There were abundant vegetarian restaurants for us to try around Hoi An! While many were clearly targeted towards tourists, some were frequented equally by locals and by veg*n visitors. We noticed a variety of customers at most of the banh mi vendors we tried, and the same goes for the following two restaurants - both places with local staff speaking limited English, offering clearly translated menus and fantastic food.
Quan Chay Dam is centrally located in the ancient town, although it's tucked into one of the narrower laneways. It opens into a simple but sizable space with a buffet up front and laminated menus available at the table. Yearning for the cơm chay experiences of our last Vietnam holiday, we both ordered the mixed fried rice (30,000VND ~ AU$1.90) and were treated to so many different flavours! A small nest of noodles as well as rice, a spring roll and stir-fried vegetables, samples of four mock meats, and a few pickles. Like the market meals we remembered, it had all been prepared earlier and so was just a little warmer than room temperature but still an absolute delight.
Quan Chay An Lac is a kilometre or so further east along the river; we looked out for it on the day that we borrowed bikes from our hotel and explored the beach. With both pictures and translations on the menu, it was easy to point out what we wanted.
There was pretty much just one staff member running the place, so after she took our order she set to work on our dishes one at a time. We were in no rush and didn't mind sharing so this worked fine for us. First to arrive was the chicken rice (30,000VND ~ AU$1.90); we liked that little yuba strips were used to imitate chicken, and we were most taken by the fresh and distinctive herbs all through the dish, including one we've never encountered in the Vietnamese restaurants we've visited in Australia.
We'd pretty much finished the rice by the time the banh xeo (30,000VND ~ AU$1.90) arrived. It was very thin and crispy with oil, stuffed with more of those gorgeous fresh herbs and veges, and topped with sesame seeds.
Michael ordered a lemonade, and we were initially puzzled that it was the last to arrive of all the dishes... until I figured out that our chef had sent a family member out to purchase ice to make it with! We were so grateful for the hospitality, and for these unique renditions of dishes that we thought we knew well.