Thursday, September 19, 2019

Banh mi in Hoi An

August 31 - September 8, 2019

We didn't have too many plans for our week in Hoi An: take a cooking class, go birding for a day, swim in the pool and eat as many banh mi as possible. We went wandering on our first day in town and found our way to the central market. We'd had breakfast at the hotel and it wasn't yet lunch time, but there's no harm in a wander through the food court, right? We didn't find an entirely vego stall like the ones we feasted at in Da Lat, but we did find a couple with vego menus, including Mrs Ha. I decided a second breakfast was in order and grabbed a vego banh mi - it cost 20,000VND (about $1.25) and was a pretty basic tofu, veggies and sauce roll. Nothing fancy, but a good way to get a week of sandwiches underway.

We had to visit Banh Mi Phuong, made famous by Anthony Bourdain's endorsement. It's become a go-to place in Hoi An and there are usually queues out the door. We somehow hit a quiet patch, which meant we didn't have long to wait for a pair of tofu and avocado banh mi. This is a good sandwich - rich and creamy with avo and stuffed full of slightly sweet tofu. Add some chilli for optimal results. It's also vegan (although everything's cooked and served using the same implements), and just 20,000VND ($1.25).

One of the other hyped-up banh mi places in town is Madame Khan. They have an off-menu vegan option (tofu), but we ordered the regulation vegetarian roll: tomato, cheese, egg and veggies (20,000VND, $1.25). This was really great as well - probably my favourite bread of the week - worth your while if you want a break from tofu-based sandwiches.

Happy Cow pointed us to the one entirely vegan banh mi in town, a street stall that sells out by about 10am each morning. We went for 2nd breakfast one morning to try it out. This was pretty classic - nothing fancy, but a great combination of tofu, crushed peanuts and veggies on a crunchy roll. It's also the cheapest on our list, at just 12,000VND ($0.75).

Our last day in town was a two banh mi day, starting at Phi Banh Mi with a vegetarian special, that combined spreadable Laughing Cow cheese with crispy tofu, cucumber, fresh herbs and carrot (25000VND, $1.50). I wouldn't have guessed that cheese and tofu would work together, but they were a surprising hit here (you can sub the cheese for avo if you're vegan).

We signed off with a visit to the fanciest vego banh mi in town at Annen, a yoga studio and vego restaurant that we visited repeatedly. The banh mi comes with  crispy lemongrass tofu, mushroom, tomato, cucumber, papaya/carrot salad, greens and a big slab of nori. It's fancy, and you pay a premium for it - 55,000VND (a whopping $3.40) - but it's definitely worth it. I would eat this every day if I could.

It's hard to go too far wrong with banh mi - we had a great time exploring all that Hoi An had to offer. We'll have to make do with Trang and La Panella until we can go back.

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