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What to eat in Hoi An

WHAT TO EAT IN HOI AN

Hoi An has become increasingly known overseas for its stunning array of Vietnamese food. It’s street food and the laneways and alleys of the town, packed with restaurants and eateries. The markets and food halls, fresh seafood, and a wide range of unique Hoi An specialities. From the glitzy fusion spots of the tourist precinct to the cramped, chaotic hawkers and coffee houses, where the locals meet for snacks and late-night drinks. From the roadside vendors touting chicken rice or mango cake to the clusters of miniature red plastic chairs that denote a street vendor selling local food delights. It’s impossible to walk for five minutes in this town without coming across something delicious, new or interesting to eat.

Hoi An Street Food

Hoi An is a street food town full of local specialities. For instance, even the dishes served in the restaurants began their days as street food. Cao Lau, Mi Quang and Com Ga are all working people’s meals. Firstly designed for wolfing down on your break; satisfying, healthy, and quick.

 

Standards are generally quite high, and although most street vendors or hawkers will only sell one or two dishes, 10 metres down the street there will be another stall selling something different. So as you walk around, keep an eye out for the places the locals flock to for meals. Above all, if you see a place packed with locals, you know it’s serving something great. So pull up a ludicrously tiny red stool, and eat like a local.

Local Speciality Dishes in Hoi An

So, let’s talk about some Hoi An specialities. We discuss local dishes, what they are, and where to find them. We can’t claim to know where the best version of every dish is. There are simply just too many people selling great food in this town. Every local, blogger and ex-pat has their own opinion on which is the all-time greatest. However, after extensive research, and full stomachs, we can tell you where to find a very good example of each dish, for a reasonable price.

Bánh Mì

1. Bánh Mì Thập Cẩm (Vietnamese Baguette Sandwich)

It’s a crime to visit Vietnam and not have any Banh Mi. Banh Mi is a Vietnamese-style sandwich with various fillings – minced meat, liver pate, and fresh vegetables like lettuce, cucumbers, and pickled carrots. What’s interesting about Banh Mi is that the bread is very similar to the French baguette – strong evidence of French influence on the region during the colonial period. However, unlike baguette which tends to be long, Banh Mi is noticeably shorter and fits just right in your hands.

Banh Mi Thap Cham at Madam Khanh

You’ll hear the word “Banh” used a lot in Vietnamese food, and you might wonder why. Apparently, “Banh” is used to describe anything made from flour! The word “Banh Mi” itself in Vietnamese actually just means “bread”. So, you cannot just order “Banh Mi” – you’d just be ordering bread.

There are different types of Bahn Mi – sometimes with chicken, with vegetables, or a combination of meat and vegetables. My favorite is Bánh Mì Thập Cẩm, which is the combination bread – it’s got a little bit of everything! I loved the contrasting textures on each bite. The bread that is crunchy outside yet soft inside, the juicy meat, and then the combination of fresh and pickled vegetables.

The ingredients of Banh Mi Thap Cham at Madam Khanh

Local Vietnamese normally have one Banh Mi for breakfast. At 20,000 VND (US$0.86), it is an affordable, nutritious and easy-to-have option to start your day.

 

In Hoi An, there are a few places to get Banh Mi from but the most popular stores have got to be Banh Mi Phuong (rumored to sell 3,000 Banh Mi a day) and The Banh Mi Queen Madam Khanh (sells 1,000 Banh Mi a day).

 

The million dollar question: Which Banh Mi shop is better? Banh Mi Phuong became more famous as it had been hailed by Anthony Bourdain as the best Banh Mi in Vietnam in one episode of No Reservations. Great show and undoubtedly excellent man, but clearly Bourdain hadn’t tried Madam Khanh’s Banh Mi. After trying both of Banh Mis (on the same day!), my friends and I unanimously agreed we loved the Banh Mi queen more! To me, the Queen’s Banh Mi tasted fresher (more crunchy raw veggies) and less greasy, which makes it such a delightful experience to eat. In fact, we loved it so much that we got Banh Mi Thap Cham from Madam Khanh for breakfast every day for the three days that we were in Hoi An.

Waiting to buy Banh Mi Phuong

Here is a HUGE hint: If you are staying near the old city, you can get Madam Khanh’s Banh Mi delivered to you via Grab – a food delivery app in South East Asia. Going to the restaurant is worth it for the authentic experience, but we came to Hoi An in May when it was REALLY hot (temperature hits 37-39C during the day… if you can imagine) and walking around before 4 PM isn’t always feasible. I actually got a migraine from the heat, so having the Banh Mi delivered really helped. And, the delivery fee is very minimal – about 5,000 VND.

