Many of my friends have asked me where and what to eat in the beautiful, ancient town of Hoi An- coastal and historical area of Vietnam. Having lived in the city for two weeks, and riding on the motorbike almost everyday, I am confident to say that I do have an idea of the food culture here.
Just like any part in Vietnam, the city has its own delicacies, that also, coincidentally, happens to havea signature broth dish (I love Vietnamese food for this reason, there are millions of broth recipes and of course, each of them delivers a different texture and taste).
1. Cao lầu
There is no doubt that you must taste the signature dish of Hoi An. The dish consists of BBQ pork & pork skins, bean sprouts lettuce and herbs, lime, and the thick yellowish Cao Lau noodles. You can of course mix it with chilly powder and oil when they serve you.
The taste is too die for, especially the broth that you can not mix with any other. It is not spicy, but mild, fresh with herbs and a thin layer of fat.
It was a shame that I was not much of a photographer back then, so I barely captured pictures of food. This is the only photo I had that described the Cao Lau dish perfectly.
Tourists will like the traditional ambiance at Trung Bac restaurant, in the center of Hoi An but it will be more pricey. When I lived in the city, I usually ate Cao Lau at the Hoi An Central Market.
2. Bánh vạc (white rose)
These look a bit like dumplings, but they are much smaller in size and the locals craft the dough in the shape of flowers which explains the name. The taste is soft and subtle. Texture can make the food itself a little chewy. It can serve as a perfect starter.
The filling is usually shrimp or meat. The translucent filling coupled with the shape itself really make the dish appealing as a white roses. I love White Roses even though they can never satisfy my stomach and should only be treated as finger food.
The dish on the left is Bánh Cuốn (stuffed pancake) and on the right, the White Roses.
For tourists, they would love Morning Glory. The restaurant serves high quality traditional Hoi An food in an ancient Vietnamese style design.
A corner of Morning Glory.
Of course, the food prices here are much higher than what they should be. People go here for both the quality and the experience.
Usually, if you want to try authentic white roses, you should pay a visit at White Rose restaurant on Nhi Trung street. And yes they only make fresh White Rose, no other dishes.
3. Nem lụi (Grilled Pork Satay or Lemongrass Skewers)
Not really a Hoi An traditional dish but very much one of the dish that represents the Vietnamese Coastal Area Cuisine. The satay is not like what you taste in Malaysia or Singapore as the locals here do not prefer to marinate with sweetness that comes from peanut butter. In fact, these satays are not sweet at all. They are freshly grilled on coal stove and eaten with vegetables, and lettuces, then dipped in spicy sauce. Vietnamese make every dish healthy and mild with herbs 🙂
There are only two places that you should eat these lemongrass skewers. One is along the street in the heart of Hoi An ancient town (as this is to be treated as street food. Restaurants attempt to elevate this dish but it just costs a lot higher). Two is my image above at Bale Well. Bale Well is a very budget restaurant that comes with extraordinary taste in meat. Probably my favourite in the town. People queue up to get in the restaurant, a very Vietnamese feel. They have the set menu to serve so you can just sit, relax and avoid the hassle of choosing what you and your friends want to eat. Ask for as many skewers as you can! *eye drooling*
Oh and they are very cheap too. Totally worth the value.
4. Bánh Mì (Stuffed bread)
The locals know exactly what I am on! Yes I am talking about Bánh Mì Phượng.
I do not have any photos to illustrate so I will cite the photos from Hoi An Food Tour here 🙂
Simple breads turn into savory dishes through the hands of the locals. These breads are stuffed with pate, vegetables, eggs (for the deluxe Banh Mi), pork etc. This can be treated as breakfast or afternoon snack. They are very cheap, at the price of VND 15,000 which is not even a dollar! The food is not in any fancy restaurant but in a food stall that sometimes, you will need to queue to try it. (I seriously am dying to know what they marinate their meat with and how they mix their sauces???)
Courtesy of Hoi An Food Tour
Courtesy of Kenh14.vn
5. Cơm gà (Chicken Rice)
My boyfriend’s addiction to Chicken Rice has set him a goal: To try every chicken rice dish wherever he travels to. He failed this mission in Dubai though :))
When people talk about chicken rice, they refer to Hainanese Chicken Rice. In Hoi An, they have added the Vietnamese touch, with a more subtle taste, well-cooked , moist, crisp and marinated chicken served in basil, lime, carrot, boiled onions which I refer as kind of papaya salad. The rice is well mixed with the broth of the boiled chicken making it extremely flavourful.
Once again, the locals have made it an easy task by serving only one dish. No hassle!
Took the above photo from Google
The only place you should eat the chicken rice dish is at Cơm Gà Bà Buội on Phan Chu Trinh street. They are one of the oldest eateries in town since 1950 and I bet the taste remains consistent throughout the years. The price is extremely cheap, just around 2 USD.
5. Bánh bèo
Another famous street food that you will find is Banh Beo. You will fall in love with these little doughs in a tiny bowl and the experience to sit and taste food from street vendors. The dipping sauce is the magic!
6. Home-made food concept in the countryside (Rice fields)
Our favourite is Baby Mustard, where you experience the scenery of the local rice paddy field and homegrown gardens – also where the fresh food come from. It may take a while to cook but worth the wait. They also offered cooking lessons which was very interesting but we did not have time to experience.
And be aware of the uninvited guests (yes I am referring to flies).
The price can be a bit higher than other restaurants but the scenery and the fresh food really worth the travel and money.
7. Australian Beef Pie!
For those of you who had a sudden craving for Western food then Dingo Deli is the best option! Their beef pie is authentic and to die for!
Other than what I have mentioned above, there are still a lot of restaurants and delicacies that you must try such as Ganesh Indian Restaurant, street vendor – Hủ Tiếu cart opens only at 2am outside of the Hoi An Sports Bar 🙂
Have a nước mía (sugarcane juice) too! Make sure it is only VND 10,000-15,000 per cup and less ice!
Hope these help!
Much love from Dubai & Singapore,
Yung & Pat