Sugarcane sips, smoky bowls of bliss and the world’s best banh mi: Hoi An’s food culture is more than just a dining scene – it’s a dining sensation.
Follow the lantern-lined streets and languid waterways to Hoi An’s rich array of gastronomic wonders on offer to the hungry traveller. Every culinary tradition that journeys through Hoi An is transformed by the town’s ferocious commitment to cooking innovation, and each plate is packed with legendary flavours you won’t find anywhere else. Once you’ve eaten your fill, Hoi An – thanks to its central location – is perfectly placed for those wishing to travel further, whether it’s north to soulful Hanoi or south to dazzling Ho Chi Minh City. Join us on a culinary tour of Hoi An’s must-try street food and be warned, this will get your stomach rumbling.
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Cao lau (Hoi An-style noodles)
The origins of cao lau, Hoi An’s quintessential noodle dish, are shrouded in mystery. There’s no other bowl of noodles so legendary – folklore states that the signature rice noodles should be pre-soaked in lye water from the Hoi An’s Ba Le Well, mixed with ash and feverishly smoked over a white-hot furnace. The result is a smoky, chewy bowl of bliss topped with succulent caramelised pork, always served with a heaping of beansprouts and chilli. Each cao lau shop has its own closely guarded secret recipe, but Than Cao Lau’s is considered one of the very best.
Hoanh thanh chien (Hoi An wontons)
Stuffed with spiced pork and fresh shrimp, deep-fried to golden perfection and topped with a sweet-and-sour mix of tomato, cucumber and coriander – one bite and hoanh thanh chien’s roaring flavours dance thunderously on the tongue. The best hoanh thanh chien are found by wandering through the town’s ancient streets – maybe after a few ice-cold local Bia Hoi beers – but for a plate of the very best head to Café 43.
Noc mia (sugarcane juice)
Noc mia is sunshine in a cup – every sip is a refreshment revelation. In summertime, the drink is available on every Hoi An street corner, often sold from unmissable, neon-bright carts where sugarcane is cut down, peeled and crushed on the spot. The resulting juice is cheap, ultra-fresh and packed with antioxidants and electrolytes. If you’re feeling adventurous, drink noc mia like the locals – mixed with sour-sweet cumquat or smashed durian. It’s said to be the ultimate hangover cure!
Com ga (chicken rice)
Com ga, Vietnam’s version of Hainan’s iconic chicken rice, has become an enduring symbol of Hoi An’s rich culinary tradition. The meat is marinated in ginger and pure peanut oil before being roasted whole and shredded. Meanwhile, the rice is cooked in umami-rich chicken stock and seasoned with sunflower-coloured fresh turmeric. The cooked chicken and rice is topped with fresh vegetables and herbs – typically onions, coriander and cucumber – and served with shredded papaya and a steaming bowl of chicken broth. Every bite is a festival of flavours and textures.
Banh bao banh vac (white rose dumplings)
When a small Chinese family immigrated to Hoi An at the turn of the 20th century and began selling locally made dumplings, they had no idea that it would become an inimitable symbol of their new home. Today, one family still holds the secret recipe, served daily at the same restaurant – White Rose Hoi An. Translucent rice paper is delicately wrapped to resemble a rose, stuffed with a secret and sumptuous blend of shrimp, mushrooms, spring onion and spices steamed to perfection. Served with fried shallots and nuoc cham dipping sauce, it’s a personal taste of Hoi An’s history that shouldn’t be missed.
Banh xeo (Vietnamese pancakes)
An iconic south Vietnamese street food, banh xeo is the perfect pick-me-up meal after a day spent wandering Hoi An’s ancient waterways and historic streets. A smooth batter made out of rice flour, coconut cream, turmeric and spices is quickly whisked and cooked on a scorching hot griddle before it’s stuffed with pork, prawns or vegetables and dipped in an accompanying nuoc cham dipping sauce. Equal parts smoky, sweet and savoury, it’s impossible to stop at just one. Hit up a street vendor or head to Hoa Hien Restaurant, which overlooks the placid waters of the Thu Bon, for a taste of the good stuff.
Banh mi (Vietnamese roll)
A living legend at home and abroad, the banh mi (simply ‘bread,’ in Vietnamese) remains a must-eat in Hoi An. French baguettes are lovingly coated with pate and mayonnaise before they’re stuffed with fresh herbs, vegetables and irresistible grilled pork for a flavour-packed sandwich symphony that’s loved the world over. Make a stop at Banh Mi Phuong – this humble shopfront was crowned by celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain as having ‘the best banh mi in the world’ in 2009. Don’t miss a trip to Madam Khanh the Banh Mi Queen for a glimpse at a Hoi An living legend working her sandwitchery. Packed with fiery flavour and fried egg, Madam Khanh’s banh mi have been featured in Vice Magazine with a revered ‘no thumbs down’ rating.
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