I have a local meal at a Vietnamese herb farm
During my pre-travel research about stuff to do around Vietnam, I came across Tra Que Vegetable Village. Located on the outskirts of colorful Hoi An, this quaint tourist spot offers cooking classes and a menu that combines classic Vietnamese dishes with local ingredients.
Getting there was a bit of an adventure in itself (albeit a laid-back one). We decided to walk from our hostel in the old town of Hoi An, after getting some pretty straight-forward directions from the front desk. All we had to do was follow a big street down for about 2km until we saw signs that pointed us to the vegetable village.
It was extremely hot, but even on this very flat expanse of countryside, the views were gorgeous. Viridescent fields shimmered in the breeze under a bright blue sky. Every once in a while we spotted a water buffalo grazing stoically.
The downside to this leisurely stroll was, of course, the pulsating heat. We were glad that we had brought along water bottles, as sweat beaded up on foreheads and dripped uncomfortably down our shirts.
Eventually we spotted a sun-bleached sign that pointed us down an alleyway.
This alleyway had a couple of restaurants along the way, as well as residential areas. We were seriously considering turning around, because it didn’t seem like we were in the right place. We were also seriously considering stopping at a restaurant, since we had gathered quite an appetite by this point.
Eventually, however, the alleyway opened up and we found the herb gardens.
Row after row of vegetables and herbs were neatly arranged in rows. A couple of gardeners in conical hats tended to some of the plants.
We saw the iconic water-wheel, and made our way to the shade of the Tra Que restaurant.
We received a menu from a smiley host, and immediately ordered Tra Que’s specialty drink: Lime/basil seed juice!
Refreshing and not too sweet, this beverage hit the spot. I don’t think I have ever had any dish with basil seeds before, and I had no idea how fruit-like they were.
From there, we ordered a plethora of dishes to share.
Fried springrolls, which were to die for:
Vietnamese pancakes, which the server graciously showed us how to wrap:
Egg omeletes (cooked with herbs and seasoning) were placed onto rice paper and wrapped together with greens in the middle.
The conflicting textures and temperatures made this dish incredibly enjoyable, not to mention the fun of eating with our hands. The flavors, however, were what really put this dish over the top.
We also ordered papaya salad (not pictured), which we had seen a lot of throughout Thailand. Surprisingly, the Vietnamese version was even better! Or maybe it was just the excellent ambiance. Either way, it hit the spot, and we ate our papaya salad like it was a salsa, scooping it up with crispy chips.
We also tried the adorably-named menu item “Three friends.” The three friends refered to the shrimp, the herbs, and I forget the third item. I won’t forget the flavor, though! Absolutely delicious.
It’s a bit out of the way, but Tra Que Vegetable Village is definitely worth making the effort to find. So cheap and fresh, the meal hit the spot on a swealtering day, and it was a nice break from our fast-paced touristy days.