Sunday, February 3, 2013

Postcards from Vietnam part 3: Hoi An (street food and Morning Glory)

I once again followed in the distinguished footsteps of He Needs Food, whose beautiful photos of Hoi An scenery, people and food are to be envied.

Hoi An: Street food
Armed as I was with knowledge and confidence from the Hanoi tour, approaching the ladies squatting by the smoky barbecue and asking for a plate of whatever they had was easy. And boy am I glad. A big tray of greens, noodles, and rice papers plus barbecued pork (squished between a split skewer) and a hot, tick, slightly sweet dipping sauce with peanuts, chilli, sesame seeds, sesame oil, vinegar and oyster sauce. And, probably, fish sauce. So smokey and rich.

Other street goodies included:
  • a sweet potato cake, which was sweet and soft, like a cooked white sweet potato, with strips of coconut and peanuts. Bought off a grill near the bridge.
  • something I dubbed a 'sugar dumpling', which was probably bánh bao chỉ, a sticky rice flour dumpling with sweet ground peanut filling. It was gooey, not sticky, and slightly stretchy and chewy. The filling was crunchy, with peanuts and sugar crystals crunching in your teeth, with a strong peanut and sesame flavour.
  • banana 'pancakes' are everywhere, having been invented here, but most are pre-fried and then re-fried on request. More like a fritter than a pancake, with thick deep-fried batter. Worth trying once, but note that they're only worth 5 or 10k dong.
Pro-tip: if you don't know the 'correct way' to eat something, just ask. You'll likely be given a demonstration of how to prepare and roll (or whatever) the dish.

Hoi An: Morning Glory

Morning Glory is the best restaurant in Hoi An. The owner, Ms Vy, is hard-working and has an amazing history -- her family started the first restaurant in Hoi An (Mermaid -- still there), and much of what we see here is a result of her work and innovation. On top of it all, she still wants to be within reach of the locals, so the prices are ridiculously cheap -- especially when compared with other 'tourist' restaurants. Morning Glory runs a daily cooking class -- something which every other restaurant seems to have followed -- and we were lucky that Ms Vy was running today's class. We get some of her colour and history, info on the culture and how that informs the food (or vice versa), and a demonstration of the dish we're about to cook. Then it's our turn to have a go, sans recipe, as Ms Vy believes you should learn a recipe and then cook it freehand. "Read the recipe, learn it by heart, then cook with your mind." We eat, then the decks are cleared for the next dish. All of the prep is done for you, so you pretty much just do the fun parts. We cover 5 dishes in a couple of hours, then get a quick photo and a signed cookbook. Don't be put off by the large class size (about 20 people) -- it's an excellent class and you'll have helpers around to put you right. For US$30 you get a great class, lunch that you've made yourself, and recipes to take home.
Pro-tip: Use a small pile of banana leaves as your 'cutting board' when prepping food. When you're done with each messy part, either wipe it off or roll up the top layer and throw it away.

There's not much point describing the food at Morning Glory, Molly. Let me just say that everything was wonderful on the three visits, and it was tough not to go more often. Ms Vy says there are 4 elements you can use to judge your quality of life. The first is how much you enjoy your food. Life in Hoi An must be good.

More Hoi An coming soon.

"I'm Hoi An in the rain..."

Photo credit: Some photos ("the good ones") and photo styling by LT Inkcap.

Vietnam roundup:


  1. First of all, thanks for the shout out. Hoi An really is a magical place, the people, the food and that beautiful architecture. So glad you made it to Morning Glory and I agree, it is the best restaurant in town. Now I wish I came across those little bánh bao chỉ. They sound awesome! Looking forward to the next post!

  2. Love your pro-tips. Love the sound & sight of what you ate, too, although that sugar dumpling photo almost gave me a toothache...


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