The Story of Mango Rooms Restaurant Hoi An

When approaching Mango Rooms Restaurant, Hoi An’s traditional wooden architecture and its golden-yellow glow greet you. Yet, when you step inside it is apparent that this restaurant has its own unique twist on traditional Vietnamese dining. The backdrop of salsa music invites you to this Latin American meets Vietnamese hideaway. Bold turquoise and green walls prop up Latino artwork. Despite the Latin American influence behind Mango Rooms, there are still many reminders that you are located in the beautiful city of Hoi An. Described as ‘Kyoto Mexican cowboy meets Hoi An hospitality’.  It seems this captivating Asian fusion restaurant is exactly what Chef Duc, Mango Room’s vibrant and charismatic founder, was looking to create.

Located between the lantern street of Nguyễn Thái Học and the Thu Bon River, Mango Rooms is set in a prime location right in the heart of Hoi An’s Old Town. It provides the perfect spot to relax and watch the world go by.  The ambience of the restaurant offers vibrant decor and music, creating an uplifting atmosphere that captures the senses. 

The bold and colourful character of Mango Rooms is no doubt inspired by Chef Duc.  The restaurant represents Duc’s personality perfectly – shaped through his worldwide travel and upbringing. The first of Chef Duc’s restaurants in Hoi An, Mango Rooms offers an insight into Duc’s arrival on the Hoi An dining scene in 2004. 

With each of Duc’s restaurants having their own individual style and character, Mango Rooms is a unique dining experience in Hoi An that you don’t want to miss. Hidden sat down with Chef Duc to discuss everything Mango Rooms.  From the restaurant’s history to Duc’s love of movies and how all of this is combined in his impressive menu.

Website – Opening hours: 8.30.a.m – 10.30.p.m Daily  Address – 111 Nguyen Thai HocOnline Reservations

An Introduction to Chef Duc

Brought up on a family farm in Southern Vietnam, Duc was surrounded by fresh food and local ingredients.  They were cooked by his mother, something which has transcended into his cooking today with references to his travels and personality. At 15 years old, Duc left Vietnam as a boat refugee. He lived in a refugee camp and used the inspiration from his Mother’s cooking as a child to try and ‘make the food into something less terrible’. Later, Duc was taken to America where he lived in Texas. From here, he travelled the world, meeting locals and cooking for people as a way of socialising.

Duc’s inspiration is built on the foundation that is all about generosity, sharing food and giving what you can to take care of people. Duc believes that sharing food happens all around the world,  traversing different cultures, creating lifetime bonds. It’s all about giving what you have in your hand, and creating something to the best of your knowledge. 

Chef Duc came back to Vietnam several times to visit his family.  He loved the exotic feel of the country, the people and the beaches. It reminded him of his childhood in Vietnam alongside places in Mexico.  After almost 20 years of cooking and travelling around the world, Duc returned to Vietnam in 2003.  Which was when he started his first business venture, Mango Rooms. 

A portrait of Chef Duc
Chef Duc sits outside his restaurant in Hoi An

Mango Rooms’ Location

By the time Mango Rooms was ready to open, Chef Duc was down to his last five dollars. This was due to the investment to completely restore and renovate the building. The building has maintained its traditional wooden architecture and golden-yellow glow on the outside. However, inside the design represents a colourful, clean and exotic style. 

Chef Duc travelled the length of Vietnam before choosing Hoi An for the location of Mango Rooms.  There is no doubt that his choice of location, with the Thu Bon River on one side and lantern street on the other, is the perfect landscape to immerse yourself in the beauty that Hoi An’s Old Town offers. In the evening, the streets and river glow with colourful lanterns.  Thus adding additional ambience to the already captivating Mango Rooms Restaurant. 

Offering an insight into his love of movies, Duc says that he always felt alive with water. ‘Just like the Bruce Lee quote, “be water my friend” ’. The draw of Hoi An’s fresh seafood and bustling food markets led to Duc opting to open his restaurant here. The menu here is based upon this, with local seafood and ingredients from Hoi An’s lively local markets the nucleus of each dish.

The Ambience

The lively colours and atmosphere at Mango Rooms evoke the senses from the moment you reach the door. The uplifting and welcoming nature ensures you feel taken care of.  In addition you are greeted with complimentary chips and salsa. You know you’re in Hoi An, but it also feels as if you are visiting Latin America at the same time. Mango Rooms is one of the few restaurants you’ll visit where the lively kitchen is based in the middle of the restaurant.  Consequently it provides an open and inviting feel to experience the food with the staff, not just as customers. 

Mango Rooms Restaurant Menu

The Flavours of Mango Rooms 

Chef Duc summarised his culinary experience in three words – fresh, flavourful and tasty. These three words perfectly capture the inspiration behind the creation of the menu at Mango Rooms. Developed on the knowledge and experience Duc has acquired from his travels across the globe. The menu provides a combination of traditional Vietnamese flavours and ingredients, along with the rich, tangy flavours of Mexico and Central America. 

Subtly combining the sharp flavours of Vietnamese soy-infused beef with the tangy rum and mango salsa, dishes such as La Cubana bring out the best of this sensational Latino inspired fusion. The menu is packed with attention to detail.  Each dish has a creatively constructed name expressing the character and flavours, and full description of the ingredients.

