|Dara Vietnamese Restaurant, also referred to as Dara Vietnam Food.|
So, what might possibly be our most favourite restaurant in Chiang Mai isn't actually a Thai restaurant. It's Dara Vietnam Food, a charming Vietnamese restaurant just outside the Chiang Mai old city square. Dara was a recommendation from my parents, who visited Chiang Mai before we did. Their driver took them there, and they loved it! In turn, they raved to me about the food, and I just knew I had to go there. Delicious things, plus the opportunity to retrace a few of my parents' footsteps in a foreign country? Awesome!
Dara looks fairly unassuming from the outside - if you weren't looking for it, you might go right past if you weren't paying attention, but walk in and you'll be delighted - at least, we were: a lovely wooden interior, warm tones, it just all felt very comfortable.
I settled in with a stimulating iced ginger tea, while Simon had a Vietnamese coffee.
|Iced ginger tea at Dara Vietnamese Restaurant (15 baht). Simon's Vietnamese coffee, not shown, was 25 baht.|
We partook in a Vietnamese do-it-yourself dish with little square rice paper wrappers, fresh herbs, homemade meatballs, assorted diced vegetables, and a peanut dipping sauce. We softened the rice paper squares in the bowl of water provided, then placed a bit of everything onto each square before wrapping it up into a tiny parcel and popping it into our mouths. It was fun!
|Do-it-yourself Vietnamese rice paper rolls (goi cuon) - or in this case, more like Vietnamese rice paper parcels (100 baht).|
We also had some rustic-style banh hoi - rice vermicelli bundles with grilled pork ribs and spring onion oil dipping sauce.
|Bun hoy (more typically spelled banh hoi) at Dara Vietnam Food (40 baht).|
We enjoyed our first meal at Dara so much that we returned for round two. Due to the abundance of food stalls, cafes, and restaurants in Chiang Mai, we rarely visited any eatery more than once - this is testament to how much we liked it here.
Also, also, did I mention that there is an adorable cat at Dara?
The first time, when we dined indoors, Dara cat hung out with us indoors. The second time, we decided to enjoy the fresh air in the courtyard area at the back, so of course, Dara cat hung out with us outdoors. HAPPINESS. We love Dara cat. Dara cat loves us. Life is beautiful.
|The kitty at Dara Vietnamese Restaurant is super sweet! <3|
But I assure you that we didn't return just for the cat. It's definitely for the food and drinks, too!
Unfortunately, the second time around I didn't jot down any notes, and given this was so long ago, now we play the guessing game. Is this an iced ginger tea, or an iced bael tea? Or something else entirely? Whatever it is, doesn't it look wonderfully refreshing?
|Another iced drink - possibly iced ginger tea again, but could also be iced bael tea or something else.|
At least with this dish, I know what it is for sure, it's so easy to identify: a Vietnamese pancake! One of Simon's favourite dishes. As with our first meal, glorious fresh herbs make an appearance again, so verdant and abundant.
|Banh xeo (crispy Vietnamese pancake) at Dara Vietnam Food.|
And here's what the perfectly-cooked pancake filling looks like. Absolutely luscious.
|The scrumptious filling inside the Vietnamese pancake.|
We had rice paper rolls again, but this time, instead of the DIY version, we went for the chef-prepared version!
|Vietnamese rice paper rolls / summer rolls / salad rolls at Dara Vietnamese Restaurant.|
Finally, this dish. I'll be honest and say I really cannot remember what this is. Clearly it's some kind of deep-fried snack. Vegetable fritters? Fish cakes? Shrimp cakes? I don't know. But I'm sure it was excellent, because I certainly don't remember not relishing any dish we had at Dara. Everything here was splendid.
|What do you think this is? Vegetable fritters, fish cakes, or shrimp cakes?|
Needless to say, if we ever return to Chiang Mai (and I sincerely hope we do!), Dara will be on our itinerary again, for sure. Both our visits here were just so satisfying. Thanks, mum and dad, for the recommendation!