The best Hoi An dishes are exclusively available within the UNESCO World Heritage Site which is this remarkable city, utilising fresh greens, herbs, fish, meat, and even water from the neighbouring Tra Que Vegetable Village, Cham Island, Ba Le Well, and Cam Nam Village. Once a prominent Vietnamese trading port, Hoi An’s specialities 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. Noodles and rice dishes are typically priced between VND 10,000 and VND 50,000 while appetisers such as banh xeo and banh mi should cost no more than VND 25,000. Read on for our list of must-try dishes in Hoi An.
1. Cao Lau (Rice Noodles With Barbecued Pork, Greens And Croutons)
Cao lau is Hoi An’s definitive dish, comprising chewy udon-like 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 at any Vietnamese restaurant in Hoi An, with prices ranging between VND 10,000 and VND 50,000. Certain eateries serve their own variation of cau lao by adding peanuts, rice crackers, scallions, lime, and chilli jam.
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, chillies, lemon and sugar. Available at most local restaurants in Hoi An, the banh bao vac are supplied by a local family residing at 533 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 chilli jam. Originating from China, it’s a very common dish in Southeast Asia, but Hoi An is said to utilise 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. A standard plate of com ga is priced at VND30,000, which comes with a small bowl of clear soup, dipping sauces, and pickled green chillies.
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. A bowl costs between VND 15,000 and VND 25,000, though prices can go much higher at established restaurants in Hoi An. 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, coriander, 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. The meatless variation is priced at VND 20,000 while a platter of bun dau mam tom with steamed pork, beef, fish balls, and mushrooms costs VND 35,000.
6. Banh Xeo (Crispy Pancake)
A typical Vietnamese snack or appetiser, banh xeo 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. Priced between VND 15,000 and VND 25,000, 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)
Quick and tasty, banh mi is one of Vietnam’s quintessential dish that you should never miss out on. This hearty baguette sandwich is priced between VND 10,000 and VND 15,000 and consists of pickled vegetables, pâté, butter, soy sauce, cilantro, chillies, and hot peppers. 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 (grilled pork loin), and xa xiu (Chinese barbecued pork).
8. Bun Thit Nuong (Vermicelli Noodles With Grilled 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 grilled over a charcoal stove. While the dish is quite filling on its own, you also opt for a side of green chilli, fresh lettuce, and a peanut-based gravy to mix into the bun thit nuong for extra flavour. Bun thit nuong is priced around VND 30,000 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. Priced at only VND 8,000, it’s made by placing a wet rice paper atop a crispy one before layering on some mung bean paste, fried shallots, and chopped spring 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 chillies.
10. Hoanh Thanh Chien(Fried Wonton Dumplings)
Hoan thanh chien may resemble 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 coriander leaves. Expect to pay between VND 30,000 and VND 50,000 for a massive platter.