Enter Ms Vy’s House of Hoi An for a taste of Central Vietnam. Is it a blink and you’ll miss it hole-in-the-wall? Definitely not. At night, the psychedelic glow, lights up Windsor. The vibrant mural of a river scene, with glowing lanterns, lures diners inside. On a freezing winter’s night, it radiates warmth. Don’t make me go back outside!
Ms Vy is the Jamie Oliver of Vietnam – with three restaurants, a cooking school and books to her name. A venture to the southside of Melbourne, further expands the Taste of Vietnam empire. Hoi An is part of Central Vietnam – the former port city is a cultural melting point. The trade of spices and other commodities, shapes the food of the region, making it spicier than its Northern and Southern counterparts. Being half Vietnamese, the food I’ve grown up with heralds from Southern Vietnam (Saigon specifically – where my parents were born). Banh Xeo, beef pho, Vietnamese curry – is the food you typically associate with the cuisine. I’d thought I had tried every Vietnamese dish, but House of Hoi An has a few surprises.
Starters commence with crispy fried wontons, topped with a fresh crab salad. Next, Banh Uot Thit Nuong, a dish that Dad throws together at home with his own variation. You might’ve noticed that the Vietnamese love rolling things – either in veggies, vermicelli or in this case rice paper. Fragrant BBQ pork cooked on skewers, is served on a wooden board with your ‘rolling’ accompaniments. Both dishes are banging.
Onto the heavier mains – this is where the spice of the region shines through. The stuffed squid is a signature for House of Hoi An. I was particularly keen , as this was a Vietnamese dish that I’ve never encountered. The squid is juicy and ‘stuffed’ with minced pork. On its own, the peppery notes can be overpowering. This one is for sharing. The sauteed prawns are presented in a coconut. Lift off the lid to reveal the aroma of coconut and plump prawns, sauteed in a curry sauce. Again, the saltiness can be a tad overpowering. Dessert was a major thumbs up. Frozen banana is smothered in coconut three-ways, in a refreshing palate cleanser.
House of Hoi An goes beyond standard spring rolls and bowls of pho. It introduces Melbournians to Central Vietnamese cuisine – a lesser known region of Vietnam known for spice and heat.