Street food treats are impossible to miss here in Vietnam. Not to mention the fact that if you pick smartly, they’re also the best and cheapest way to eat too.
We’ve been spoilt since arriving three weeks ago. 20000 VND Pho in Hanoi was a chili-infused dream, with the added bonus of blasting out my Sapa-induced head cold. Rice, greens and fried shrimp on a filthy sidestreet in Hue’s Dong Ba market was also a culinary delight, costing less than $2 between us.
Yet it was Hoi An where Vietnam’s sensational street offerings went above and beyond what we’d come to expect. For many coming here, places to eat begin and end with the seafood and bargain beer joints along the riverfront. And there’s no shame in that, what with gorgeous views of the UNESCO supported town and squid and shrimp at bargain prices.
But if food is what you travel for, it pays to leave your riverside seat and head back into town. The covered market is definitely where it’s at, and it was here we began our Hoi An food odyssey, with an 11.45 lunch of garlic shrimp, pork patties with lemongrass and mounds of steamed rice and noodles. All for 20,000 VND each.
This should have seen us through until dinner, but after a few swift fresh beers with a food-obsessed Kiwi, we were traipsing back through the market to the east side of town for sensational Banh Mi.
Prior to this my only experience of this much-loved and popular Vietnamese baguette had been a superb, filling offering in New York’s Lower East Side. Yet Hoi An’s version was a cut above. The cold meats, pate, chilli oil and fresh salad made for a mouthwatering mix.
Usually, this would have been enough to floor me. But with an overnight train ride to Nha Trang ahead, we needed feeding up. Thankfully, Bale Well was at hand. This heaving restaurant was a tip from our now erstwhile Kiwi buddy and it didn’t disappoint.
With no menu, Bale Well maintains the best traditions of street food culture in a larger, if similarly basic setting. Easing ourselves down, we were quickly presented with grilled pork satay, spring rolls, cabbage, greens, shaved banana leaves, sausages and rice pancakes.
After a rudimentary lesson in how to roll every ingredient into the wafer thin pancakes, we gorged ourselves until we could feel the dawn of a food coma. Stuffed, we paid up and made our way to Da Nang. If you want Vietnam’s best street food, Hoi An is the place to go.