Hoi An is a melting pot where people from different parts of Vietnam and countries in the world have gathered and exchanged their cultures. As a result, this town has a rich cuisine in which travelers will find many distinctions. The largest influences come from Japanese and Chinese who have resided since the 15th century and the Chams whose food culture was partially influenced by Indian. The latest one is from the French who colonized the country in 19th and 20th centuries. Banh mi – a world-famous bread from Vietnam was first made at the same time. This guide proudly introduces Hoi An’s food specialties, one of the most particular things about the world heritage town. If would like to know the secrets behind each, should book a guided food tour to stop, eat and listen to interesting information.
- The Best Places to Eat in Hoi An
- Hoi An Food Tour
- Things to Do in Hoi An
- Best Things to Do in Hoi An
This is the signature noodle dish and not found anywhere else other than Hoi An. Its name is pronounced “cow laow”, meaning “the high storey” because it’s served only in upper floors in the past. Similar to the Japanese Bridge, Cao Lau is a symbol for cultural exchange between three nationalities in town – Vietnamese, Chinese and Japanese. That’s why some people call it “Vietnamese udon”. The main ingredient of Cao Lau is the noodle, featuring a brown color and chewy taste. These characteristics come from special techniques in which wood ash from Cham islands and fresh water taken from an ancient well must be used. After “refreshing” the dry noodles by boiling, local makers serve them with sliced char siu pork, little bold sauce, blanching bean sprouts and raw vegetables. Once again, the greens have to be sourced from Tra Que village.
Read details in The Best Cao Lau in Hoi An
Mi Quang is a popular noodle bowl around Hoi An, pronounced “me kwong”. Its name means “the noodle of Quang Nam” (name of the province). People eat this food in every meal of the day and in some special events of the family. It’s made by white or yellow rice noodles, meat and a bold broth. To enjoy, locals add chilli, lime, raw vegetables, sauces to mix and of course, with crispy rice crackers. The most used meats are pork, eggs and shrimps. In the city, travelers will see stalls selling “Mi Quang Phu Chiem”. That is a specialty Mi Quang with the noodles sourced from Phú Chiêm village that provide the highest quality. In the past, ladies there carried pots of broth, bowls and ingredients by a shoulder pole, to Hoi An to sell it to earn money for living.
Read more details and see the best places in The Best Mi Quang in Hoi An
Banh Mi (“bang me”) is known as “Vietnamese sandwich” and one of the most famous Vietnamese foods in the world. This delicious bread is the second dish added in the Oxford dictionary. It’s simply a baguette filled with different meats, pate, pickles, raw vegetables, herbs and sauces. Each region in the country has its own combination. In Noi An, the bread is made with both rice and wheat flavours, therefore it’s crunchy all day long without baking again. In many sellers, travelers will have at least 4 choices of meats to choose from and enjoy. That are egg, char siu pork, sausage and Vietnamese sausage (chả lụa). In reputable restaurants, such as Banh Mi Phuong, the ingredients are more abundant. Price of a banh mi in local places ranges from 15,000 to 25,000 VND, while tourist ones charge more expensive.
Read more details and see the best places in The Best Banh Mi in Hoi An
Bánh Bao Bánh Vạc
Banh Bao (steamed bun) and Banh Vac (white rose dumplings) are a couple of specialty foods served in the White Rose Restaurant in Hoi An. The first is made by rice powder and a fully-flavoured filling that is a mix of pork, wood ear and spring onion marinated and stir fried. The dumplings have the same ingredients and steps to make, but their shape is different. Due to its rose-like appearance, tourists called it “white rose dumplings”. In the restaurant, travelers still see the makers at work around a large tray with the dough and pot of fillings nearby. This is the only place (family) where the dumplings are made.
Com Ga is chicken rice, pronounced “kom gah” in Vietnamese. It’s one of most loved local specialty foods in Hoi An. This tasty dish comprises yellow steamed rice topped with shredded chicken salad, peppermint, sliced white onion, plated green papaya and pepper. It is served with a small bowl containing a bold broth with chicken blood cubes and organs. To eat, locals use chopsticks and spoons to mix everything together. Someone may add chilli sauce, lime and sauces to enhance the taste. A com ga costs 20,000 to 30,000 VND commonly, but it’s higher in touristy places.
Read more details and the best places to eat in The Best Chicken Rice in Hoi An
Phở Hội An
Pho (“fuh”) is Vietnam’s national food, a noodle soup originated from the north delta. However, Vietnamese living in Hoi An created their own style of Pho that has some differences from the primary recipe. Basic things are still preserved, such as use of broth from slowly cooked bones and spices, and beef as main meat. Local noodles are chewy, because the makers prefer dry noodles to fresh ones. Vegetables served are pickled sliced green and mature papaya, blanching bean sprouts and herbs from Tra Que village. To add more flavours, the diners can add local-style chilli sauce, fish sauce, lime or pickled onion and carrot. Pho is sold and eaten in every meal during the day.
