The food in Hoi An is a feast for the eyes, and for the tastebuds, too.
Hoi An is undoubtedly one of the biggest tourist destinations in Vietnam. The charming old town is inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its lovely historic architecture, ornate temples, and old merchant houses.
So it is little wonder that most travelers love the romantic setting with its yellow painted stone and wooden houses, concave tiled roofs, and wood cut ornaments. You can spend time sampling Vietnam’s best coffee in trendy cafés, stuff yourself with delicious Banh Mi like we did, or take a cooking class. Yet, at times it can all seem a bit too manicured. But to us, it didn’t really matter. We were there primarily for the food.
Hoi An’s central market
One morning, we decided to explore the central market, Chợ Hội An, where we parked our bicycles and walked around. Generally, markets in Southeast Asia are a great place to sample the best food in town.
What I loved about the market in Hoi An, was that it is still catering to normal people who want to do their daily grocery shopping or grab a quick meal. Although there are some stalls selling the usual trinkets that you can find in any touristy place throughout Southeast Asia, they are few and far between.
Inside the market hall, everything at the food stalls looks mouthwatering and exciting.Fragrant spices fill the air. Originally, we came to try Cao Lau, the famous noodles that are a specialty in Hoi An, at Hai Chien – Hang (link to google maps), a stall that had received the thumbs up by the late chef Anthony Bourdain.
However, we were visiting the town in the run up to the Têt holiday and, unfortunately, Hai Chien Hang was closed. Têt, Vietnamese New Year, is the most important holiday in Vietnam. Due to the holiday, a mass migration grips the country and most people take a week or more off or close their businesses to return to their family homes and celebrate the holiday with their extended families.
But as it happens, we were inside a market hall full of delicious street food. Hence, we started to shop around for food. We settled on snacking on goi cuon (Gỏi cuốn). Goi cuon are often known as summer rolls in Europe or the US to differentiate them from the fried “spring rolls” or chả giò in Vietnamese
At Mrs. Thu’s stall (link to tripadvisor), we found the prettiest goi cuon we had ever seen. Essentially, goi cuon are a thin, translucent rice paper is wrapped around daikon radish, carrots, and a garden lettuce leaf. They look like colorful flowers or little trees with the lettuce sticking out and forming a bushy head. Dipped into into a vinegar and fish sauce mix to add flavour, they tasted fresh and healthy.
Vietnamese white roses
Moreover, we also ate a dish called banh bao banh vac (bánh bao bánh vạc), or white rose, as the French named it. A specialty from Hoi An, banh bao banh vac are delicate dumplings shaped like an open flower.
There are two filling for the dumplings. One is made of shrimp and the other one of bean sprouts, spring onion, and ground pork. Similarly to the goi cuon, they are served with fish sauce and topped with fresh spring onion and crispy onions.
The white roses served at Mrs. Thu’s stall in the market hall were extremely delicious. They are a light and tasty snack that are easy to eat on the go. Just like the summer rolls, they were extremely photogenic as well.
The central market is a great place to eat in Hoi An, whether you want a quick snack or an extended face-stuffing session. You can also pick up some fresh fruits to take back to your guesthouse. Bon appetit!
About Mrs Thu's stall at Hoi An Central Market
You can find Mrs Thu’s stall in the first hall of the Central market on the front end towards the town.