We went on a food tour today. There were lots of reasons it should have been a complete and utter disaster.
We can start with the fact that it cost nearly $70 per person. In Vietnam. Where we can eat very, very well on a couple of dollars per person per meal.
And, let’s also start with the fact that we were picked up at 7:10 am. (No, that is not a typo). It takes something extra special for Robert and I to roll out of bed that early these days.
Then, let’s move on to the fact that we tried approximately 40 different things. Seriously — approximately 40 different foods and beverages (including alcohol) before noon. I honestly didn’t think that was possible without profusely vomiting later in the day. Turns out it is not only possible, but fun. (Our host Neville did question what Robert’s mom would say if she knew Robert was drinking beer at 9 in the morning. Robert pointed out it was after noon in Chicago….).
Add in the fact that approximately half of the tastings were conducted in a tasting room instead of in a market or on the street. How weird is that?
And, finally, take into account the fact that half of the tour was conducted by an Australian man who was “60 + eleven years old” and who had lived in Vietnam for less than a decade.
Yeah, it totally should not have worked at all. And, yet, the Original Taste of Hoi An ultimately turned into one of the best food tours we have ever taken. The food was amazing — some of it we had tried before but it had never been so good (the banh mi and the banh xeo were out of this world and Robert said the ca phe sua da was spectacular), some of it was new to us (xi ma, which is a black sesame seed and water herb soup-like thing that I’m going to crave for the rest of my life, and bo kho which is a beef stew served at weddings with baguettes for dunking in the stew (think french dip) that I will be searching out on menu after menu, and barbecued coconut which was so good I bought a bag of it). The Australian and Vietnamese hosts (Neville and Ms. Sen) were amazing — friendly and funny and personable and oh so informative. The women who worked at the tasting room were amazing — friendly and helpful and they weren’t afraid to make fun of their boss (Neville), which is always a good sign.
And, Neville provided us with a whole list of recommended restaurants for the rest of ours stay — even some in Saigon. (The incorrigible Neville really liked Robert once Robert pointed out dark rum — which Neville just happened to have — would be a really good addition to a particular beverage served on the tour. After tasting the concoction, Neville whole hardheartedly agreed with Robert’s suggestion).
If you come to Hoi An, we can highly recommend this tour. Don’t let the price turn you away. Don’t let the fact that part of the tour is in a tasting room turn you away. Just go and enjoy. (No, we didn’t get paid to say any of this, we just really enjoyed our morning).