Hoi An – A heaven for food – A guide to Hoi An Cuisine

March 23, 2023

Hoi An has been a popular tourist destination for many reasons, and food is one of those. Its cuisine is so famous that many celebrity chefs have been here to try and praise.

Hoi An is situated in the Central Coast of Vietnam. Typically, Hoi An food is a combination of the North and the South. Besides, Hoi An cuisine is strongly influenced by Chinese and French. It happens for a reason. In the 17th century, the Chinese refugees came. They also brought with them their diverse cuisine. We can see it in many local dishes Hoi An people cook. Then the French colonized Vietnam. Hoi An food was also affected by French cuisine. In general, thanks to its geographic location, diversity of culture and races, impact of history, Hoi An has a very big culinary tradition that other places in Vietnam do not have.

Today, Hoi An is an ideal place for foodies. If we want to try all the local food in Hoi An, it can take a whole week, as there are too many good dishes. However, you do not need that much time to try the best dishes that local often eat. This article will guide you through all the best local food, especially when your time is limited.

Table of Contents

    Hoi An Cao Lau

    Cao Lau is a noodles soup ( the soup is very little) which can only be found in Hoi An due to the only source of water to make the noodles – the water from Ba Le well ( Ba Le is 1000 year old water well built by the ancient Cham People). They say the water contains many minerals that make the noodles tastier.

    The noodles is yellow. It is made from sticky rice and mixed with some burnt herbs from Cham Island – An Island that is located 20 minutes from Hoi An. The sauce is cooked from stock, pork, soya sauce, garlic, 5 spices powder,… When served, it is often topped with crunchy rice crackers and lots of vegetables.

    History of Cao Lau is dated back in the 17th century when the Chinese and Japanese came. They put their influences on the food. The noodles is similar to Udon of Japan and the sauce is like Chinese Charsiu. However, it is localized with a lot of vegetables and a touch of fish sauce.

    Hoi An food
    Cao Lau – Hoi An Noodles

    To eat Cao Lau perfectly, people often add some lime juice and chilli. This step is to balance the flavors.

    The name “Cao Lau” means “a good food eaten in a high building”. The dish was often serve the rich in the past. Now it is so popular that it becomes an iconic dish of the city.

    Banh Xeo

    Banh Xeo is one of the most popular dishes in Vietnam. Each place in Vietnam has a different version of Banh Xeo. For example; In Hue, Banh Xeo is small and soft, but in the south of Vietnam, it is often very big. Although the styles can be different, the stuffings are much the same. It often includes pork, shrimps and some vegetables as bean sprouts, onions,… When we eat, we use a rice paper to roll it with vegetables and dip it into the sweet and sour fish sauce.

    Hoi An food
    Banh Xeo Hoi An

    The name Banh Xeo comes from the sizzling sound when it is poured onto the pan. The main ingredient is rice starch mixed with tumeric and egg. The origin of its is still unknown. Some say Banh Xeo was first introduced in the north of Vietnam where the winter is cold. Banh xeo is a hot dish which is suitable in the cold. That also explains why Banh Xeo is more popular in the winter.

    Banh Xeo in Hoi An is different from others. It is crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. When cooked, it is cooked with very hot pans and oil. To have a good Banh Xeo, dipping sauce is very important. Dipping sauce in Hoi An is often sweet and sour fish sauce or peanut sauce. The vegetables are often lettuce, mint, cucumber,…

    Hoi An is said to be the kingdom of Banh Xeo, we can find it any where from street food stalls to high- end restaurants. Even though the principals of Banh Xeo cooking are the same, the taste can be different depending on the cooks. In a word, there is no fixed recipe for it.

    Deep- fried wontons

    First off, Wonton is a Chinese dish that is so popular around the world. However, Hoi An wonton has its own differences. Originated from China and brought to Hoi An by the Chinese migrants, Wonton in Hoi An has been adjusted to the taste of locals. It is a small dough from rice and topped with tomato sauce. There are many versions. Some restaurants will add shrimps to the topping. Others add pork mince or both. The sauce is often made from fresh tomatoes. They also can add bell pepper, onion or pineapple, but in general, the sauce is sweet and sour base.

