Hoi An is one of Vietnam’s most charming, historic towns. Small alleys filled with colorful lanterns and the aroma of flowers lead you to some of the best food stands in town. After spending a few days in Hoi An and tasting some of the town’s most iconic dishes, there were definitely four dishes that still leave me wanting just one more bite.
Banh Bao Banh Vac
Only one family in Hoi An possesses the recipe for banh bao banh vac or “white rose.” The family supplies all of Hoi An with these dainty dumplings. “White rose” is a type of shrimp dumpling made from translucent white dough bunched up to look like a rose. The dumplings are served topped with crunchy bits of toasted garlic and served with a sweet and spicy dipping sauce. The original location to visit for the “white rose” dish is located at 533 Hai Bà Trang, owner Tran Tuan Ngai is the third generation secret keeper of the traditional recipe.
Hoành Thánh Chiên
Hoành Thánh Chiên is quite the local specialty. This fried Hoi An wonton originally comes from China and has been adapted by the Vietnamese to suit the local taste. This particular wonton is made with rice flour and filled with ingredients like shrimp, pork, egg and spices. The Hoi An fried wonton is covered in a topping that reminds me of salsa. The topping includes a mixture of vegetables, pineapple and sweet and sour shrimp. The crunch and tangy, sweet flavors keep you coming back for more.
Cao Lau is a dish made with noodles, pork and local greens. It’s only found in Hoi An and its unique taste and texture is achieved by using water from an undisclosed ancient Cham well located outside the town. This dish is different than typical Vietnamese noodle dishes because it has no soup. The locals call Cao Lau a “mixing dish” because it includes vegetables, thinly sliced pork and sauce on top of the noodles. It’s quite fun mixing all of the ingredients together on your own and adding lime juice or chili paste to taste.
Located down a small alley in the “chicken rice district” (or so I like to call it!) is an unassuming food stand called Com Ga Xi. One of the locals (an employee at a vegetarian restaurant, as a matter of fact) recommended we try out this spot for Com Ga, which is a mixture of chicken and rice. This comfort food is simple and full of flavor. Rice is cooked in chicken stock with a pinch of turmeric for color, then thrown in a wok and served with boiled, shredded chicken along with Vietnamese mint, lime juice, sliced onions and chilis. My favorite spot for this dish is definitely Com Ga Xi, which is located at 47/2 Tran Hung Dao.