As I wrote about earlier my office got made remote earlier this year in March. Being a designer I’d heard of people in my industry working as freelancers and traveling at the same time this had always fascinated me. So I decided to use the opportunity and go work abroad. Choosing a destination came quite naturally to me. My sister and best friend had just been traveling around Vietnam and had both loved the experience. I wanted to go somewhere where I wouldn’t have to spend a ton of money, at that point in time I had just applied for a masters degree and wanted to save some money for living expenses etc.
In the end it was an easy choice, I chose to visit Thailand and Vietnam. Both countries were affordable for me, safe to travel around as a solo female traveler and known for their rich culinary traditions.
I spent a total of two weeks in Vietnam, 10 days in Hoi An working in a local co-working space, which I’ll write more about later, and the remaining 4 days in Ninh Binh and Hanoi. I very quickly fell in love with the country, the food, the people and the stunning landscape. By the end of my time there I didn’t want to leave!
Here are a few of my favourite restaurants and cafes I recommend checking out if you ever find yourself in Hoi An or Hanoi.
Karma Waters - Hoi An (Vegan)
Karma Waters is a family run business and charity, they have two restaurants one in Hoi An and the other in Da Nang. They offer cooking tours and classes, I did one of their morning cooking classes. I really enjoyed the experience, it was great to be able to cook from the fresh ingredients provided and learn how to make some delicious Vietnamese dishes from scratch. I had my own translator, she was a really sweet girl who I also learnt a lot about Vietnam from. They give you the option to either cook three dishes or five, I chose to cook five as I wanted to learn as much as I could. I didn’t realise that I then also had to eat all the food by myself! Thankfully the girl translating for me sat down with me after and helped me so almost nothing went to waste. I made a Pho, mango salad, Summer rolls, banana rice pancakes with some ginger syrup and pineapple, watermelon and apple juice. Everything was incredibly delicious!
The Fisherman - An Bang Beach, Hoi An (Vegan)
The Fisherman is set right on An Bang beach in a beautiful location. It has really cool interior design and a versatile menu with some great cocktail choices. I went there twice because I liked it so much. I had the pumpkin gnocchi for dinner one night, it’s flavoured with basil pesto and has loads of sautéed spinach and tomatoes. It was delicious, I also had a cucumber flavoured cocktail. Later I came back after a morning at the beach and had some spring rolls and a chocolate, banana and avocado smoothie. The spring rolls were in the form of little sachets, bound with a string of lemongrass, they were so flavourful and good!
Minh Hien Vegetarian - Hoi An (Vegetarian)
I was lucky to stumble upon this restaurant as I found myself very hungry after pottering around Hoi An one day. Everything is vegetarian on the menu and they have loads of vegan options. They also offer cooking classes I later discovered. I recommend sitting in the garden, it’s gorgeous, we were the only ones there just surrounded by flowers and a pond filled with lily pads. I had the famous crispy pancake and it did not disappoint. You take a slice along with some salad and fresh mint leaves and roll everything up in rice paper. You then dip it into this sweet peanut sauce. It tastes amazing!
Morning Glory - Hoi An (vegan options)
Morning Glory was a place which my sister recommended to me and the first place I visited in Vietnam. It has a good variety of vegetarian and vegan options and a really nice atmosphere. I went there twice, once for lunch and then again for a quick dinner after finishing a photography class. For lunch I had a taro root, aubergine curry, it had such an incredibly rich flavour. I’ve never had taro root before and was surprised by the texture of it, it’s sort of crumbly and reminded me of the yolk of a hard boiled egg. I also had the fresh spring rolls (aka summer rolls) the ingredients used were so fresh and delicious. For dinner I had a portion of spring rolls and a watermelon, passion fruit cocktail.
Vegan Zone - Hoi An (vegan)
Vegan zone is 100% vegan and has loads of tasty options! I had the aubergine pancake as a starter which was really delicious, the aubergine was perfectly grilled. I would have never thought to have aubergine with a pancake but it worked great together and paired well with the soy dipping sauce. For the main I had a mushroom hotpot, which had all sorts of vegetables in it, the flavour was great.
Quan Chay Dam a.k.a. Ba Dam - Hoi An (vegetarian)
This restaurant was recommended to me by a fellow vegan guy who was working with me at the co-working place. The place doesn’t look like much from the outside and is quite hard to find as it’s away from the street. But I had to try the Hoi An’s local dish, Cao lầu. It’s a simple dish traditionally consisting of pork, some greens and rice noodles in a pho type soup. The vegan version has tofu instead of pork, it’s so delicious! Sometimes it’s the simplest things that are the best, I’ve never had salad in a soup before it adds a really nice crunch.
Ưu Đàm Chay - Hanoi (vegetarian)
Again I was very lucky to stumble on this restaurant as I was visiting the Vietnam Women Museum just around the corner. The interior design is amazing and they have the largest menu I’ve seen, everything is vegetarian and the vegan options are plenty. It was so hard to choose between the endless options that all sounded amazing, I had one of my absolute favourite dishes of the whole trip here. I had a fried tofu dish with a tomato chilli sauce. I think this says a lot about my obsession with food, but I think about this dish regularly and have tried many times to replicate it since, without much luck.
Minh Chay - Hanoi (vegan)
Minh Chay is an entirely vegan restaurant. they have a lot of great looking options on their menu and luckily it was only a 4 minute walk from my hotel! I went here for dinner and had a tofu soup wrapped in nori sheets, it was such a tasty dish. The taste of sea really came through and it reminded me of my mom’s fish soup.