Ingredients

The creation of the menu at Mango Rooms has a heavy focus on local, fresh ingredients. With Vietnam’s abundance of fresh herbs, spices and fruits and Hoi An’s market being located right in the heart of the city.  Meaning Mango Rooms has been able to focus on ingredients that can be acquired daily. Therefore the food is not only fresh but of high quality. There’s a selection of fresh seafood, vegetables, fruit and herbs, all locally sourced from Hoi An’s bustling markets. Thus allowing Mango Rooms to establish long-term relationships with sellers at the market.  In addition to developing an in-depth knowledge of their ingredients and how they are locally farmed.

Hidden Hint: The Red Snapper is a long standing favourite dish. The market sellers taught Chef Duc the traditional ‘HoiAnian’ style of cooking the dish.  He has since adapted it with his own unique twists. 

Visiting the market in Hoi An
Chef Duc selects produce during a visit to Hoi An’s market.

A Creative Menu

Reading the menu at Mango Rooms Restaurant provides an insight into the quality of the locally sourced ingredients of each dish.  But is also intriguing due to the thought process in the naming of each dish. With yet another reference to the character of Chef Duc, each dish has a unique name . Many involve movie name puns due to the Chef’s love of movies. From ‘Lord of the Squid Rings’ to ‘Exotic Dance’, the unique names express the character and personal flair of each dish. 

Eating is a sensory experience which goes beyond taste Duc explains.  It evokes the ears, eyes and nose along with the taste buds. Hidden can attest that the menu no doubt plays into this. 

Duc’s Recommendation

Chef Duc recommends trying the seared tuna with mango salsa. Inspired by Mexican, Vietnamese and even Japanese influences. He describes it as fresh and zesty with a kick of spice.

Popular Dishes at Mango Rooms

Fabulous Fish Called Phish

‘Fabulous Fish Called Phish’ is one of the longest standing, popular dishes on the menu. This red snapper fillet, seasoned in ginger, onion and roasted pepper, is then pan-seared with a zesty mango, tomato and garlic sauce. Due to Hoi An’s close proximity to the ocean, the red snapper can be sourced fresh from the local market. 

Through visiting the market, Chef Duc was able to develop his knowledge of the red snapper. Including the traditional Vietnamese way of cooking the dish. This inspired Duc to create a red-snapper dish for Mango Rooms.  But adapted with his own unique twists and Latino influence. This dish is one that people remember, with customers regularly returning to Mango Rooms to revisit their previous experience.  

Exotic Dance

Out of all the creatively named dishes on the Mango Rooms Restaurant menu, this is one of Chef Duc’s proudest creations.  Hidden agrees that it certainly lives up to its name! ‘Exotic Dance’ consists of ginger and garlic-marinated prawns wrapped in tender slices of beef, served with a mildly spicy butter-soy-garlic sauce. The warming ginger with the saltiness of the prawn a highlight of the menu, followed by a subtle spicy kick from the soy and butter sauce.

Hidden Hint: Chef Duc’s inspiration behind the ‘Exotic Dance’ dish goes back to when he lived in Texas. There he created his first soy sauce and butter combination whilst cooking seafood. 

Buddha Appetite

‘Buddha Appetite’ is a vegetarian dish which brings out the best of all the locally sourced Asian infused flavours of Mango Rooms. The citrusy lemongrass infused tofu is topped with sweet basil and sharp ground black pepper with fresh tomatoes.  Resulting in one of the tastiest vegetarian dishes Hoi An has to offer.

The Drinks at Mango Rooms

It is not only the food menu that offers an abundance of flavour.  Mango Rooms is also renowned for their innovative cocktails. With Vietnam’s tropical climate providing a range of flavourful fruits such as pineapples, passion fruit, mangos and kumquats. Chef Duc created a cocktail menu combining these exotic fruit with his experiences in Mexico and Texas.  Thus allowing you to experience a refreshing taste of fresh, exotic, raw fruit. 

The cocktails are a perfect addition to dining at Mango Rooms. Using Latin American recipes with the addition of fresh Vietnamese fruit, imitating the vibrant and bold flavours of the food.

Hidden Hint: Make the most of the Happy Hour at Mango Rooms with 50% off drinks until 6.p.m everyday. 

Mango Rooms Restaurant Today

Since the opening of Mango Rooms, Hoi An’s dining scene has exploded in both international and local cuisines. Throughout this growth Mango Rooms has continued to be a focal point of an ever-changing restaurant scene. Despite the continued increase in competition in Hoi An, Mango Rooms has always been able to stand out.  This is due to its established, distinguished, individual style. Even with an ever expanding client base and growing popularity, Mango Rooms has sustained the same bold character and essence from the day Chef Duc opened the restaurant over 15 years ago.

Duc has made it clear that whilst ‘the child will grow, the personality will stay the same’. A mantra which has kept not only a loyal client base but continues to capture the attention of new customers today. Duc has made sure that whilst this child moves with the times, it still keeps hold of the vibrant character, fresh ingredients and bold menu, which has made it such a success. 

Hidden’s Thoughts

So while there are plenty of dining choices in Hoi An, Mango Rooms offers a unique, uplifting experience that you will not find elsewhere. Carefully crafting traditional Vietnamese flavours with striking Latin American undertones. Chef Duc has created a menu which brings out the best of Hoi An’s local ingredients with visible identity. The food on offer stimulates not only your taste buds, but is able to extract the history and culture of Hoi An, through the aesthetics, smells and sounds of Mango Rooms Restaurant. 

Chef Duc’s top tip for visiting Hoi An: Stay a long time. Stay for at least 10 days. Discover Hoi An’s top recommendations but also get to know local hangouts and places to eat.

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