Hoi An Food Tour – Discover the best local street food in Hoi An
Once a major Southeast Asian trading port in the 16th and 17th centuries, Hoi An is a living museum featuring a unique mixture of East and West in the form of its old-town architecture and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1999. In the face of all the hurrying modernization, Hoi An somehow still retains its quiet serenity. Life just seems to flow by at an uneventful rate. People seem to slowly enjoy things as they are.
If you’re a foodie, trying all local street food is a must do activity in Hoi An. During our recent trip, we hired a local guide from Hoi An Food Tour to take us take us around Hoi An to find the best local street food and snacks. Our tour guide, Lucy, leads us through real neighborhoods to indulge in Hoi An’s best foods at places that have been making these food for generations. Each of our unique food tastings is combined with fun insights and anecdotes on food culture and local traditions. Below are some of the highlights of our food tour of Hoi An.
White Rose Restaurant
Address: 533 Hai Bà Trưng, Cẩm Phô, tp. Hội An, Quảng Nam, Vietnam
Opening Hours: 10am to 9pm
Our first stop is the white rose cafe at 533 Hai Ba Trung Street. The recipe for these dumplings is secret, held by one family in Hoi An who supplies all the restaurants. Tran Tuan Ngai is a third generation secret keeper of the traditional white rose recipe. Known locally as Banh Bao Vac, it was initially created for family dinner but became so popular that the owner started selling to the neighbours and eventually set up a bistro in his house. Why is it called “white rose”? Well, a french reporter was mesmerized by the beauty that he named it “white rose”.
The dumplings are made from two small 2″ rounds of rice paper that is steamed to get the soft and chewy texture. The dough is made with rice comes from Mekong Delta and the filling is made with minced shrimp with spices, wraps into the shape of a rose. It is simply dumplings in its glorified manner. But well, it is a specialty of Hoi An and you can’t it anywhere else. It is said that if visitors have not eaten White Rose dumplings they have not yet enjoyed the taste of the ancient town.
Banh Mi Phuong
Address: 2B Phan Chau Trinh street, near the crossroad of Phan Chau Trinh and Hoang Dieu
Opening hours: 6am – 10pm
The most popular food stall in Hoi An is none other than Banh Mi Phuong. In “No Reservations” travel show, famous American chef Anthony Bourdain’s came to Hoi An, ate banh mi Phuong and then claimed that it is a symphony in a sandwich.
Phuong has been serving up the most delicious banh mi in Hoi An for more than 20 years. She gets up at 3am every morning to prepare the pork and condiments ready for her first customers of the day while her younger sister baked the crispy banh mi. Soon, it became one of Hoi An’s busiest food stalls. So what makes banh mi here so special? I think the crucial part is the banh mi Madam Phuong bakes next door. It is crispy outside, soft and airy inside.
Her original bahn mi kep thit heo is the most popular choice. When all the ingredients – pork liver pate, handmade mayonnaise, pork floss, grilled pork, head cheese, pork patty, pickled papaya, long sliced cucumber, sliced tomato, cilantro, spring onion, mints – all combine together, it is really tasty. The secret dressing she created will leave your taste buds singing with joy.
Another good recommendation for Banh Mi is MADAM KHANH THE BANH MI QUEEN which is located at the north of the Thu Bon river. 80-year-old Madam Khanh makes banh mi with passion. Each sandwish has pâté, pork char siu, sausage, fried egg, homemade pickles, papaya, carrots, parsley, chili sauce, soy sauce, and her secret sauce. The result is a well-balanced sandwich that’s sweet and salty, spicy but basic, crunchy yet creamy.
Address: Stall E035, Food Court, Hoi An Market Trần Quý Cáp tp. Hội An Quảng Nam Vietnam
If you are a foodie like me, you will not be disappointed by the Central Market in Hoi An (Nguyen Hue and Tran Phu Streets). So much is going on, everything left and right will be catching your attention. In the food court down the middle aisle, there is a stall that sells Cao Lau that is run by a lady called Ms. Ha. Cao Lau is made up of the signature cao lầu noodles, slices of barbecue pork, pork crackling, bean sprouts, lettuce and herbs, finished with a spoonful of stock. The noodles are carefully made from local fresh rice (not older grains of rice).
What make Cao Lau so special? The dish cannot be replicated outside of the town because the water used in the dish must be drawn from a well in the nearby Ba Le well. The lye solution used to prepare the noodles comes from trees grown on Cham Island. This water is then mixed with ashes from certain trees, to give it its particular yellow tinge and slightly firm texture.
Banh It La Gai
Address: Hoi An Market Trần Quý Cáp tp. Hội An Quảng Nam Vietnam
The central market is a must visit because it is a great combination of foods and shopping as well as interesting local lifestyle experience. Besides Cao Lau, there is an old lady at the entrance that sells Banh It (black) and Banh Phu The (yellow).
The former is like our ang ku kueh as it is made from sticky rice and mung bean. It has become meaningful offering in the traditional lunar new year ’s festival, ancestors’ anniversary, funeral, wedding ceremony. It is not exclusive in Hoi An but here, they use the water from Ba Le well.
Bánh phu thê (literally “husband and wife cake”) is a Vietnamese dessert made from tapioca, shredded coconut with mung beans stuffing wrapped in a box made of pandan leaves. The dessert was traditionally given by a suitor but is now part of many wedding banquets.
Address: On Nguyen Truong To Street, about 50 meter away from the crossroad of Nguyen Truong To Street and Ly Thuong Kiet Street (near to Hoi An Centre for Orphans and Disabled Children)
Sitting on a stool along Nguyen Truong To Street, I am enjoying a small bowl of Xi Ma – a dessert made from black sesame, sugar, pennywort, and a kind of Chinese medicine. It may not have an attractive colour but it tastes really good and you should not miss it!
Opens from 7am daily, this roadside stall started about 70 years ago and is opened by Mr Ngo Thieu. He is now 100 years old and is no longer able to run this business at this age, hence the daughter took over. They make just enough to sell out every day, so be sure to get there earlier rather than later. Each bowl of sesame paste is sooooo smooth and nutty, costing only 5,000 VND/bowl. Super love this, I so regret that I didn’t have the second bowl.
Visiting local home
We ended the tour in a local home as we learnt how to wrap Vietnamese rolls and have desserts. Wrapping Vietnamese rolls is not a problem for me as I have done it quite a few times. The family is friendly!
Here’s a video I did for the tour 🙂