Read more details and the best places to eat in The Best Pho in Hoi An
Bánh Uớt Cuốn Thịt Nướng
Name of this specialty food is longer than others because it’s combined by two main ingredients to make it, Banh Uot – fresh rice papers and Thit Nuong – grilled pork skewers. In addition to these mains, travelers also are served raw vegetables, sliced cucumber and green mango, and a bowl of scrumptious peanut sauce. Locals will use the rice paper to roll the barbecue, vegetables and slices together, and then dip into the sauce to enjoy. The taste is addictive for many people, a mix of many tastes. The most different thing compared to other similar dishes in the country, is about its skewers. The makers split a bamboo chopstick into 2 (but not all) and grip the piece of well-marinated pork. Finally, they tie by a string of banana leaves that are so easy to open.
The Night Market and Central Market
Around the sunset and evening, travelers definitely see many open charcoal grills where the vendors cook pork skewers across the town. The Night Market and Central Market have the largest concentration. A skewer is sold with a price of 10,000 VND but the sellers feel happy if at least 5 are bought because they serve vegetables and sauce as compliments. On the pavement or in parks, the diners sit on a low plastic chair, roll and enjoy people watching.
This is a local eatery near An Hoi Bridge, at 132 Nguyen Thai Hoc St. Opened from 4 p.m to sold out, it serves a set of 10 grilled pork skewers with a price of 100,000 VND. Moreover, the diners also can find other food specialties like cao lau, mi quang, nem lui (lemongrass pork skewers) or sweet soup. While eating here, it’s possible to look at bustling crowds and lightful scenes of lanterns.
Hoành Thánh Chiên
Hoành thánh chiên is fried wonton in Vietnamese language, introduced by Chinese into Hoi An from 15th century. Around the town, it’s sold in a separate dish or in a combo with other local specialty foods. To make this perfect appetizer, the makers deep fry pieces of wheat dough into hot oil, then top them by stir fried meats with vegetables and garnish with herbs.
Miss Ly Cafe
In Nguyen Hue St, fried wonton here is mentioned a lot by travelers who ever visited and tasted it. A set of 4 pieces with meat as pork and shrimp, costs 110,000 VND. In the rest of the menu, there are various delicious eats to give a try.
Located on the waterfront of An Hoi island (opposite to old town), this local-style restaurant serves 4 pieces of fried wonton each dish. Diners can choose pork or shrimp to serve with the tomato sauce. Here, vegan cooking class is also given so much love.
Banh Xeo (“banh xiao”) is one of most popular dishes throughout the Central and South of Vietnam. Its main ingredient is the rice milk that is a mix between rice flavour, water and turmeric powder to create an eye popping yellow color. The makers will pour this milk into a hot skillet over burning charcoal and add meats or seafoods and bean sprouts later. This step makes a sizzling sound that gives the name to the dish. When the cake becomes crispy, they fold it into two and then may cut the piece in half to allow the diners easier to eat. In Hoi An, people use rice paper to wrap Banh Xeo with pickles, sliced cucumber and mango, raw vegetables and herbs. For more flavours, they dip the roll into a peanut sauce or nước chấm (fish sauce mixed with lime, sugar and chilli).
Bale Well Restaurant
This is the most famous banh xeo restaurant in town, located in a lane of Phan Chu Trinh St. Its name is taken from an ancient freshwater well nearby, Ba Le well. Patrons and tourists often get a combo of pancakes here that also include fried prawn spring rolls, lemongrass pork skewers, dipping sauces and vegetables to wrap. It’s perfect for dinner. The price is 120,000 VND.
Known as “water fern cakes”, this Hoi An food specialty is a rice cake served with sweet, spicy fish sauce and eaten by a spoon. It’s made with rice milk, sometimes mixed with tapioca powders to create a chewy taste. The makers pour the milk into small ceramic bowls and then steamed. To serve the diners, they add prawn and peanut sauce and top it with fried shallots and noodles. Due to be arranged around a tray, this dish looks so “photogenic” that it is on the radar of many instagrammers. It’s sold in both street vendors and restaurants.
Banh Beo Ba Bay
This pavement vendor stall sells a set of 10 banh beo (bowls) with a price of 35,000 VND. Moreover, the owner also makes tasty bánh bột lọc or clear dumplings and bánh nậm or flat and tender rice dumplings. Her location is in Hoang Van Thu St, near the Chinese all-community assembly hall.
This simple dish is two rice crackers gripping fresh rice papers in the middle, and served with anchovy sauce. Its name originates from the action that the makers do when prepare, beating the cake. Foodies can find to eat in local eateries in the end of Nguyen Tri Phuong St, in Cam Nam island. In the same place, hến xào (baby clams) is also seen on the menu.
This dish is baby clams stir fried with white onion, pepper mint and spices. Locals break a piece from rice crackers to spoon it and enjoy then. The clams are collected from Thu Bon river and boiled by people living in Cam Nam island, near the Central Market. There are some good restaurants at the end of Nguyen Tri Phuong St and by a body of water. The price is cheap. Furthermore, diners will see cao lau noodle, banh dap “beaten cake” or sweet corn soup on the menu.
Banh It is widely translated into “little cake” due to its small size, pronounced “bang it”. This yummy glutinous rice bun is pyramid-shaped, filled by green bean or coconut meat and popularly wrapped by banana leaves. Its taste is sweet or unsweet to different sellers and occasions in the year. In the Cham islands, heart-shaped ramie leaves are used to create a black color for the buns. That is called “banh it la gai”, sold around the main island. In the set menu lunch in guided day tours there, it’s served as the dessert.
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