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Hoi An: 5 Foods You Must Eat Before Leaving in 2023 (Full Guide)

Updated: Feb 14, 2023

Vietnam is such a wonderful country with rich culture and traditions. The cuisines in this little S-shaped country vary greatly in different regions. Interestingly, Hoi An’s cuisine is unique to its own region and to Quang Nam province. The key to Hoi An’s cuisine is the unique ingredients that can only be found in the region. Without further ado, let’s get you prepared for your trip to this magical city.

1. Hoi An Banh Mi

Please have some Banh Mi when you visit Vietnam! It’s one of Vietnamese' gifts to the world. And in Hoi An, they really know how to make good banh mi. They really do!

A typical Vietnamese sandwich, banh mi, is a combination of meats and vegetable from Viet cuisine such as cha lua (pork sausage), coriander, cucumber, red chilies, pickled carrots and pickled daikon radish and carrot with several other condiments such as pate, butter, mayonnaise and soy sauce. They are often eaten for breakfast or as a snack.

The baguettes were introduced to Vietnam by the French in the mid-19th century under the Nguyen dynasty. Vietnamese soon adopted the bread and turned it into a staple by the early 20th century. In the latter half of the century,

Banh Mi became a popular street food to millions across Vietnam. Following the Vietnam War, Vietnamese refugees popularized Banh Mi around the world, most notably, Australia, France, Canada, and the United States.

Banh Mi has taken the world by storm in the last few years with its beautiful and exotic flavors, affordability, and convenience. In Hoi An, it is the number one street food. You can find a Banh Mi stall or cart anywhere in the city.

When you’re here, make sure to check out the world famous Banh Mi Phuong. This small shop in the Old Quarter is loved by world travelers, food reviewers, and especially, the late Anthony Bourdain.

Madame Phuong at her restaurant, Banh Mi Phuong.

A selection of banh mi at Banh Mi Phuong.

Another famous banh mi spot you cannot miss in Hoi An is Madame Khanh, a.k.a. the Banh Mi Queen. The shop has been faithfully serving the best of banh mi for over 30 years. It all started with a simple trolley on the side of the street, now Madame Khanh’s shop is absolutely loved by all locals and tourists alike. Interestingly, Madame Khanh’s real name is actually “Loc” and “Khanh” is actually her husband’s name.

Madame Khanh at her banh mi shop.

Grilled Pork Banh Mi at Madame Khanh's.

2. Quang Noodle (Quang-style Noodle)

This is the most famous Central Vietnamese dish, by far. This rich and complex dish originated from Quang Nam province where Hoi An is situated. Hence the name Quang noodle.

The dish contains the signature bright yellow flat rice noodles which got its color from turmeric, a little bit of pork bone broth, topped with a variety of tender pork, beef, chicken, shrimps, and quail eggs. Sometimes, rice crackers or deep-fried wonton crackers can be found on top.

Quang Noodle or Mi Quang in Vietnamese.

Of course, no Vietnamese dish is complete without fresh herbs and vegetables. In a typical Quang noodle bowl, you’ll find some chopped lettuce, basil, peanuts, mint, scallion, onion, coriander, sliced banana blossoms, and sliced banana stems. The tastes are incredibly meaty, fresh, and exotic even to many Vietnamese.

One of the most famous restaurants to try out this dish in Hoi An Old Quarter is Quang Noodle Hai. This place has been a staple to locals and tourists alike for decades, churning out some of the best and authentic Hoi An flavors. Let’s just say everyone comes here when they visit Hoi An Old Quarter.

Quang Noodle Hai Restaurant.

Quang Noodle at Hai's.

Another great spot to taste long-standing authentic Quang noodle is at Mrs. Minh Quang Noodle. The restaurant overlooks the great Thu Bon River. You can top your noodle bowl with a variety of meat ranging from chicken, beef, pork to shrimps. They’re all amazing options. They open early so feel free to stop by for breakfast. You can catch breakfast here for Quang noodles and then try the famous Hoi An Cao Lau for lunch at another restaurant.

Rustic and beautiful presentation at Mrs. Minh's restaurant.

Last but not least, Di (Auntie) Hat Quang Noodle is the most famous restaurant in town for the dish. Auntie Hat started out as a small street food vendor over 50 years ago. Now, her name and success have reverberated around the world but she remains faithful to her roots - serving authentic and affordable flavors on the street of Hoi An. You can find her stall in front of a Tran Huy Dieu high school with a sign proudly displaying her name and the number of years of dedication to her craft. She makes the iconic Cao Lau as well. Compared to other Quang noodle spots, Di Hat’s is the closest to the Old Quarter.

