Vietnam is a country that spans long from North to South and the cuisine styles vary greatly in each region. In Hoi An specifically, the local specialties are often unique to either Hoi An or the Quang Nam province. Many of these dishes rely on local ingredients, so they cannot be found outside of this area. Needless to say, I was super excited to visit Hoi An. Not only is the city magical, their food is also interesting!
TIME FOR A MEAL
1. White Rose Heaven
This is one of the most famous restaurants in Hoi An specialising in the local delicacy of white rose dumplings. These dumplings are made from a secret traditional family recipe which includes white rice, shrimp, pepper, garlic, onion, and special water from the old Ba Le Well in Hoi An. The dipping sauce consists of fish sauce, hot chilli, lemon and sugar.
When you visit the restaurant, you can watch them form the white dumplings into a rose shape in the back-room, before trying them. These dumplings are delicious and Hoi An is the best place to try them. People love them not only for their delicious taste, but for their elegant appearance.
- Address: Phuong Bread (Banh my Phuong) – 2B Phan Chau Trinh Street; MAP
The famous American chef Anthony Bourdain called “Phuong Bread” in Hoi An the world’s best sandwich. Bourdain constantly uttered praise while watching the skillful hands cutting the bread, sprinkling sauce, spreading butter, pate and adding the grilled meat. Banh my can be found across Vietnam, so what makes Phuong Bread so special?
Phuong Bread is made in just 1-2 minutes but tastes so good it would be worth waiting hours for. The ingredients list is huge: pork liver pate, mayonnaise, cheese, grilled pork, omelette, coriander, onion, basil, cucumber, salt, and a special sauce. Together they create a taste sensation. All the ingredients are chosen carefully by Madame Phuong to make sure everything is fresh and up to her high standards. Biting into this crisp warm bread, you will see exactly why Bourdain reserved such praise for this sandwich. It’s also the reason why you will see a long row of people waiting in front of Phuong Bread whenever you visit it!
3.A Taste of the Ancient Town
The name of this dish was given to it long ago, by rich Chinese travellers, who visited the restaurants in Hoi An, sat upstairs, and dubbed this bowl of noodles ‘Cao Lau’. Cao Lau is probably the most famous of the Hoi An dishes. Because the noodles are made from freshly harvested rice and water taken only from the ancient Ba Le Well, it’s said they can only be made properly in Hoi An. Vegetables which are taken from Tra Que vegetable village, are combined with fried and roasted pork, then special fish sauce, soy sauce, garlic, sugar, salt, pepper to make a delightful dish. Cao Lau has long been known as the symbolic Hoi An dish that contributes to its reputation for amazing food. Tasting it, you will experience a flavor of the quaint old land here.
The restaurant Thanh Cao Lau has been open for 20 years and uses the traditional recipe, making it a great place to try this dish. If you enjoy street food, another good spot to try Cao Lau is Mrs. Be on Tran Phu street (in front of the well of the Hoi An market) from 2pm onwards.
4. The Well of Life
- Address: Bale Well (Gieng Ba Le) – 45/51 Tran Hung Dao Street; MAP
The aforementioned Ba Le Well is an ancient well located in a residential area on Tran Hung Dao Street. The well is famous for its cool water, rice cooking, and aromatic tea making. BaLe Well restaurant is named after this well. It has many special dishes and tourists often meet here when they visit the ancient town. It is always busy from late afternoons to evenings.
The sweet scent of barbecue skewers and fire grilled steak attract many visitors when they pass the restaurant. When you visit the restaurant there is no need to order. You just choose a seat and the staff will automatically serve 4 dishes: Vietnamese pancake (banh xeo), pork skewers (nem lui), corn roll (ram bap), and roasted skewers (thit nuong). If you don’t eat all the dishes, don’t worry. You only pay for what you eat.
For many visitors, enjoying street food is a pleasure as it gives the opportunity to mix with people in the street throughout the day.
5. An Island of Special Food
- Address: Cam Nam, Hoi An; MAP
You can visit Cam Nam island by bicycle or on foot. From Hoi An’s center, cross Cam Nam Bridge, turn right, and you will see many little restaurants such Quan Ba Gia, Quan So Hai, Quan hen xao Lan, Quan Ben Tre, Quan Huong on the riverside. Three of the most common local dishes in the restaurants here are fresh rice crackers (banh trang dap), baby clams (Hen tron), and sweetcorn soup (Che bap).
The fresh rice cracker (Banh trang dap) consists of two crackers and the wet rice paper in the middle. To join them together, they must be smashed onto the table and you then dip them in special fish sauce before eating.
Baby clams (Hen tron): is a combination of baby clams and rice crackers. The clams are caught in the Hoai River, they are small but sweet and delicious. The dish is cooked simply. The fresh clams are cleaned and boiled then stir- fried for a few minutes. Finally, green onion, chili, and pepper are added. Sweetcorn soup (che bap) is made from corn and sugar. The corns are grown in Hoi An and you will see corn trees across the river while you are in the restaurant.