I’ve struggled to write about Hoi An and I only just realised why – I like it just a little bit too much for my normal snarky tone to be used. There’s nothing funny about Hoi An. It’s lovely to look at, a great place to spend time…in fact the only downside is that because everyone else loves it too, it’s in danger of becoming overpublicised and losing everything that made it charming in the first place…Huh…it’s kind of like the Ryan Gosling of Vietnam. (Shut up, I haven’t mentioned him for MONTHS…)
One awesome thing about Hoi An, is that the old town is car free. You still need to beware of crazy bike riders but the old town really is a haven after the hustle and bustle of a city like Saigon. The other lovely thing about Hoi An is that it’s small enough to walk around and see everything on foot. Alternatively most hotels have bikes either, push bikes or motor bikes, either included in the room rate or that you can hire to explore the local countryside (which I recommend – rice paddies, great beaches, it’s really pretty and flat so easy to ride even if, like me you’re not an avid bike rider).
We stayed at the Vinh Hung resort, marked by the number 1 in the above map. This was a great resort and has a boat that takes you into town. Who needs a bike?
If you ask nicely they even let you drive…
The town itself is famed for its silk, and gorgeous coloured lanterns are a popular souvenir.
And if you think this looks pretty during the day, look at it at night!
By day the mustardy coloured buildings and the purple flowers are a striking combination…
Hoi An is a great town for tailors. They are everywhere although there is a mass of them along Hoang Dieu, across the road from the cloth market. Also on Hoang Dieu are shoe makers who will hand make shoes for you for fraction of what you would pay for something mass-produced. And you wonder why I love this place!
My favourite tailor and shoe maker below:
Hoi An is also a great place for food and a great way to learn more about Vietnamese food is to do a cooking course. I’ve done two, one at the Park Hyatt in Saigon and also one at the Morning Glory Restaurant in Hoi An. Both were excellent. The format for both was similar, a trip to the market to familiarise yourself with the raw ingredients….
Then on to the school for some learning and, better yet, some eating. At the Morning Glory class we made a number of standards of Vietnamese food including:
Rice Paper Rolls:
My favourite – Green Mango Salad
Turmeric Chicken Skewers
And yes, all of this tasted as good as it looks. Maybe even better.
You can find the Yotam Ottolenghi version of Bahn Xeo here.
And Luke Nguyen’s Green Mango Salad with Tiger Prawns here
For the Turmeric Chicken, which was awesome, you’ll need to go to Hoi An.
After some hefty shopping and your cooking class, or just because it’s hot, hot hot, you might be in need of an afternoon libation. And you can do a lot worse than the Q Bar for this..
One of the specialties of the Q bar is a Tamarind and Ginger Martini which is awesome!!!
Here is my version:
I based my recipe on the Tamarind Ginger Fizz recipe from Food 52 which you can find here.
Spicy Tamarind Ginger Martini (makes 2)
Spicy Ginger Sugar Syrup
1 knob of ginger about as big as your thumb, sliced
2 small birdseye chillies
1 length of lemongrass about 10cm long, chopped
1 cup of sugar
1 cup of water
Combine in a saucepan. Boil until the sugar has dissolved then take off heat and allow to steep. Transfer to a container and refrigerate. Can be kept in the fridge for 3 weeks.
Orange Chilli Salt
Zest of 1 orange
1 tbsp sugar
1/2 tbsp salt
1 tbsp dried chilli, ground to same size as the salt (I kept mine a bit chunky)
Mix ingredients together and place on a plate.
Tamarind Ginger Martini
1/4 cup Tamarind pulp
1/4 cup Vodka
1/4 cup lime juice
6 springs of mint, preferably Vietnamese mint, plus more for garnish
Soda / Seltzer water to top up
Strain ginger syrup and reserve the chillies.
Combine tamarind pulp, ginger syrup, vodka, lime mint and vodka in a shaker with some ice.
Slide an orange or lime wedge around the rim of the glass and dip in the chilli salt.
Pour the vodka mix into the glasses about 3 /4 of the way, topping with the soda water.
Orange & Lime Wedges
Chilli from Syrup mix
Piece of Crystallised Ginger
Garnish the drink with the orange and wine wedges, the chillies, the sprigs of mint and a piece of crystallised ginger.
There’s so much more to say about Hoi An…but you know what? I’m not going to…just go there, you won’t be disappointed.
Actually, I’ve changed my mind, whatever you do, don’t go there. It’s awful. And while you’re at it, leave Gosling alone too. There are some things in this world that should be just for me!
I’ll be spending my week absolutely, definitely, 100% not booking my next trip to Hoi An…have a fab one whatever you get up to.