Auntie Hat's stall outside a high school. Notice the proudly displayed sign.

World class flavors at Auntie Hat's Quang Noodle stalls.

3. Cao Lau - Hoi An’s Iconic Noodle

Cao Lau is a renowned noodle invented in Hoi An. It’s an ingenious fusion of Chinese, Japanese, and Vietnamese cuisines. The noodle is similar to Japanese udon, slices of roasted pork resembles Chinese Char Siu, topped with Central Vietnam’s vegetables, beansprouts, deep-fried wontons, and unique Hoi An sauce. Cao Lau is best enjoyed with fresh lime juice, Vietnamese chili sauce, and fresh chilies for an extra kick.

A bowl of Cao Lau in Hoi An.

Cao Lau’s origin is shrouded in myths. It is said that authentic Cao Lau uses fresh water from Ba Le Well, an ancient and mysterious well that still exists at 45/51 Tran Hung Dao St., in Minh An ward, and jungle wood ash from Cham islands, and organic herbs from Tra Que Vegetable Village. These ingredients and locations are sacred and dearly held by the people of Hoi An.

Ba Le Ancient Well has never stopped providing fresh water to the people of Hoi An.

In addition, the name Cao Lau itself is quite interesting. Cao Lau means “high floor” or “upper floor/house” in Vietnamese. In the 17th century, it was an exclusive dish for the upper class who would dine on the upper floors of the restaurants. Fast forward a few hundred years, the social barrier is gone but the name stuck around. Now, it is one of Hoi An’s gifts to every one, rich and poor alike.

I had my first Cao Lau at the famous Morning Glory restaurant. The owner is Mrs. Vy, one of Vietnam’s most famous chefs. The restaurant is right smack in the middle of the Old Quarter, just a few minutes from the famous Hoai river.

Front façade of Morning Glory Hoi An. (Youtube: Ser Andy)

Cao Lau at Morning Glory Hoi An.

Also, you must visit Cao Lau Ba Le. I love this restaurant because it's right smack in the middle of Old Quarter next to the Ba Le ancient well. They use the crystal clear water from Ba Le well and the wood ash from from Tram island to make their noodle. This gives the noodle a chewy texture that is the signature of Cao Lau.

The restaurant also sells other Hoi An specials like Quang noodle, chicken rice, grilled pork noodle, etc...So make sure to check those dishes out too.

Front Entrance of Cao Lau Ba Le.

Restaurants in Hoi An that sell Quang Noodle almost always have Cao Lau on their menus. You can visit these same restaurants for Cao Lau as well:

Quang Noodle Hai & Cao Lau

Mrs. Minh - Quang Noodle & Cao Lau

Dì Hát (Hat Quang Noodles & Cao Lau)

Morning Glory Restaurant

4. Hoi An Chicken Rice

The next most famous dish, besides Quang noodle and Cao Lau, is chicken rice. The dish is often associated with the world famous Hainanese chicken rice brought to Quang Nam province by Chinese immigrants.

A plate of this beautiful chicken rice comes with shredded chicken, fresh sliced onion, Vietnamese coriander and majestic yellow turmeric rice. What makes the rice so incredibly flavorful is that it is cooked in chicken stock. The complementary salad is a combination of pickled shredded green papaya, cucumber, onion, and carrots.

Hoi An Chicken Rice with shredded and chopped chicken, Vietnamese coriander, pickled beansprout and carrot, chicken salad with onion, and unlaid chicken eggs.

The most famous chicken rice restaurant in Hoi An, by far, is Chicken Rice (Com Ga) Ba Buoi . This gem, one of the oldest eateries in town, serves one dish only and they sell out fast. Mrs. Buoi started serving these amazing plates of chicken rice since the 1950s. Mrs. Buoi's son, Mr. Binh, now runs the restaurant.

Mrs. Buoi sold out when I arrived at 12:30 pm. The staff are washing the dishes in front.

The wooden sign reads Het Com ("No More Rice"). (Youtube: Ser Andy)

Make sure to arrive early during the day to get an unforgettable experience. I went to Hoi An in April 2022 and made it a mission to eat here immediately after checking into my hotel. I arrived at 12:15pm and they had already sold out. Bummer!

