Someone just said to me recently, that there’s so much win, in Vietnamese street food. And I totally agree.
a white rose by any other name…
But while street food in Hoi An is incredible, I wouldn’t say, it’s the cheapest. In fact we were surprised how high prices have gone for good ole street food. However, if you take the trouble to really hunt out the good eats, there are there to be be found.
Chợ Hội An – Central Market Food Hall is a good place to try a lot of dishes under one roof. Beware the prices aren’t cheap ..
Here’s our list of 10 Things to Eat in Hoi An.
1. Cao Lau
Fat, overcooked rice noodles, somewhat gamy crude cuts of smoky, fatty pork, crisp greens, oyster leaves, bean sprouts, crunchy, crisp flat squares of fried dough, doused in a dark brown, sweet and salty sauce.
It truly is an odd medley of things in a bowl, but it is distinctly Hoi An’s own. You would pay VND20,000 (local) VND30-35,000 (foreigner price) for a bowl of this iconic dish, either on the street, or in the restaurants. We were told local prices equate to a smaller serving portion but we didn’t get to verify this.
We tried several stalls serving this popular dish but one of the better ones was on 26, Thai Phien Street
It kinda baffled our minds that the price was the same both on the street as well as in the shop house eateries. Anyway, make no mistake there is a jacked up tourist price, and you won’t be paying what the locals pay.
Taste wise- good enough but not mind-blowingly fantastic. Also, I find all the portions on the small side – I need two bowls to fill me up! I usually like the salad leaves and coriander but omit the Oyster leaves as it gives the bowl a rather funky taste that’s a bit to ‘fishy’ if you catch my drift.
2. Banh Mi
We ate a lot of Banh Mi, before we reached the conclusion on which was our favourite.
The hearty baguette sandwich is priced between VND 20,000 – VND 25,000 and consists of pork slices, pickled vegetables, liver pate, butter, soy sauce, cilantro, chillies, and hot peppers.
The better ones give a generous portion of heo quay (roasted pork belly), trung op la (fried egg), thit nuong (grilled pork loin), and xa xiu (Chinese barbecued pork).
The best one was at Phuong’s. Madam Khanhs was a close second. A huge variety of street stalls paled in comparison as they were more frugal with the meat, for the same price.
If Madam Khanh is the Queen, then Phuong’s certainly is King!
We also found a good street stall on the corner of Hai Ba Trung street, at the traffic lights, which packed a good flavour.
3. Mi Quang
Part soup, part salad, this noodles has a funky smell. It is usually served in a salty chicken broth, sitting on a generous bed of crunchy vegetables, and topped with everything from chicken to shrimp and crushed peanuts.
Mi Quang looks like thin, flat rice noodles glazed with a mixture of peanut oil fried with onion. There is a seasoning used here that’s pungent and garlicky. Eating medium sized overcooked shelled shrimp isn’t very appealing. Interesting enough but probably something I’d only like to eat once!
Vietnamese rice vermicelli soup noodles. You can have just meat, or the weirder parts of the cow or pork (beef shank, tripe etc) to go with the noodles, it’s really up to you.
The soup is delicious and fragrant with freshly chopped lettuce, sliced cucumber, beansprouts, basil and mint. You can add to this, green chilli, fresh lettuce, or a fremented bean chilli for more flavour.
In our wandering, we found this bun place in a housing area just outside of Old Town Hoi An.. they served delicious bun.
5. Com Ga
When in Vietnam, eat broken rice! Though the name sounds like a poor man’s version of rice, the flavour is actually distractingly good. I really love the broken rice in Hoi An and can eat a ton of it.
Com Ga is chicken rice, essentially – poach chicken, served under a layer of super finely shredded tender lime leaves, pickled onions, ginger, basil and cucumber.
Mr Trung’s Com Ga – located several streets down from the Central Market, and facing the clothes market
The sauce it is seasoned with is salt, pepper, lime juice and fresh chilies. As you can see, the chicken is sparse so to make up for a lack of meat, they really season what little they give you intensely (meaning more MSG) so that you still get a mouthful of ‘flavour’. How does it compare with Malaysia and Singapore’s hainanese chicken rice? I prefer our local fare which has a lot more chicken for your buck, of course.
We liked a particular chicken salad served across the road from the old cinema (now a tourist information center) further along from Le Loi Street. They were surprisingly generous with their chicken but the salad set us back by VND60,000 – more expensive than Com Ga.
6. White Rose
Known locally as Banh Bao Vac, the name ‘white rose’ was apparently given by the French. When examining the Vietnamese dish closely it’s easy to see how they came up with the name as the outer section certainly could resemble flower petals.
Rice flour is the main ingredient and the flower is made by hand. The rice flour comes from the Mekong Delta where the rice is really white and sticky.
The filling is divided into 2 kinds. The first type, banh bao, made from shrimp which is ground and seasoned with onion, pepper, salt. The second type, banh vac contains bean sprouts, green onion, and minced meat in a special sauce.
White Rose, at White Rose in Old Town
You can also try White rose available at most corner stalls in Old Town area – it’s ubiquitously, in every nook and cranny of Hoi An!
7. Tapioca Dish – Banh Bot Loc
Banh Bot Loc (clear flour cake) is a small, clear-looking, chewy tapioca dumpling that’s super yummy and can be eaten at tea time.
Filled with shrimp and pork belly, topped with fried shallots and served with sweet chili fish sauce it reminds me of the turnip-dried shrimp dumplings we get at our pasar malam.
It is said to have originated from Hue, as the city was once the imperial capital of the Nguyen dynasty and known for having simple, yet sophisticated dishes.
8. Weird Eats
I might offal and perhaps even frog legs.. but I definitely draw the line at worms. I mean, would you actually fancy a mouthful of these plump insects.. ? I think not! LOL
Apparently frogs taste like chicken..
9. Pancakes – Banh Trang Nuong
Banh Trang Nuong is a type of rice cracker. They resemble large, round, flat rice crackers, which, when heated, enlarge into round, hard, almost translucent crunchy pieces.
They can be eaten separately, although they are most commonly added into the vermicelli noodle dishes like cao lầu and mì quảng. Many types of banh trang exist, including the clear sesame seed ones, prawn-like cracker with dried spring onions, and sweet milk.
I like the savory ones that come with minced pork, fried and shredded omelet, chives, sour cream and topped with 2 quails eggs. Simply delicious!
10. Pork Skewers (Nem Nuong) on Noodles (Bun Nem Nuong)
This local “satay” is packed with flavour and teamed with the freshness of the aromatic herbs in a rice flour wrap or alternatively eaten over noodles (bun).
Loved the flavorful grilled meat(though small portions) which arrive hot and juicy, and the dipping options garlicky fish-sauce-based condiments and fermented bean chili sauce. At VND10,000 per stick we were surprised that the price was the same, at the street stalls as well as the restaurants.
We found a delightful shop beyond the Japanese bridge on the other side of the river, where the Night Market is located.
It was close to the pier where the boat rides are offered for island hopping. This place did a delicious version of the Nem Nuong wrapped in rice paper. It was the most scenic too.
Later we returned to the night market area, and had more of these but in a restaurant setting. The Nem Nuong where larger, quality better, but priced the same as the previous location we tried these at!
Also, VND10,000 per stick
And those were the street eats of Hoi An we had time for on our short visit to the city. We hope to return to hunt out more of the interesting eats soon though in the near future.
All photos were taken with the Sony RX100V. We found it to be an excellent compact camera for our travels.