Thursday, 24 July 2008

Fooding Around Hoi An

Around Hoi An

I still haven't got round to sorting out the hundreds of photos that I took whilst I was on holiday, but at a quick glance, I thought some of these around Hoi An came out rather nicely.

This is a shot of the old quarter from across the Thu Bon river. Most of the yellow painted shop houses now house restaurants and cafes catering for the hordes of tourists that descend upon this laid back town. It was relatively quiet when we turned up (non-peak season, perhaps?) but we did bump into a few large tour groups around.

The colourful silk lanterns are one of Hoi An's specialities (besides the tailors and cobblers ;) and they really are very pretty. I was very tempted to buy one (they do collapse down to make it easier to travel with) but I was already carrying so much more clothes ... maybe next time. The foot that you can see at the bottom of the photo belongs to the shopkeeper who was having a leisurely nap in the afternoon heat - when all the tourists flock back to their hotels to lie by the pool.

A picture of our hotel courtyard. Our room was the one next to the big umbrella. It was lovely and totally peaceful. Also, really laid back like much of Hoi An.

Breakfasts at Ha An

As the hotel offered breakfast as part of all their deals, we tucked into breakfast every morning and lovely they were too. I had heard that the choices were good when I read up on the reviews of this hotel and quite right they were. Buffet style (yay..pig out time! haha), the choices weren't as good as what you'll find in a big chain 5* hotel but I was kept happy enough. There was a variety of bread and spreads, cereals, juices, lots of fresh local fruit, an egg and pancake station, a hot food section with daily local and western specials and a dessert counter - yes, chocolate cake and creme caramel for breakfast :)

Here's one of my plates from our first morning (yes, I went for more than one round - that's the great thing about buffets!). At the top of the plate, I got salad,cold meats and cheese. The meat on the left looked and tasted very much like Spam - good thing I like Spam then ;D I think Jo was a little disgusted at it and even more so at the amount I consumed over the course of the next few days. The yellow-y pile at the bottom right of the plate was baked potatoes with onions and cheese. Trust me it was sooooo yummy. Next to it a bit of bacon and to left half a minced pork filled grilled tomato. Oh wow! It just tasted so yummy and comforting. I think it just reminded me of the soups I used to get as a child - chicken, onions, carrots, tomatoes - emmm... I think after days of non-stop Cambodian and Vietnamese food, Jo and I were very pleased to have something different.

Day 2 - the salad makes an increased appearance on my plate. As Jo and I were quite often going without lunch, I made sure I had a good breakfast - well, I was being greedy and Jo was still eating so much less because of the heat. I was really enjoying the salads with cold meats I was having. The hotel also made a lovely vinaigrette with oil, balsamic vinegar and shallots. Very yummy and it went on all my salads.

This salad made an appearance on our last morning - water spinach salad, which was so good. I would never have thought to eat this vegetable raw. In Malaysia it's either fried with garlic or belachan, shrimp paste that smells heavenly to some or the dumpster to others. I've also had it boiled, served with brown squid and a peanut sauce over it .., thanks! In this salad, the water spinach was mixed with thin slices of tomatoes, white onion, croutons and some other salad leaves. It was crunchy without a 'raw' taste and went well with the onions and tomatoes. I dressed mine with my usual vinaigrette and it went down a treat.

Street Food

We did grab some street food (not as much as we liked to have had) but what we did get was good and simple. There were a few times I was just too hungry to take a photograph of what I was eating. I just shoving the food down until it was too late

Cao Lau - a Hoi An specialty. What makes this dish so special is the yellow noodles used, made from well water which gives it its special flavour. Topped with cha siew (roast pork), beansprouts, bean shoots and crispy pieces of dough. Flavoured with fish sauce, soy sauce, garlic and pepper. My only complain - the serving was too small :)

We also had a serving Banh Xeo that really didn't come up to scratch. Thin crepes made with rice flour, turmeric and coconut milk/water and filled with bean sprouts, minced pork and bits of prawns. This was served with fresh herbs (in this case slightly wilted), rice paper and nuoc nam (fish sauce, lime juice, sugar, water and bits of chili). The pancakes were minuscule and nowhere near crispy enough.

Bits here and there

Apologies, but here's the bits where I couldn't quite find a suitable tag for :(

We received complimentary fruit every morning from the hotel but couldn't quite get ourselves to eat it every day. On our last day I decided to try out my knife that I bought from the market :D A little knife that doubles as a peeler. My knife worked well but the fruit didn't taste quite as good. They were definitely giving us better stuff at breakfast! On the right - the black spotted fruit sitting on the gaudy pink skin is dragon fruit - yup, the stuff I can't stand on the grounds that it doesn't taste like anything much, not sweet nor sour...pointless use of calories my stepmother would say LOL The orange-yellow slices next to it are mango. I usually love mango but these weren't great. The green skin orange is the local orange which is supposedly sweet but these were so sour that both Jo and I had pinched expressions on our faces when we had a segment each. Right at the top of the plate are slices of pear. Again, a real disappointment. Neither juicy or sweet. I hate to say this but most of this went into the bin. I'm not a fan of wasting food but these was no way any of this was going to get eaten anyway.

We had our last meal in Hoi An at our hotel. I ordered some fried wantons and did wonder why they were a bit on the pricey side. And the photo tells us why! Four huge pieces of wanton came smothered in a delicious prawn, mango, tomato and mushroom topping. I didn't even recognise this dish as wantons when it arrived but I had no regrets ordering it. The filling for the wanton was minuscule beneath the "sauce" but the wrapper was crispy and hot. The prawn and mango really complimented each other and as usual, as seafood goes in this town it seems, the prawns were crunchy and totally fresh, even though it had been cut into little pieces. If I remember correctly, there was also some black fungus in there (the same type the Chinese use in their cooking) which added more crunch.

I thought this little ornament of an orange monkey was quite cute. He came with my drink (long forgotten what it was) and I had half a mind to nick him but in the end he stayed put :)

No comments: