It’s arguable that Vietnam culture is divided into three distinct areas, the north, the centre and the south. None makes this more apparent than observing the country’s cuisine…
Take for example the bare-bones pho served in Hanoi is vastly different than the sweeter and heavily garnished bowls served in Saigon.
The same can be said about middle Vietnam. From Hue City’s imperial cuisine, which at one time was made exclusively for Vietnamese royalty to Hoi An’s everlasting ability to preserve generations of cooking traditions still to this day.
Central Vietnam thrives on its own distinct food options, which it holds very close to its heart.
One of the most popular restaurants in Hoi An is Morning Glory (106 Nguyen Thai Hoc). Located in the walking street of Hoi An’s beautifully preserved old quarter.
The Morning Glory restaurant caters to all of Hoi An’s traditional dishes, as well as other cuisine famous around the country.
Another top spot is the historic Cho Hoi An, Hoi An’s central market. This large indoor market dedicates most of its retail space to food and snack stalls. A great place for quick in and out service.
All the food listed below can be found in both places. Or you can go exploring and find a more local establishment. So without further ado, here are the “Top 5” dishes you must try during your stay in Vietnam’s ancient city…
#1. Mi Quang
A dish popular for either breakfast, lunch or dinner, Mi Quang is a hearty helping of noodles and broth served with fresh herbs, shredded banana flower, shrimp, sliced pork belly and egg (ingredients may change from restaurants to restaurant).
The soup is given its signature yellow color from a slow simmering of turmeric root, which invigorates the dish with a lively herbal taste reminiscent of ginger and orange.
Poured over the dish lukewarm, only a small amount of the robustly flavoured soup is ladled over the dish, just enough to wet the noodles.
Distinct to Mi Quang is the wide-cut yellow noodles. These thick strands made from rice flour and turmeric have an al-dente consistency and are almost pasta-like in their texture.
The bowl is then garnished with a thin crispy fried wafer called “banh trang”, which can be eaten by hand and dipped in the vitalizing soup.
#2. Com Ga (Chicken Rice)
On paper, a dish of chicken and rice may sound bland. The secret to Com Ga is in the rice, which is cooked using the chicken’s own broth.
This Infusion instills the already fragrant jasmine rice with even more flavour. The now yellow-coloured rice is laid generously on the plate, and the chicken is then torn into bite sized shreds and added over top.
The dish is then garnished with onions and herbs. Com Ga is a simple dish, but it is also one of Hoi An’s most traditional.
#3. Cao Lau
Cao Lau holds a secret ingredient, which makes the dish only available in Hoi An. The unique Cao Lau noodle is made using a water source from an undisclosed ancient well located somewhere on the outskirts of town.
All restaurants selling Cao Lau purchase their freshly made noodles early every morning to serve to their hungry customers…or so the legend goes.
The noodles are however, different than those made popular in many other Vietnamese dishes. The consistency is more on par with Japanese Soba noodles than banh pho or vermicelli.
Cao Lau contains no soup, but is served with thinly sliced pieces of pork, unhealthy fried lard and healthy fresh greens. The contents are then mixed with a sauce.
A must-try dish that is truly unique to the region. Since the noodles are unavailable elsewhere. Well…you can buy the noodles at several souvenir shops all over Hoi An…just saying.
#4. Hoanh Thanh Chien
Hoanh Thanh Chien is often referred to as a fried wonton, but it usually comes served looking more like a nacho. The fried crispy wonton shells are topped with a generous amount of shrimp, onions, tomatoes and cabbage.
Sweet and sour in flavour, Hoanh Thanh Chien is dipped in a light vinegar sauce. These hor d’oeuvres make for a great appetizer before venturing onward to the main course.
#5. Banh Vac aka Banh Bao Hong Trang (White Rose Dumplings)
Another light appetizer, Banh Vac are bite-sized dumplings made from a translucent white shell. The dumplings are filled with a tiny morsel of ground shrimp. These dumplings are also exclusive to Hoi An.
They are only available in this region since they are specially made by one family, which supplies the entire city…or so the legend goes.
Garnished with toasted garlic and dried onions, the English name “White Rose” of course derives from the dumpling’s appearance. When cooked and served however, they tend to look a little less appealing, but still just as delicious.
But that’s not all…
Hoi An also offers plenty of other dishes as well. The savory Vietnamese Pizza (Banh Trang Nuong) is a grilled rice paper topped with shrimp, chili paste, quail eggs and onions.
Also similar in appearance to Banh xeo. Resembling a folded over pancake, Banh Xeo is made using a turmeric-scented rice batter and then lightly fried to keep its fully texture. The pancake is filled with a generous amounts of shrimp, pork belly, bean sprouts and onions before being folded, encasing the contents inside.
It’s a little on the heavy side, but a definite guilty pleasure.
And if your interest is still not piqued after all of this, Hoi An is also known for its vast assortment of seafood as well. Now, enjoy a walkthrough of just some of the delicious cuisine Hoi An has to offer below…