I ate one of my all time favorite dishes on Tuesday, steamed mussels with chili, lemon grass and spring onions. The green mussels were caught fresh by fishermen in the morning and the restaurant looked over a beautiful beach. It was one of those meals that makes you believe in heaven.
It was at Da Nhay beach about 25km north of Dong Hoi in Quang Binh Province on the north central coast. After Dong Hoi just north of the DMZ, Highway 1A passes through miles of rice then the traffic slows as heavy trucks labor up a small pass where the mountains meet the sea. On the other side of the pass is Da Nhay.
There are two good hotels, very reasonably priced on the left, and a long sandy beach on the right. The second hotel called Phi Hung is high-set and has balconies with ocean views on the front. The rocks are fun to explore, rockpools, small caves and beachcombing is very evocative of childhood. Then continue along the next beach to where a small fishing fleet of bamboo boats are dragged high on the sand and there’s a popular restaurant called Huong Bien. Many of the black boats have yin and yang symbols painted inside their bows.
On the walk around the headland you’ll see men wearing goggles swimming around the rocks on the headland and just off the shore. They dive and cling to the rocks to grope around below pulling off the delicious green mussels to fill up mesh bags.
At the entrance to the restaurant I walked past a large bowl of these mussels in sea water and ordered them for breakfast on the spot. What could be fresher? The sea in Da Nhay is so blue and clean so what could be healthier. The dish went beautifully with a jug of icy tea and my own personal fan. By Michael Smith in Quang Binh
The headland at Da Nhay with the beach in the background – Photo: Michael Smith