Apart from the incredible architecture, the ancient town of Hoi An is home to some of Vietnam’s most delectable dishes. While everyone is familiar with typical Vietnamese food like pho and fresh spring rolls, you’ll find new favourites when you visit Hoi An. Jon and I spent quite a lot of time in Hoi An — we even lived there for nearly two months. It’s a place that’s easy to fall in love with. During our stay, we discovered many of Hoi An’s delicious dishes — most of them unique to the city. We have compiled a list of these dishes to make sure you get to try the best food that Hoi An has to offer.
If you are planning to visit Hoi An, you can easily do a must try food tour to search for the city’s best flavours. Most dishes in Hoi An are cheap and easy to find so you’ll find it easy to do a food tour on your own. As a guide for your quest to find the best food in Hoi An, here is our list of the must-try dishes in Hoi An, Vietnam:
Cao Lau – Must try food in Hoi An
A traditional dish only found in Hoi An, Cao Lau is made with uniquely textured noodles, tender pork belly, crunchy flat croutons, a handful of fresh greens and a delicious sweet, savoury gravy. Topped with some chili sauce and a squeeze of fresh lime, cao lau is possibly the best Vietnamese dish we’ve ever tried. The mix of flavours is truly unlike any other dish we’ve tasted. Apparently, the cao lau noodles are made using a secret recipe known only to very few people in Hoi An. For this reason, cao lau isn’t easy to find outside Hoi An.
Price: 25,000 to 30,000 VND
Where to try Cao Lau: The little café with plastic chairs near the Japanese bridge. There is also a great restaurant with a little lantern shop along Hai Ba Trung. It’s very close to the Hoi An Ancient Town ticket office. (I lost my notes for this post so I couldn’t tell the exact names of most restaurants. It’s easy to find good food in Hoi An so don’t worry if you can’t find it!)
Com Tam (Broken Rice)
At first I though it was just one of those words that was lost in translation. How can rice be “broken”? Broken rice is actually “broken”, meaning it is made from rice fragments broken in the field during milling, drying or transport. Don’t worry it’s not defective, it probably just works out cheaper for restaurant owners to use. Broken rice is usually served with grilled meat, fried egg or egg roll and a small salad on the side. It’s a good cheap meal but you may need two servings if you have a big appetite.
Price: 25,000 VND
Com Ga Hoi An (Hoi An Chicken Rice)
Having lived in Singapore for three years, we have pretty high standards for good chicken rice. Does Hoi An Chicken Rice live up to these high standards? Definitely. From the soft, fragrant rice to the tender strips of chicken, it’s very similar to the chicken rice in Singapore. The difference lies in the addition the fresh salad greens, dried chili paste and a squeeze of lime juice. This ubiquitous dish in Hoi An will leave you full and satisfied.
Price: 30,000 VND (Some places may try and charge you more because you’re a foreigner — make sure you confirm the price before eating)
Where to try Com Ga (Chicken Rice): Com Ga Dung (226 Ly Thuong Khiet) or Com Ga Ba Buoi (22 Phan Chu Trinh). These two restaurants are known to have the best chicken rice in Hoi An, Vietnam.
Grilled Meat Noodles (Bun Thit Nuong)
While it’s hard to get sick of Hoi An’s cau lau (Jon would probably eat it for every meal if he could), a great alternative is the bun thit nuong or grilled meat noodle. Bun thit nuong is made with sweet and spicy barbecued pork meat, fresh greens, peanuts and thin rice noodles. The flavours remind me of satay with peanut sauce. Who doesn’t love a good satay?
Price: 30,000 VND
Where to try bun thit nuong (grilled meat noodles): The same restaurant I mentioned for cao lau. They have a little lantern shop in the front and close to the Hoi An Ancient Town ticket office along Hai Ba Trung.
>> Read more about Hoi An night market
Banh Mi (Vietnamese Sandwich)
A friend I went to Saigon with calls me “panini” because of my love for the Vietnamese sandwich and my failure to recall its name. Banh mi, or the Vietnamese sandwich, is a ubiquitous meal in Vietnam. It’s cheap, easy to find and very filling. What’s so special about the banh mi in Hoi An? One particular restaurant, Banh Mi Phuong, serves the best banh mi in Hoi An, if not the best banh mi in Vietnam. Even Anthony Bourdain says so!
During the time we lived in Hoi An, we had banh mi there most days. It’s so good! We tried banh mi from other shops but Banh Mi Phuong really is the best. Make sure to try their barbecue pork banh mi — this is the best flavour.
