

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Very drinkable, mild taste - superb on a hot night. What is their home brewed fresh beer made of? Both of the staff who could manage a few words of English confessed that they did not actually know, but that the uncle of the owner brews it. My guess is it is made from rice.

How much did we pay for our meal? About 153 Thai baht (USD $4.80) each, all inclusive of my beer, Kate's water and a very generous tip for the serving staff.

Where did we eat?

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SOOOO.... be prepared for some serious foodie fun, whether you're a vegetarian or not. Low budget traveler? No excuse - this place is EXCEPTIONAL value.

And yes, you saw right from the image above - they offer COOKING CLASSES.

If you find yourself in Hoi An, Vietnam, put this place on your list. Creative, flavourful, fresh, superb value.

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Yum. I love all the dishes that you described and found that Vietnam was an absolute delight for food, including that delicious beer drunk on Street corners fresh. Luckily we are a little bit older now and didn't get silly on it as I wonder how safe that would be lol. I think I might make some Vietnamese tonight tonight or maybe tomorrow, as I just had an amazing meal at the Vegie Bar in Brunswick, do you remember that place ? Don't steem too much my darling remember you are meant to be on holiday. Enjoy your time away, love you x x

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Steeming is a great way to pass the very hot hours in the afternoon, and to process my trip too. :) Promise not to "overdo it". :) Vietnamese TV in the hotel is enough to drive anyone online... LOL....

often Asian vegetarian food is a poor-cousin taste-wise to the 'real' spicy, exotic Asian flavours I adore.
Not in India, the country where some holy cities of Hinduism have only vegetarian restaurants and you can´t get meat at all.

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Mentally I simply never count India as part of Asia. Very few people in SE Asia do - they lump India in basically with the Middle East. But yes, of course, you are right. And we LOVE great Indian vegetarian and have had Indian vegetarian cooking lessons in our Thai home from none other than the inimitable @eco-alex, :)

That all look amazing, except the egg as i don't eat them, but everything else looked and sounded great and what a wonderful price, I miss being able to go out and eat affordable wholesome food xx

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Sounds like you need to get yourself a truck in Asia, where eating out is affordable, wholesome and YUM. :) Eating eggs is the only viable way forward here, unless you throw them out and compost them. The chickens breed and lay so fast and the country is over-run with a gerzillion noisy chickens. 25 roosters fighting in the yard is a REAL problem here..

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