The best local dishes from Hoi An utilize fresh greens, herbs, fish, meat, and even water from around the neighboring islands and farming villages. These include Cham Island, Tra Que Vegetable Village, Ba Le Well, and Cam Nam Village. Once a prominent Vietnamese trading port, Hoi An has a range of specialties that are the result of Chinese, French and Japanese influences.

    The streets of Hoi An Ancient Town are filled with an array of dining choices, ranging from glitzy Vietnamese restaurants to riverside food stalls. Read on for our list of the best local dishes in Hoi An and the famous food locals love to eat in this remarkable city and UNESCO World Heritage Site.

    1

    Cao Lau

    Rice noodles with barbecued pork, greens and croutons

    Cao lau is Hoi An’s definitive dish, comprising chewy and thick rice noodles, Chinese barbecued pork slices, beansprouts, croutons, and fresh herbs in a pork-based gravy. This local delicacy is only available in Hoi An because the noodles can only be cooked using water from well-hidden ancient Cham wells, while fresh greens are sourced from Tra Que Vegetable Village.

    You can find cao lau in practically any Vietnamese restaurant in Hoi An. Certain eateries serve their own variation of cau lao by adding peanuts, rice crackers, scallions, lime, and chili jelly.

    2

    Banh Bao Vac

    White rose dumplings

    Banh bao vac is a local appetiser that resembles delicate white roses displayed on a platter. Each dumpling is made by wrapping shrimp or pork filling in flattened rice dough before cooking it in a steamer. Once soft and translucent, banh bao vac is carefully arranged on a flat plate, topped with shallots, and served with a dipping sauce made from shrimp broth, chilies, lemon and sugar. 

    Available at most local restaurants in Hoi An, the banh bao vac are supplied by a local family living on Hai Ba Trung Street, where you can witness how this trademark dish is made.

    3

    Com ga

    Chicken rice

    Com ga is a hearty ensemble of fragrant rice, shredded village chicken, fresh herbs, black pepper, and chili jelly. Originating from China, it’s a very common dish in Southeast Asia, but Hoi An is said to utilize only top quality rice and farm-raised chickens. 

    The rice is also cooked in a mixture of pandan leaves, chicken stock and turmeric in wood-fired clay ovens, resulting in its distinctive pale yellow exterior. Each plate of chicken and rice comes with a small bowl of clear soup, dipping sauces, and pickled green chilies.

    4

    Mi quang

    Vietnamese turmeric noodles

    Mi quang consists of yellow rice noodles, bone broth seasoned with fish sauce, black pepper, shallot, and garlic, topped with a variety of meat, herbs, and local greens. Traditionally, meat toppings are either chicken, pork, or beef slices, but many restaurants now include squid, boiled quail eggs, snails, and frogs. 

    As with most noodle and rice dishes in Vietnam, mi quang also features lots of fresh herbs and other additions such as basil, peanuts, cilantro, sliced banana flowers, and sesame rice crackers.

    5

    Bun Dau Mam Tom

    Fried tofu and rice vermicelli with fermented shrimp paste sauce

    Bun dau mam tom is a simple dish of deep-fried tofu, thin rice noodles, cucumber, and fresh herbs. This local delicacy is also served with fermented shrimp paste or mam tom. Do note that this pungent dipping sauce is not for everyone, but you can easily reduce the strong taste with some lime juice and black pepper. 

    One of the best places in Hoi An to enjoy this unique dish is Quan Dau Bac, located along Phan Chu Trinh Street. You can enjoy a meatless variation of the dish or take a full platter of bun dau mam tom with steamed pork, beef, fish balls, and mushrooms.

    6

    Banh xeo

    Crispy pancake

    Banh xeo is a typical Vietnamese snack or appetiser. It is made of rice flour, coconut milk, and turmeric, filled with ingredients such as vermicelli noodles, chicken, pork or beef slices, shrimps, sliced onions, beansprouts, and mushrooms. 

    Banh xeo is sold at roadside stalls, markets, and restaurants in Hoi An. Eat like the locals by wrapping the crispy pancake in mustard leaf, lettuce leaves or rice papers together with nem lui (lemongrass pork skewers), mint leaves, and basil, then dip it in fermented peanut sauce.

    7

    Banh mi

    Vietnamese baguette

    Banh mi is a hearty baguette sandwich consisting of pickled vegetables, pâté, butter, soy sauce, cilantro, chilies, and hot peppers. It's one of Vietnam’s quintessential dishes that you shouldn't miss out on. 

    Depending on the restaurant or food stall, you can also choose from a variety of meat fillings for your banh mi, including heo quay (roasted pork belly), cha ca (fried fish with turmeric and dill), cha lua (boiled sausages), xiu mai (meatballs), thit ga (boiled chicken), trung op la (fried egg), thit nuong (broiled pork loin), and xa xiu (Chinese barbecued pork).

    8

    Bun Thit Nuong

    Vermicelli noodles with broiled pork

    Bun thit nuong combines white vermicelli rice noodles, freshly chopped lettuce, sliced cucumber, beansprouts, pickled daikon, basil, chopped peanuts, and mint. The dish is finally topped with sweet and peppery pork (thit nuong) slices that are broiled over a charcoal stove. 

    While the dish is quite filling on its own, you also opt for a side of green chili, fresh lettuce, and a peanut-based gravy to mix into the bun thit nuong for extra flavor. Bun thit nuong can be found at established restaurants within the Ancient Town, but there are numerous food stalls along Hoi An Riverside selling it much cheaper.

    9

    Banh dap

    Vietnamese rice crackers

    Banh dap is a traditional snack that’s exclusively available at Cam Nam Village, located about 10 minutes away from Hoi An Ancient Town. This cheap and tasty snack is made by placing a wet rice paper atop a crispy one before layering on some mung bean paste, fried shallots, and chopped green onions. 

    Finally, another crispy rice paper covers the entire ensemble. It’s also known as smashing rice paper, as you get to crush the banh dap into pieces on the table before enjoying it with some fermented fish sauce with chilies.

    10

    Hoanh thanh chien

    Fried wonton dumplings

    Hoan thanh chien is often compared to Mexican nachos due its salsa-like topping, but it’s actually a fried wonton dumpling with a variety of meat fillings. Made with rice flour, the wonton is filled with diced pork, shrimp, eggs, and various spices before being deep-fried until golden. 

    Great as a snack or appetiser, hoan thanh chien is then topped with a mix of sautéed pork, corn, shrimp, tomato roulade, and cilantro leaves.

    Penny Wong | Compulsive Traveler

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