Price: 20,000 VND
Where to try Banh Mi: Banh Mi Phuong (2B Phan Chau Trinh).
Thit Nuong (Grilled Pork on Skewer)
This grilled pork on skewers has a similar flavour to the meat in bun tit nuong without the noodles. You can also buy rice paper and salad to make it a heavier meal.
Price: 10,000 VND
Where to try thit nuong: The tiny stalls along the river (close to the Japanese bridge) or the stalls along Hai Ba Trung towards the entrance to the Hoi An Ancient Town. Note that these stalls only open at night.
White Rose Dumplings
Finely crafted steamed dumplings shaped like a rose, white rose dumplings is a delicacy famous in Hoi An. The delicate wrapping makes these dumplings unique and the thinness brings out the flavours of the filling.
Price: 40,000 VND
Where to try white rose dumplings: One of the restaurants located near the night market (we tried it at a few different restaurants and it was always good).
Cha Gio (Vietnamese Fried Spring Rolls)
I have never met anyone who didn’t like fried spring rolls. While it’s easy to find fried spring rolls in Vietnam, the ones in Hoi An are better than most. What makes the fried spring rolls in Hoi An unique is its nest-like lattice rice paper wrappers which are crisp to perfection.
Price: 40,000 VND
Where to try Cha Gio (Vietnamese Fried Spring Rolls): Restaurants located near river or the night market.
Mi Quang Noodles (Vietnamese Quang Noodle)
Another noodle dish to try in Hoi An is Mi Quang, a traditional dish which originated in the Quang Nam Province of Vietnam. It is noodle dish topped with roasted pork, shrimp, boiled quail eggs, herbs and greens drenched in savoury broth .
Price: 30,000 VND
Where to try Mi Quang Noodles: Hoi An Central Market.
Banh Xeo (Crispy Vietnamese Pancake)
Banh xeo is a crispy pancake/ crepe stuffed with pork slices, shrimp, bean sprouts and vegetables.
Price: 20,000 VND
Where to try Banh Xeo: Hoi An Central Market.
Che (Vietnamese Sweet Dessert Soup)
If you are looking for a local dessert, you should try che, a traditional dessert made with a variety of sweetened beans, flavoured jelly, coconut milk and crushed ice. It’s very similar to the Filipino halo-halo or the Singaporean chendol.
Where to try Che (Vietnamese Sweet Dessert Soup): Hoi An Central Market or a stalls behind the Japanese Bridge.
Banh Xoai (Mango Cake)
Don’t be deceived, this mango cake is not made from mangoes! As you head towards the Japanese Bridge in Hoi An, you’ll notice the ladies selling these treats called “mango cakes”. Named because of their shape, similar to a mango fruit, mango cakes are made with glutinous rice with sugar and crushed peanuts on the inside. It’s very similar to the Chinese dessert Tang Yuan or glutinous rice balls (but served without the soup).
Price: 5,000 VND
Where to try Banh Xoai (Mango Cake): Street vendors close to the Japanese bridge.
Ca Phe Trung (Vietnamese Egg Coffee)
I was a bit skeptical about raw egg in coffee but it’s something I wanted to try since I saw it on a travel show. The Vietnamese Egg Coffee tastes similar to the dessert tiramisu. The egg once stirred with the boiling hot coffee leaves a custard cream like taste. It’s actually pretty good, like drinking a cake.
Price: 49,000 VND
Where to try Ca Phe Trung (Vietnamese Egg Coffee): Hoi An Roastery. It’s a franchise so they’re easy to find across Hoi An’s ancient town.
Ca Phe Sua Da (Iced Vietnamese Coffee with Milk)
Vietnamese coffee has a very strong flavour but mixed with condensed milk and ice, it makes for a perfect afternoon drink.
Price: 29,000 VND
Where to try Ca Phe Sua Da: Highlands Coffee (83 Tran Hung Dao). Make sure to also try the ice blended coffee drinks too. They are just as good as Starbucks Frappuccinos. There are also many other coffee shops in Hoi An, some aimed at locals and some (or most) aimed more at tourists. We tried heaps of them, some were good, some made really small drinks and some were average — we enjoyed Highlands Coffee because the drinks were large, good value and there was air conditioning.
Bia Hoi (Fresh Vietnamese Beer)
Bia Hoi is a freshly brewed draft beer with light-alcohol content (3%). It’s probably the cheapest beer we’ve ever tried and even for someone who doesn’t like beer, it actually tasted OK.
Price: 3,000 to 5,000 VND
Where to Try fresh beer: Restaurants along the river or at restaurants near the night market.