Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Hoi An restaurants

August 31 - September 8, 2019

When we weren't eating banh mi or exploring some casual lunch places (post to follow), we were eating our way through Hoi An's more tourist-oriented vegetarian restaurants. There are plenty of vego places to choose from - this is a quick run down of the places we tried roughly ranked from our favourite onwards.


Annen already featured in our banh mi post, but the rest of their menu is definitely worth your while - we went three times! It's a yoga studio with a courtyard restaurant, friendly staff who speak excellent English and a good range of local dishes to choose from. Cindy couldn't get enough of the quang noodles with Vietnamese pesto (local basil, peanuts, oil and garlic), a deceptively simple dish loaded up with fresh veggies and the tastiest noodles we ate all week (60,000 VND, $3.80). When I wasn't eating the banh mi, I tried the Annen verson of pho - it wasn't the oily mock-meat feast I was imagining, but it was loaded with mushrooms, tofu, fresh herbs and the perfect amount of chilli (60,000 VND, $3.80). With a friendly courtyard cat wandering around and a lovely laid-back vibe, this was probably our favourite restaurant in Hoi An (we're slightly biased 'cause it was ~500m from the hotel).

Am Vegetarian

Am was a little bit further away, but well worth the effort. The courtyard was beautifully hung with lanterns and the atmosphere was a little trendier than Annen's hippie vibe.

On our first visit, I adored the braised tofu in tomato sauce (55,000 VND, $3.50), even if Cindy said the sauce kind of reminded her of tinned spaghetti. We both loved the traditional fresh spring rolls with mock sausage (60,000 VND, $3.80). The fried rice with vegetarian fish (55,000 VND, $3.50) didn't come with chunks of mock fish unfortunately, but worked well alongside our other dishes.

Second time around we got a zingy papaya salad (60,000 VND, $3.80), which came with a side plate of crackers to start things off.

We also tried a serve of Am's version of beef in lá lốt leaves (betel leaves), which were dense little cigars of absolute deliciousness. We got properly stuck into the mock fish this time, with a hot-pot full of braised fish with Vietnamese mint (60,000VND, $3.80) - this was some very fine mock meat in a week where mock meat proved harder to find than expected.

Nu Eatery

We got a couple of recommendations from friends for Nu Eatery, an omni place in the ancient town with a good range of vego options. It feels a little higher end than most of the other places we ate - still casual, but there's a bit more emphasis on presentation and atmosphere. The food is excellent too - we split three savoury dishes: a serve of the fresh rolls (filled with tofu, jicama, young coconut and toasted peanuts, 45,000VND, $2.90), the cumin carrot (with tahini, spring onions, puffed rice and sunflower seeds, 75,000VND, $4.80) and the vegetarian rice (with charred eggplant, braised tofu and chayote, 100,000VND, $6.40).

These were all really fabulous - the cumin carrots in particular stood out with a fantastic mix of textures and flavours. This is almost the entire set of vego options on the menu, otherwise we'd definitely have been back for a second round.

Minh Hien

Minh Hien is a mini chain of vego places in Hoi An - there are 3 different branches dotted around town. We went to Minh Hien III, which was the closest to our hotel and had a lovely outdoor garden vibe going on.

In contrast to Nu, the menu here was an overwhelming array of options - all vegetarian and mostly vegan. Over a couple of visits we tried some vegetarian versions of Hoi An specialties - white rose dumplings (top left) and cao lầu (bottom left). I was a big fan of cao lầu (49000VND, $3.10) - a simple noodle dish with plenty of trimmings. The white rose dumplings (79000VND, $5) were good too - cute little flower-shaped dumplings filled with a minced tofu mix rather than the traditional pork.

The two highlights though are in the right panel - the grilled tofu in banana leaf (top right, 69000VND, $4.40) and the banana blossom salad (bottom right, 69000VND, $4.40). The tofu was stuffed with onion and mushrooms and loaded with chilli and was easily my favourite. The salad was Cindy's favourite - filled with fresh flavours and interesting textures. There's such a lot on the Minh Hien menu that we could easily have gone back for a third trip.

The Fisherman

We did a day trip to An Bang Beach one day and stopped off for lunch at the only vegan place on the beach - The Fisherman.

It's a lovely setting - opening up right onto the beach. The menu is a bit all over the place - you can get all kinds of non-Vietnamese food: burgers, falafel, scrambled tofu burrito as well as pho, noodles etc. Cindy ordered the sunrise smoothie bowl (mango smoothie base with oats, fruit, chia seeds, shredded coconut, toasted nuts and coconut yoghurt, 90,000VND, $5.70), while I tried the bibimbap (tofu, spinach, carrot, mushroom, zucchini, bean sprouts and rice, 95000VND, $6). Both were fine: the bibimbap had lots of different pickled veggies with a few nice tofu chinks for protein and the smoothie bowl toppings were an excellent mix. In general though, The Fisherman was a bit underwhelming compared to all the fantastic Vietnamese food we'd been eating - it's worth a visit if you're at the beach, but I wouldn't make the trip just for the food.

Vegan Zone

Vegan Zone was just around the corner from our hotel - a cute little place with a much more vegan-oriented philosophy than most of the other places we'd been eating.

We ordered four small dishes to share - clockwise from top-left: eggplant crepes (55000VND, $3.50), vegan fried rolls (45000VND, $2.85), mustard rolls (45000VND, $2.85) and potato cakes (55000VND, $3.50). This was a bit of a mixed bag - the eggplant crepes were a bit too chunky for my tastes and the two sets of rolls were fine without really standing out. The potato cakes were the star - crunchy exteriors with puffy potato fillings and a lovely mustardy dipping sauce.

We ate exceptionally well in Hoi An - Cindy will follow this up with a few of our outings to the more locally-oriented vego places.

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