I didn’t really take to Hoi An. Don’t get me wrong, the city’s famed Chinese and French-colonial-style buildings were beautiful, and the setting was pleasant. But virtually every single structure seemed dedicated to selling t-shirts or overpriced food to tourists, and there seemed to be more of the latter than locals. And on top of all this, when I was in town, the town’s central market was in the process of being rebuilt, which apparently caused many of the local vendors I had read about at EatingAsia to stay at home. That’s why, after having walked around in search of a meal on my first day, I was happy to discover the scene below:
This street vendor was feeding a steady stream of satisfied locals, and was one of the few eating options in Hoi An’s old town that didn’t seem to be aimed specifically at Western tourists.
A closer look, not to mention help from a friendly local, revealed that she was making bánh bèo nhân tôm (pictured above), a round noodle steamed in a ceramic cup. At each order the woman tops the noodle with a creamy orange mixture made from shrimp, and a sprinkling of crispy croutons:
The dish had a lot in common with cao lầu, another of Hoi An’s signature dishes, both in the slightly dark colour of the noodle and in the use of croutons. The result was equal parts soft, salty, creamy and crunchy — a perfect example of the disparate ingredients, flavours and textures the Vietnamese are so absolutely brilliant at combining.
Bánh bèo nhân tôm
View Thai Eats in a larger map