You know you have good friends when you’ve been traveling for 24+ hours and by the time you’re all reunited they’ve already found a vegetarian restaurant to take you to and lift your spirits. Yes, I have awesome friends. When we finally arrived at our first stop – Hanoi – we were so excited to be there, pretty sleepy, and had no idea where to go or what to do. Luckily our friends had scoped out a lot of places and even managed to find a vegetarian restaurant walking distance from our hotel for our first meal in the city. I must say, I was pretty amazed with the number of menus in Vietnam that had at least a couple items clearly marked as vegetarian. Tamarind Cafe was advertised as vegetarian (while there’s also an entire menu for meat – or chicken – eaters, there’s the main menu which is all vegetarian).
This made ordering so very easy for us. And on that first night, when you’re not quite accustomed to accents yet, or your charade skills aren’t quite up to par yet, this was a wonderful option. The clientele were largely Westerners, there were some British girls who were seated near us, and some Aussies not too far away, so I wouldn’t necessarily go so far as to say this was “100% authentic” Vietnamese food. But it was good, and it was vegetarian. And that gets major points in my book right off the bat.
We started with the spring rolls, minus the egg, and went completely against my doctor’s recommendation to not eat any raw fruits or vegetables that I didn’t peel myself… but when in Rome (or Vietnam) right? The spring rolls were solid and didn’t make any of us sick. Double win!
The beer and the wine were cold and cheap – and what more could you ask for? We went for another couple appetizers – one being a trio of sweet potato with different flavors. Yes, it was a bit strange that the sweet potato wasn’t orange, but it was pretty darn tasty nonetheless. One was flavored with wasabi, another with peanut, and the last was plain (I think?). These little mounds of potato were a great little appetizer and the different flavors were all good.
We also opted for a fried mushroom appetizer which was delicious. (Oh the perils of travel when the dollar is strong, the food is cheap, and your eyes are a million times bigger than your stomach). The sauce, the crispy mushrooms – there was absolutely nothing that could have been added, removed, or changed, to make this simple app any better.
For a main course, both R and I went with a hot pot of sorts. Mine was mostly eggplant and some sauce, while I can’t quite remember what R ordered, aside from the fact it had a lot of unadvertised egg in it. When in Rome (or Vietnam) right? Both the dishes were pretty good, but I think between the sweet potato balls and the crispy mushrooms we had more than our fill on the apps.
If I should find myself back in Hanoi, I would definitely hit up Tamarind Cafe again. The ease in ordering, the entire vegetarian menu, and not having to explain “no meat. no chicken. no fish. no beef.” was something I definitely took for granted on this first outing of ours. If you find yourself in the Old Quarter of Hanoi, you should absolutely try it out. And order the mushrooms!