Incredible Bamboo Pork at Moi Moi in Phong Nha
We rolled in just after 7 p.m. on our scooters and were happy to see a light was shining over the tables of an outdoor gazebo. We soon realized it was the only light we could see. As we circle around using the lights from our bikes, we were ready to leave, our stomachs completely empty.
Then we saw a flashlight coming towards us.
A wide-smiling, older Vietnamese walked over. He motioned for us to sit down and didn’t appear to speak English.
Within a few minutes a woman walked out and turned on the light to their kitchen. About 15 minutes after that four people sharing scooters arrived. More guests we thought. We were wrong.
The women got off the scooters and headed in to work in the kitchen. The two men with them lit a fire and sat down.
As we looked through the menu, we realized they had closed nearly two and a half hours ago. Now, apparently, they were open. Just for us.
We couldn’t believe it.
When people ask me about my best meal in Southeast Asia it’s a struggle to pick just one. From papaya salad and crispy pla in Thailand, to pork spring rolls in Laos, and Vietnamese pho and banh mi, it’s an impossible question. My best overall dining experience, however, took place under a gazebo, off a bumpy dirt road outside a the tiny town of Phong Na in central Vietnam. The name of the restaurant was Moi Moi.
We heard about Moi Moi at Easy Tiger hostel, where we were staying in Phong Nha. They said the pork was slow-cooked inside of bamboo. It sounded interesting and we couldn’t wait to give it a try.
The menus at Moi Moi tell their story best.
“Local Food cooked by locals in a local spot.” – Moi Moi Menu
We soon realized none of the people here spoke English and relied exclusively on this menu written in both languages to take orders. Whoever helped them with the menu also seemed to have a sense of humor. Later we learned Easy Tiger this and a few other local restaurants to create such menus. Tourism is still relatively new to this part of Vietnam.
“I will die if I eat peanuts.” – Moi Moi Menu translation
More much appreciated humor for the Moi Moi menu.
We were told the portions of pork were quite large so we ordered two for the four of us. We were also excited to see pork spring rolls and beef dumplings on the menu so we ordered them as well.
About 40 minutes later we were presented one of the nicest looking meals in Southeast Asia. The portions were huge!
We thought there would be just a few spring rolls but instead we received two full plates. The beef dumplings were also made in clear rice casings and presented inside banana leaves. The pork spring rolls were perfectly crisp on the outside with rich seasoned pork on the inside. They were fantastic. Some of the best I tasted in Southeast Asia.
The beef dumplings offered an interesting soft texture. I’m not sure if they were steamed but the wrapper was soft and chewy and the beef inside was rich and flavorful. The spicy soy sauce was a nice addition.
The pork was absolutely incredible. Tender, juicy, and seasoned with herbs, I wondered why this was the first time I enjoyed it slow-cooked in bamboo. All the juices and flavors were locked inside.
This food for the four of us, plus two beers each, cost a mere 450,000 Vietnamese Dong ($20). We left them 600,000 and thanked them for opening for us. They were gracious. We probably should have given them more.
For their kind opening of the restaurant, the incredible food, preparation styles that were new to us, and new friends, this will remain one of the greatest dining experiences of my life.
Do yourself a favor and head to Phong Nha to explore some of their beautiful caves and stop by Moi Moi. You won’t regret it.