Hội An Café is another one of those places along Victoria Drive that I’ve heard about, read about, driven or rode past, but never actually tried until now. Hội An is a city in central Vietnam. Is there more to central Vietnamese food than bún bò huế?
Dairy Queen is just to the left, and Western Lake Chinese Seafood Restaurant is across the street. Hội An Café is small but clean and comfortable. They have one of those fancy taps in the washroom where the water comes out of a chute. I thought, “did they just renovate?” But I think it’s always been this clean since they opened back in 2011.
Back in the comfort of my own home. I love how the containers are marked. I got two of their “Mì” or “Hội An Style Noodles”. On the left Cao Lầu, on the right Mì Quảng.
Mì Quảng. Those orange things are rice noodles, similar to noodles used in pho or pad thai, except stained orange. I have no idea how they make the noodles orange. Comes with bean sprouts (underneath), crushed peanuts and rice crackers with black sesame seeds.
The soup and meat that you mix with the Mì Quảng. Contains pork and shrimp. The pork looks like slices of Chinese char siu.
Here’s the Cao Lầu. I had a hard time figuring out the difference between the two noodles. Both come with rice cracker but only this one came with fried shallot bits.
Sautéed pork and garlic sauce that comes with the Cao Lầu. You can see a big Chinese influence in this dish from the use of pork that looks and tastes a like Chinese bbq pork (char siu).
Bag of fresh herbs and greens. Shredded banana blossom (the white stuff), mint, basil, rau ram (laksa leaf), leaf lettuce, limes and a couple super-hot red chilies.
I also got Bánh Bột Lọc Lá Chuối, which is steamed tapioca dumplings wrapped in banana leaf.
There’s ground pork and shrimp inside.
We loved this. The texture is very bouncy and “squidgy”. The fish sauce is out of this world. Punchy, strong, sweet, salty. I’m SO glad they didn’t serve a wimpy nước chấm with this dish.
The Mì Quảng all mixed up. Notice the shrimp are coloured orange as well. The shrimp are cooked in that Vietnamese overcooked kind of way 😛 Still good in the context of the dish. But as a whole, I liked this noodle less than the other one. The broth that you pour and mix into it tasted good on its own, but didn’t flavour the rest of the dish that much when mixed in. But, I’m sure this dish has its fans, maybe for when you don’t want a heavy, strong dish but something plainer and lighter. However, I struggled a bit with this dish, wondering if I was actually eating Vietnamese food because other than the herbs, I wasn’t getting any of the typical Vietnamese flavours.
I liked this Cao Lầu much better. Richer, stronger flavours. Really tasty and fun to eat this with the rice cracker. I’d get this again.
A good takeout experience. I’d go back to try their other dishes.
(This HuffPost Taste article give some interesting background on the Cao Lầu dish.)
P.S. Hoi An Cafe has a third variation where they take the shrimp and pork from the Mì Quảng but add the sauce from the Cao Lầu! 🙂