  • Chicken Rice (Cơm Gà) Bà Buội

  • Location: 22 Phan Chau Trinh St., Minh An Ward, Hoi An City, Vietnam.

  • Phone: +84 90 576 79 99

  • Average costs: 35.000 ~ 40.000 VND/ a plate

Chicken Rice at Mrs. Buoi's. Clockwise: Chicken, rice, boiled chicken organs and unlaid eggs, vegetable soup, pickled green papaya and carrot. (Source:

The second most famous chicken rice restaurant in Hoi An is Chicken Rice (Com Ga) Mrs. Nga. You can find this place just a few houses down from Mrs. Buoi's place and Banh Mi Phuong. Many say Mrs. Nga's chicken rice is much better and more flavorful than Mrs. Buoi's. Could you please fly to Hoi An, try both places and let me know? You'd be my best friend forever. Lol!

Mrs. Nga Preparing a Plate of Chicken Cabbage Salad. (Source: DiaDiemHoiAn)

Chicken Cabbage Salad (Top) and Chicken Rice (Bottom) at Mrs. Nga's. (Source: DiaDiemHoiAn)

I had an opportunity to film at smaller and less touristy chicken rice restaurant on Phan Chu Trinh street where Banh Mi Phuong and other well-known chicken rice and Quang noodle restaurants are located. It's Chicken Rice (Com Ga) Gieng Dinh. There is a freshwater well right outside the restaurant. But don't be mistaken. That is not Ba Le ancient well.

I love this place because it's smaller and the dining room literally consumes half the owner's living room. You can't get any more local and authentic than that. Oh, and make sure to order the Ro-ti Chicken Rice and Chicken Salad.

Front Entrance to Chicken Rice (Com Ga) Gieng Dinh. (Youtube: Ser Andy)

Ser Andy Enjoying Rotisserie (Ro-ti) Chicken Rice (Youtube: Ser Andy)

5. Water Fern Cakes - Banh Beo

Banh beo is another famous Vietnamese dish that originated from the country's ancient capital, Hue. The main ingredients are a mixture of rice flour and tapioca flour. These soft, white, gelatinous pieces of heaven can be topped with dried shrimps, ground pork, crispy pork skin, scallion oil, and fish sauce. The cakes are savory and filling.

These babies often come in a tray with half a dozen of them in tiny cups. Your job is to drizzle some fishing sauce on top, scoop the cakes out, and one bite each one. Man, writing this makes me hungry for sure!

MY absolute favorite spot in Hoi An is at Water Fern Cakes (Banh Beo) Mrs. Bay. Bay means seven in Vietnamese. Vietnamese often call their kids by the order of their births. Those kids will often have their birth order numbers as nicknames throughout adulthood.

Mrs. Bay is a small street vendor but she is absolutely loved by everyone. Her cakes are topped with dried shrimps and Vietnamese caramelized pork (thit kho) She also has other variety of cakes made from tapioca and rice flour that you can pair with your banh beo.

  • Banh Beo Mrs. Bay

  • Location: 2 Nguyen Thai Hoc St., Hoi An City, Quang Nam Province, Vietnam.

  • Average Cost: 3.000 VND/cake (equiv. 0.15 USD)

A variety of traditional cakes prepared by the ever friendly, Mrs. Bay. (Source:

Every Hoi An local also knows Water Fern Cakes Mrs. My (Bánh Bèo Bà Mỹ) ). This amazing restaurant may be the oldest banh beo restaurant in Hoi An. With over 70 years to perfect their techniques, you can be sure to taste some of the most authentic Hoi An flavors here. The cakes are a bit thicker but soft and jiggly. The thick shrimp and pork sauce will leave you craving it for days. Put a bit of the fish sauce on it and heaven awaits.

Original Banh Beo cups Mrs. My used for over 70 years are still in use every day.

Toppings: Deep-fried Cao Lau noodle, dried shrimp, pickled green papaya and carrot.

Hoi An is an incredible place with centuries of culture and traditions. There are a plethora of great food choices when you visit this magical city. Just stick to the local spots where locals gather. Do a quick check on Google reviews. Chances are, you'll be in for an experience.

I hope my list of 5 Must Eat Foods in Hoi An along with my recommendations will be of help to you.

Now, are you ready to take on Hoi An?


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