Hoi An – A town of food

Footsteps in Vietnam – The ancient town Hoi An (also known as Faifo) was one of the most busy habours in the area from 15th to 19th century with it’s residents originated from Vietnam (almost), China, Japan and India. Hoi An city now is famous for it’s beauty and the uniquely peaceful atmosphere. Travelers enjoy Cua Dai beach in the morning, a glass of draught beer under the shadow of a tree and tons of traditional food spreading all around the streets of Hoi An. These are some food that you  should NOT ignore.

MI QUANG (QUANG NODDLE)

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Photo: Tinh Thien

This is the popular country dish in Hoian and Quang Nam. The noodle is yellow or white in color and made from rice flour. It is mixed with shrimp, pork and vegetables, and topped with grilled rice paper and spices. Similar to rice noodle and chicken or pork soup (Hu tieu), My Quang is a variety of Pho (rice noodle soup), because the noodles are made from rice and covered with soup as serving.

Where to eat? 

On the street! Following the local people is a good way. ~ 20-30,000VND per person

COM GA (CHICKEN RICE)

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Photo: Tinh Thien

On the night of the old town, across the block, under the roof of the ancient roof moss, under shimmering lantern, you cannot ignore the chicken boiled silk show up on a disk, first fragrance attractive flight from the chicken rice restaurants. Want to make delicious rice and chicken also choose to have that experience.

Where to eat? 

These are some welknown places: Cơm gà Bà Buội (26 Phan Chau Trinh Street), Cơm gà Bà Hương (Sica alley), Cơm gà Bà Minh, Cơm gà Nga … ~ 30,000VND per person

CAO LAU (MIXED NOODLE)

Cao Lau is the foremost traditional Hoi An food. Visitors to Hoi An always remember Cao Lau, which was considered by Quang Nam people as a special symbol for Hoi An.Cao lau noodles are carefully made from local new sticky rice. Water used to soak rice must be taken from wells in the Ba Le Village; noodles thus will be soft, enduring and flavored with special sweet-smelling.

Where to eat?

You can find a lot of Cao Lau store on the streets or look for some following addresses: Cao lau Ba Be, Cao lau Trung Bac (Tran Phu Street)

UNIQUE “VÚ NÀNG” SNAIL IN CU LAO CHAM ISLAND

Look like oyster but it is not. Just the name alone,”Vú nàng” – women breast, this unique species of snail has led many to curiosity.“Vú nàng” is actually a conical snail which has a small knob which looks like women breasts nipple, protected by a black gray shell.

Because of the limited quantity, only skilled fishmen dive in water for hours, using a flash light and a sharp knife to split each snail out of the rock. The “Vú Nàng” snail is best served when grilled on charcoal or prepared with pig skin and other vegetables as an unique salad. Not as fat as pork, not as strong as oyster, it’s flavor is distinct and unfogettable.

Where to eat? 

“Vu nang” lives only on Cu Lao Cham Island so you should take a 1-day tour to Cu Lao Cham Island (~20km from the mainland) and enjoy the snails on a white-sanded beach there. ~$25-30 per person (1-day tour fare).

BLACK SESAME SWEAT SOUP

Chè mè đen, also known as chí mà phù, was imported to Hoi An from Fujian Province in China when Chinese traders came to this city long time ago. The sweet soup has various ingredients such as black sesame, coconut, rice flour, sugar, sinh a (Radix Rehmanniae) and thc a (Rehmannia glutinosa). So, it is not only considered a delicious dessert, but also a good medicine.

Chè mè đen is cooked in a metal pot and is usually sold by hawkers. This sweet soup is the tastiest when it is served hot.

Where to eat? 

On the streets, again. ~10,000VND per person.

BANH BAO – BANH VAC (HOI AN DUMPLING)

It is a type of shrimp dumpling made from translucent white dough bunched up to look like a rose. Many people like these cakes not only for their delicious flavor but also for their beautiful appearance. The Colonial French gave it the name of “white roses”.

Banh bao – Banh vac is basically comprised of two small 2-inch diameter rounds of rice paper, with a dime-sized lump of meat filling right in the center. When the rice paper is steamed, the edges get soft and chewy and warp a little, making the dumpling look like a white flower. They are presented about 15 on a plate, topped with crunchy bits of toasty garlic and served with a sweet dipping sauce. When prepared well the texture is soft but slightly chewy, sweet from the sauce and crunchy/salty from the toasted garlic, savory from the shrimp meat filling. The translucence of the flour along with the color of the shrimp meat gives it the appearance of a white rose petal.

Where to eat?

A good place is White Rose restaurant (Nhi Trung street) where you not only taste the flavour but also see the process of making the Banh bao – Banh vac. I call it a taste of culture.

BANH DAP/ HEN XAO/ CHE BAP

Cam Nam Village, just a stones throw from the heart of Hoi An’s Old Quarter, typifies the sort of gastronomically experience available to people not afraid of straying from the uninspired menus of the lollipop cute cafes dotting the river’s banks.

 This tranquil spot, at the lower section of the river, is home to dozens of little restaurants. The one thing they all have in common is that they all serve great local rustic fare. Everyday, Cam Nam rice paper village welcomes hundreds of guests, including western travelers and people from the neighborhoods.

 Three of the most common local dishes served up to punters are: banh dap (smashing rice paper), hen xuc banh trang (clams served with crispy rice paper) and che bap (sweet corn soup).
Image                                                  Banh dap. Photo: http://www.ivivu.com
Banh dap (Rice Cracker) or smashing rice paper derives its name from the action needed to produce the dish.
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                                                                   Com hen.
Hen xuc banh trang (minced clams) is a combination of clams and crispy rice paper. The clams are fished up from the Hoai River, which runs through Cam Nam village.
The clams are boiled and then fried with dozens of fragrant vegetables and spices, including onion, spring onion, pepper, chilli, ginger, sugar water and peanuts. When the clams are ready, crispy rice paper is set on the table, which is also used as a spoon for the dish.
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                                                   Che bap. Photo: http://www.ivivu.com
Finally the desert: che bap (corn sweet soup/pudding). Hoi An’s sweet and sticky corn is perfect for this soup. Locals swear that one bowl is not enough and visitors that return are the first in line, ready for another helping.
Where to eat? 
Whether this is true or not is a matter of conjecture. What is true, is that no trip to Hoi An is truly complete without sampling the culinary spectacles that small village’s like Cam Nam have to offer. ~30-50,000VND per person (for all three food)
Source: Tinh Thien’s collection
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