Saturday, October 1, 2016

Hoi An 2016 - Hoi An Traditional Performance Theatre

There are lots of local initiatives to bring some of the traditional arts and culutre of Hoi An back to life. No doubt many of these are targeted at tourists - but it is still great to see that tourism can sometimes contribute towards the revival of traditional art forms. To see traditional dance and theatre - head to the Hoi An Traditional Performance Theatre located on Nguyen Thai Hoc Street.

The theatre is in the building right next to the street. It is completely open to the street so even if you don't pay for the tickets you can still take a peep at the shows. But the tickets only cost VD100,000 so it would be much nicer to pay up and support local culture. The show is around 30 min and include traditional dances, short snippets of traditional plays, and some games. There is even a lucky draw in the form of Vietnamese Bingo.

At the back of the theatre is an arts and craft shop with a craft gallery on the 1st floor. It is worth a visit to see some of the traditional crafts in Hoi An. There are some very beautiful designs showcased here.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Hoi An 2016 - Phuc Kien Clan Assembly Hall

Like many of the trading ports in South-East Asia, Hoi An had a large population of Chinese traders, and as is common in these settlements, the Chinese settlers set up Clan associations to gather their political strength and to govern their own kins. In Hoi An there are 5 of these clan houses (Hoi Quan) - centred on their common dialect. Of these, the Phuc Kien Assembly Hall is the most impressive.

Located along Tran Phu Street, the Assembly Hall is marked by an ornate entrance archway. After passing through this archway - you are faced with another even more impressive gateway.

Towards the end of the compound is a temple dedicated to the Goddess Tien Hou - who is said to be the protector of seafarers. From the outside it looked simple - but the interior is grand and impressive.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Hoi An 2016 - Hoi An Noodles

Another area in Hoi An where you find a concentration of street hawkers is at the riverside in front of the Hoi An Market. A lot of the fishing boats and tourist boats dock here, and right at the bank there are lots of stalls to feed the hungry boatmen.

It was here that we found a stall selling the 2 famous Hoi An noodle dishes - Mi Quang and Cao Lau. Cao Lau is supposedly only found in Hoi An - as the noodles are made with rice flour and water from the ancient Ba Le well, and lye ash from a particular type of tree grown on the nearby Cham islands. These special ingredients give the noodles their unique colour and texture. The noodles - which are a bit like Japanese udons, drenched in a light pork broth and topped with thin slices of pork and crispy fried noodle chips are very appetizing. Add in some of the chili jam on the tables if you want some spicy kick.

Mi Quang is a noodle dish that originates from the Quang Nam Province in Central Vietnam. Mi Quang noodles are flat - like fettuccini, and are made with alkaline water to give them their firm and slippery texture, and turmeric is sometimes added to give it the traditional yellow colour. The broth is aromatic chicken stock with probably some seafood. The noodles are topped with tender pork slices, crunchy deep fried noodle dough, quail eggs and fresh herbs. 

The main difference between the 2 dishes are the noodles - Cao Lau noodles have quite a unique texture - firmer and more chewy and have a slightly smokey flavour from the lye ash used in the process, whereas Mi Quang is more like the traditional Asian noodles. Both are delicious and must try dishes in Hoi An. 

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Hoi An 2016 - Street Food

As a destination now catering mostly to tourists, it is not surprising that you find lots of street hawkers in Hoi An. Most of them sell snacks and not really things that you can fill your tummy with. Surprisingly unlike in Hue where we saw Banh Mi stalls on every corner, here we hardly saw any - even though Anthony Bourdain had declared that he had the best Banh Mi in Hoi An.

The most common street food are deep fried stuff - like bananas and seafood. Unlike back home where bananas are usually deep fried whole or halved, or in thick slices - here the bananas are cut into thin slices and deep fried in batter like a pan cake. They are quite crispy and delicious.

The seafood pan cakes are also very nice if you buy from the right stall. Make sure they look crispy and not soggy.

The biggest concentration of street food stalls is at the Western side of the old town. Here you will find stalls selling fresh fruits, grilled meat and sweet deserts. Sweet desserts are a specialty in Vietnam and one of our favourites. Locally they are called "Che" - and there are many varieties such as sweet corn pudding, banana in sago pearls, longan and lotus seed, yam and sweet potato, etc. You can either have them separately or mixed together - warm or cold.

One of the things you don't see often in other places are the dried squid snacks. These are really delicious - depending on whether you like the strong and fishy squid taste. 

Just like in Hanoi, the street food ladies will even bring the goodies right up to your doorstep.