    Hoi An Food
    Hoi An Wonton

    If you are vegetarian or allergic to pork, shrimps, there is also the vegetarian version for it. It is made from tofu or mushrooms.

    When we eat, we need to take the whole wonton and take a bite. By this way, we can enjoy both the savory sauce and the crunchy base.

    Pork skewer

    Pork skewers can be found any where in the world, and in Vietnam they are also very popular. However, trying pork skewers in Hoi An is a different experience. Pork skewers in Hoi An is a street food and often eaten in the afternoon. You can not find it before 3 p.m. No body knows the reason.

    Hoi An food
    Pork skewers

    Pork will be marinated with lots of spices such as: garlic, 5 spices powder, chilly, lemon grass,… Meat must be pork shoulder, because it is the most tender part of the pig. After 5 hours of marination, skewers will be grilled on hot char coals.

    The dipping sauce is also important. There are 2 kinds of sauce going with it: peanut sauce and fish sauce. When eating, we need to eat it with some vegetables.

    Hoi An pork skewers are also different from others that pork is often thinly sliced. Firstly, this can help to tenderize the pork. Secondly, the marinade will work better.

    Hoi An Pho

    Pho is the most well-known food in Vietnam. It has become an icon for Vietnamese cuisine. Originated in Nam Dinh province, Pho has become the most popular dish through out Vietnam. Pho has been divided into many styles: Northern pho, Central Pho, Southern Pho,… Basically, the main ingredients are the same. It consists of animal broth, star anise, cinnamon, onion, ginger, fish sauce,.. The differences are the noodles and some added ingredients. For example; Pho in the North is often made with fresh noodles, the broth is also clearer than others. In the South, noodles are dried, the broth contains more fat.

    Hoi An food
    Pho Hoi An

    Pho in Hoi An is closer to the Southern Pho, which is made with dried noodles. The cooks will soak it in hot water first. There are 2 most popular Pho: Beef and Chicken. The Broth is cooked from animal bones for at least 8 hours. Basil and scallion are the 2 most important herbs to go with it. Hoi An Pho also has crushed peanut and chopped celery which distinguishes it from others.

    The right way to enjoy Hoi An Pho is add some fresh lime juice, Hoi An chilli jam, soya sauce to taste, then mix all the things up, pick up a little bit of everything and enjoy.

    Hoi An fresh rolls

    If you are looking for the healthiest food amongst many thousand dishes in Vietnam, Hoi An fresh rolls is the answer. It is fresh and ideal for any season in the year.

    In Vietnamese, it is called ” Gỏi cuốn”. This dish was originated in the South of Vietnam where the weather is very hot, and people there needed something fresh to cool them down. Fresh rolls are mainly made from fresh herbs and vegetables, pork, shrimps,… all are rolled in a rice paper.

    Today, fresh rolls are popular through out Vietnam, and there is no fixed recipe for it.

    Hoi An food guide
    Hoi An fresh rolls

    Hoi An fresh rolls are pretty much the same with others. The main difference is the vegetables. Herbs and vegetables are from Tra Que Vegetable village. All of them are grown in an organic way, so the they are very fragrant.

    Hoi An fresh rolls are made with fresh shrimps, because the shrimps in Hoi An are very fresh thanks to the huge shrimp farms here. The sauce is also important. In Hoi An they are often served with sweet and sour fish sauce or peanut sauce with a touch of Hoi An chilli jam.

    Where to find the best Hoi An local food

    Those Hoi An specialties are served every where in Hoi An. It is hard to tell the best places to find it since it depends on personal taste. The cheapest ones can be found at Hoi An Central Market. However, you can also easily find some upper- class versions of them at numerous restaurant in the old town.

    Mate Restaurant and Coffee Hoi An serves Hoi An Local food and Asian cuisine. We can save your time from searching good food in Hoi An.

    Mate Hoi An tours provides some good food/cooking tours: https://matehoian.com/tour-category/cooking-food-tours/

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