Where to get Banh Mi in Hoi An
  • Madam Khanh The Banh Mi Queen

Add: 115 Tran Cao Van Street, Hội An

  • Banh Mi Phuong

Add: 2b Phan Chu Trinh, Hội An

2. Mì Quảng (Quang Seafood Noodle)

Pronounced “Mee Kwong,” in other parts of Vietnam, Mi Quang is served as a bowl of soup. But the Hoi An version is more of a saucy noodle dish. Originally from Quang Nam province (in which Hoi An is located), the name means “noodles from Quang.” The addition of turmeric gives the wide rice noodles their characteristic yellow colour. Then served with a broth-based sauce, herbs and various proteins.

 

These can include prawns (tom), chicken (ga), pork (thịt heo) or combinations (tom thit), steamed pork sausage (cha), or quail eggs. Then topped with sliced banana flower, bean shoots, and herbs, like Phi. However, it also has crushed peanuts and toasted sesame rice crackers. These add a satisfying crunchy layer of textures to the slippery noodles, brothy sauce, and leafy herbs. You then season to your taste with the condiments provided.

Where to eat:

Mi Quang Ong Hai

There are infinite choices when it comes to Mi Quang, though one of the consistently highest rated by bloggers and foodies is from Mi Quang Ong Hai. Mr Hai’s little eatery is a short walk from the centre of the Old Town, and well worth the trip. His noodles are perfectly cooked, with a light turmeric flavour, rich broth, and bright colour making for an excellent version of the dish. Prepare 50,000 VND (2 USD) for a serving.

 

3. Bánh Xèo (Vietnamese Pancake)

Bánh xèo literally means “sizzling pancake”. This name came from the cooking process, mainly the loud sizzling sound it makes when the rice batter is poured into the hot skillet.

 

Banh Xeo is a delicacy that can be found all over Vietnam, but it’s only when I came to Hoi An (or more correctly Central Vietnam) that I discovered that each region has its own style of Banh Xeo. In the south, such as in the capital Ho Chi Minh City, Banh Xeo tends to be a much larger pancake, the size of a dinner plate. Here in Central Vietnam, they are a more manageable size – about a quarter of a dinner plate.

The sizzling pancake Banh Xeo

That white thing next to the pancake in my picture above? It looks like tissue, but it’s not – It’s actually dry rice paper! It’s not the usual rice paper you’d expect from Vietnamese cuisine – it’s the same one served with Thit Xieng Nuong (which I will elaborate more later). You can take a sheet of it and wrap the pancake inside with herbs and dip it into the dipping sauce that came with the pancake.

Where to get Banh Xeo in Hoi An
  • Morning Glory Restaurant (map) – the entire center of the restaurant is dedicated to a Banh Xeo station so you can see them in the making!
  • Bánh Xèo Minh Tú Chợ Hội An (map)

4. Cao Lầu

One of the most famous local specialities in Hoi An. Pronounced “Cow Low,” this dish is a Hoi An-only affair.  Pork, local vegetables, and a rich pork bone broth over the distinctive, chewy noodles make up this street food classic. But, here’s the twist—the reason you won’t find this dish on any other tables in any other town is that the thick, chunky rice meal noodles are cut, hand-shaped, and dried. Then, wood ash from trees grown on Cu Lao Cham Island and special water from the Gieng Bá Le (or Ba Le Well) mixed to make a lye solution then used to soak the noodles.

 

The minerality and alkalinity of this water transform the cao lau noodles into their characteristic flavour, sallow colour, and extra chewy texture, giving the dish its own distinct identity. In a land full of noodle bowls, this one stands out for its handcrafted ingredients, interesting use of textures, and unique flavours.

How Cao Lau is served

The dish is constructed as follows. Firstly, the firm, slippery noodles are served in a flavoursome brothy sauce. On top of the noodles, are crunchy fried squares of noodle and tender sliced pork, with leafy greens and herbs. On the side is fresh chilli, fish sauce, and a bit of soy so that you can adjust it to your taste.

Cao lau is a must-try dish for any Hoi An visitor. There are so many restaurants and hawkers in town doing their versions of cao lau. Every blogger and every local has their favourite spot. We’ve done our delicious in-depth research on cao lau.

