The taste of Hoi An

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An excellent menu of local specialties and foreign dishes is available at Vinh Hung Restaurant on Tran Phu Street in the heart of Hoi An.

When we dined there, we sat outdoors to better observe the tourists passing by and occasionally stopping to buy a colorful silk lantern from the shop opposite our vantage point.

The evening was lit by hanging lanterns, and not one motorbike was seen or heard the whole time. It felt like everybody around, whether holidaymaker or town resident, had been born solely to enjoy life that evening.

Vinh Hung has two dining areas, one being the outdoor terrace where we sat overlooking the lantern shop, a pagoda, and tree-lined pedestrian-only thoroughfares throbbing with life.

The other dining area is indoors and resembles a typical house in Hoi An's old quarter with its Zen ambience, phrases carved in old Vietnamese characters, paintings of the four seasons, and other such evidence of tradition.

It's a busy restaurant yet not noisy, as though the past is seeping in and making everyone feel more at ease with the world and their fellow man.

The menu lists authentic Hoi An food as well as Italian, Chinese and other international dishes at affordable prices, from around two to seven dollars per serving.

VINH HUNG RESTAURANT

147B Tran Phu Street, Hoi An
Tel: (0510) 3 86 2203

I can strongly recommend the Hoi An specialities cao lầu, wonton soup, fried wonton and shrimp pancake washed down with "White Rose" wine. For dessert, the banana cake is excellent.

As in any Vietnamese restaurant, Vinh Hung serves a variety of spring rolls, also reasonably priced. And for those hankering after standard European fare, there are tasty pizzas, pasta and soups to choose from.

Traditional Hoi An food is light and healthy. With the town's proximity to the sea, the emphasis is on seafood, particularly prawns and other shellfish, balanced with rice, herbs and vegetables.

The Hoi An of today still reflects its past as an old trading port, not just in the architecture but also in the local cuisine, which gets its ingredients from the market gardens and the fields, from the river and the sea.

Hoi An food is for sharing. As each order arrives at the table, everybody is curious to give it a try. And well they should. The special flavors linger for a long time and tempt the palate back for more.

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