Tuesday, March 19, 2013


DA NANG, VIETNAM — Le Ha Uyen never tires of searching her hometown’s shady alleys and side streets in search of the perfect bowl of noodles.

“It takes time to explore,” said Ms. Uyen, a 24-year-old foreign affairs officer who blogs about Da Nang and its vast food culture. “We have a very diverse cuisine, and different shops have different types of cooking.”
Travelers arriving in Da Nang typically travel by road 29 kilometers, or 18 miles, south to the former trading port of Hoi An, which Unesco has designated a cultural heritage landmark. Others drive north to the former royal capital of Hue, another designated heritage site, where a preserved citadel offers glimpses into a former feudal empire.
But some residents and expatriates say Da Nang, a coastal city that was host to a U.S. air base during the Vietnam War, is emerging as an appealing destination in its own right. The city’s charms include a riverfront promenade where locals sip iced coffee, and a museum displaying artifacts from the Champa kingdom, which ruled for centuries along Vietnam’s central and southern coasts.
And the central region’s best-known foods, like the noodle dish mi quang and the chicken-and-rice medley com ga, easily rival salty specialities from Hanoi and sweet ones from Ho Chi Minh City. It is easy to spend less than 200,000 Vietnamese dong, or about $9.60, on a day of eating in Da Nang, and hard to resist sampling the noodles, snacks and desserts that confront you at every street corner.
Ms. Uyen, who lived in Japan and Australia before coming home in 2011, says dishes from Da Nang and Vietnam’s central coast are underrepresented outside the country, especially when compared with the interest in foods from the north or south. “They deserve to be more popular,” she said.
Da Nang, Vietnam’s fourth-most populous city, also has a crescent-shaped beach that lies largely vacant by day except for some expatriate surfers. Vietnamese revelers arrive just before dusk, tossing volleyballs or strolling in the surf as vendors sell beer and quail eggs from foam coolers.