Where to eat the best Cao Lau

Cao lầu Thanh

  • Add: 26 Thai Phien
  • Price: 30.000-50.000 VND

Cao lầu Hội An – Trung Bắc

  • Add: 87 Tran Phu

Cao lầu Không Gian Xanh

  • Add: 687 Hai Ba Trung

5. Cơm Gà Hoi An (Hoi An Chicken Rice)

Pronounced “Coom ga.” It seems that every community in Southeast Asia, from the Malay peninsula to steamy Borneo, from Singapore to Myanmar and the Philippines, all have their version of chicken rice. Malaysia has Nasi Kandar, Singapore serves Hainanese chicken rice, amongst others. In Vietnam, Com Ga stalls line every street in every city. But this is one of Hoi An’s specialties and is different from them all.

Hoi An’s version has gizzard and livers, shredded chicken meat, herbs and onions. With light, crunchy fried rice, and a chicken and herb broth served on the side. The tang of the iron-enriched offal lightened by the herbs and onions, mixed in with the fried rice, is delicious. It’s not only comfort food, but it’s good for you, too! This version of chicken rice is a Hoi An original and is right up there with the best in the country.

Where to eat Com Ga

Ba Buoi’s Chicken Rice: This place is busy. Go at off-peak times if you want to get a seat right away. One serving will cost 40,000 VND (1.70 USD).

Address: 22, Phan Chu Trinh

6. Bánh bột lọc

Pronounced “Barn bot look”. In Hoi An these little shrimp and pork dumpling specialities have a tough, stretchy texture, somewhat like a flattened gummy bear. Separating them from each other is tricky without putting down your chopsticks, rolling up your sleeves, and really getting involved.

When you finally do manage to pick one up from the clump, they are really lovely to eat. Often served with a sweet but fiery chilli jam, and Nuoc Cham (spicy garlic-infused fish sauce) drizzled over the top. You can find some great examples of these specialties for around 30,000 VND (1.30 USD) per serving in the food centre in Hoi An Market.

7. Bún Thịt Nướng (Grilled Pork over Vermicelli)

Bun Thit Nuong is what I think of when I think about Vietnamese food. It is basically a “salad” of BBQ sliced pork, served over plenty of greens and cold rice noodle. It’s not specifically from Hoi An, but it is a popular dish all over Vietnam and a must have whenever you’re here!

 Bun Thit Nuong at Morning Glory

Where to get Bun Thit Nuong in Hoi An
  • Morning Glory Restaurant (map)
  • Add: 106 Nguyễn Thái Học

8. Vietnamese Spring Rolls

Vietnamese Spring Rolls have been long in my list as a favorite appetizer. There are two types of spring rolls in Vietnam: Gỏi Cuốn, which is fresh Spring Rolls and Chả Giò (or Nem Rán in North Vietnam), which is crispy deep-fried Spring Rolls.

The ingredients of Goi Cuon, fresh spring roll

Historically I’m more of a fan of the fresh spring rolls – I love the soft rice paper and the contrasting texture of the raw vegetables inside. It’s also easy to make at home and a fun activity because you can just lay out the ingredients and add them to your spring roll as you eat, so you can customize how much of each ingredient you want in your roll.

 

But during this trip we got to try a deep fried spring roll with pork (Chả Giò)… and it was life-changing. Unlike other fried spring rolls, which are wrapped in flour-based wrappers, the Vietnamese ones are wrapped with rice paper. The rice paper, when fried, forms a very light puffed skin that is just a delight with the vegetables and pork filling inside. I’m a fan!

Cha Gio Spring Rolls at Morning lory

Where to eat
  • Morning Glory Restaurant (map)
  • Add: 106 Nguyễn Thái Học

9. Hoành thánh chiên – Fried Wontons

Pronounced “Horn Than Shienne,” fried wontons, another of Hoi An’s great little specialties. Minced pork and ground shrimp pounded together with onions, wrapped in thin rice flour skins in a kind of ravioli shape, and fried at a high temperature until golden. Generally served with chilli, vinegar, and soy dipping sauce.

 

Anh Dung (Hoanh Thanh Anh Dung)

It’s a little mom and pop wonton diner where you can see them making the Hoanh thanh chien fresh to order. A cosy little place, and lovely owners. Budget about 60,000 VND (2.60 USD).

Address: 14 Ba Trieu

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