Hoi An is famous as a food lovers’ destination with many local specialities to eat. The Vietnamese food here is superb but there are also some great Western, Asian and Western / Asian fusion restaurants to try. What to eat in Hoi An, after trying ( almost) every dish and every restaurant over 5 months. Every day we’ve eaten out at restaurants, street stalls, hotels and cafes at least once, often 3 times. We’ve trawled the internet searching for the best food in Hoi An and the best eating experiences. We’ve tried every local Hoi An dish we could find and been taken out by locals to their favourite restaurants. It’s been a voyage of culinary discovery and Chef, I ( the only vegetarian here ) and the kids have loved the journey. Central Vietnam and Hoi An in particular are famous for quality, fresh seafood, prices are low, so a seafood feast can easily fit any budget. So here’s our extensive guide to what to eat in Hoi An and where to find the best food based on our personal experiences. You won’t find any fake reviews here as you will elsewhere. Enjoy eating in Hoi An and watch out for the fish mint!
What to Eat in Hoi An
Local Vietnamese Food Specialities in Hoi An
Certain Vietnamese dishes are unique to Hoi An, others are available throughout Vietnam but Hoi An puts her own twist on them. Below are a few dishes you must try during your time in Hoi An.
The story doesn’t end with the Bahn Xeo crispy pancake. Delicious as they are, there is more to add. You take your crispy, eggy little piece of deliciousness and place it on a sheet of crisp rice paper. You then top it with mint and lettuce before rolling the whole thing up spring roll style and dunking it in a dipping sauce. It’s so, so good! The pancakes always contain bean sprouts and usually sliced pork and a couple of prawns.
My absolute favourite Hoi An dish. I’ll cycle miles to visit my favourite mi quang lady and sit on her tiny plastic stools, but whichever street stall you choose, this dish is good. Rice noodles, a highly flavoured soup with tiny hard-boiled quail eggs, a few slices of pork, a couple of prawns and another ladle of soup for luck. Mix with greens, herbs, leaves and shredded banana flower, it’s the stuff of dreams. Buy it at a street stall or small pavement shop, I still haven’t had a really good one in a restaurant, nor in the central market.
Mi Quang takes its name from the local area, Quang Nam province.
Meat on a Stick
Locals start barbecuing meat on a stick around sundown. The above photo was taken at a street stall in the night market. The beef above was tender, delicious and studded with sesame seeds. You’ll also see marinated pork cooked in the same way, this is normally served with vegetables, rice paper to make a wrap, and a peanut dipping sauce as in the photo from Ba Le Well restaurant below.
Banh Mi simply means bread and in Vietnam you’ll find a filled Banh Mi stall on every street corner. There is a small, unassuming Banh Mi shop in Hoi An that will be forever famous thanks to Anthony Bourdain. We’ve been, the Banh Mi are good, but the best? I don’t know. We very rarely eat Banh Mi so we can’t compare, but Banh Mi Phuong always has a queue. My children don’t like Vietnamese Banh Mi, they have too much of a jumble of different ingredients going on and the tuna is fresh unidentified fish rather than tinned tuna as they know it, so we only ate at Banh Mi Phuong once.
Hoi An locals are crazy about com ga, chicken rice. I must admit, I’m not a huge fan. But I’m going to try a few more places and see if I can find a winner, along with a decent photograph. The chicken comes skin-on which to me is an absolute no, but the pickles and yellow rice and rather good.
White Rose, Banh Bao Vac
It is said that every white rose dumpling in Hoi An is made at the White Rose restaurant ( 533 Hai Ba Trung ) by the only family that holds the secret recipe. Again, the dumplings must be made with water from the Ba Le Well. We’ve eaten white rose all over Hoi An but the above plate was from the actual White Rose restaurant. The small prawn filled dumplings are what we’ve been served elsewhere, the larger dumplings above contain bean sprouts and something we couldn’t identify. I must admit, I prefer a simple plate of prawn white rose at a lower price elsewhere. The fried onion topping and dipping sauce really make this dish, it’s heavenly. We normally pay just 25,000 Dong for a smaller plate of prawn white rose, the plate above was 70,000 Dong.
“Hoi An Pizza” Fried Wontons with Seafood
These fried wonton were seriously good, incredibly light and crispy with a little soggyness on the top. The version above, from the White Rose restaurant also held a secret pocket holding a pork or prawn filling which we couldn’t identify. The basic Vietnamese tomato sauce is the same as you’ll find in many Vietnamese dishes, it’s very simple and usually contains pineapple.
“In The Pot” Dishes
Look for chicken, pork, beef or tofu “in the pot”. A slow cooked sealed ceramic pot cooked on the fire.
Not just for the vegetarians and vegans, tofu in Hoi An and Vietnam is superb. It usually comes here either with lemon grass and chili or tomato and pineapple. Cafe 43 serves stuffed tofu and tofu in banana leaf along with a good vegetarian cau lao.
Grilled Scallops and Other Seafood
Is it Safe to Eat on The Street in Hoi An?
We’ve had no tummy trouble at all in almost 3 months in Hoi An. We’ve eaten everything, salad, herbs, ice cream, prawns and generally anything we could find. It’s rare to not even have mild tummy trouble in Asia. Maybe we’re immune to everything these days after almost 5 years of eating our way around the globe, but Hoi An gave us an impressively low sickness index. The kids were absolutely fine too, which after them being sick almost every day in Nepal, was a huge relief. Eat cau lao, mi quang, pho, bun bo, op la, anything you can find at street stalls is generally good.
Costs of Eating in Hoi An
We can give you a rough guide to food costs in Hoi An but prices are a little flexible so don’t take our word as gospel. We’ve seen good Vietnamese street food from 15,000 dong, that’s less than a dollar for a pho, cau lau or mi quang. ( roughly 20,000 dong = $1 ) As a tourist expect to pay around 20- 30,000 for your delicious bowl of goodness. Prices tend to depend on how much the owner likes you. If you eat at Hoi An’s Central Market each stall has clearly marked fixed prices, expect to pay between 20 and 50,000 dong. If you can find a good restaurant, locally owned, that serves fairly authentic local food, expect to pay 30-50,000 Dong. If you go for a more lavish meal like a seafood hot-pot for two you’ll be paying around 100-200,000 Dong. The huge meal shown below at the Ba Le Well restaurant was 120,000 Dong per adult, 100,000 dong for the kids. If you use western restaurants or any restaurant aimed at tourists, you will be charged more. Of course the sky is the limit, you could pay a fortune in the hotels but generally we found food prices very low here, probably lower than Thailand, certainly lower than Laos. You can most certainly get a very good meal for roughly $2.
Food in Hoi An for Kids
Vietnamese food generally isn’t spicy nor does it contain much or any chili. If you like your food hot a good restaurant should have fresh chilies, chili flakes or a chili sauce or jam on the table. If the restaurant only provides the orange chili ketchup, maybe find another restaurant.
Our kids loved the food in Vietnam and found it far less of a challenge than Thai food, they enjoyed spring rolls, steamed, fresh or fried, my elder son was totally hooked on Cau Lau and the younger one was a Bahn Xeo connoisseur.
Unlike Thailand or many other parts of South East Asia, it’s very easy to get western style foods here, nobody will be missing their cheese, pizza, bread or French fries. However there are no western junk food outlets that I know of in Hoi An.
Fresh fruit shakes and smoothies are available anywhere and Thai and Vietnamese banana pancakes can be bought on the street. Try the Hoi An ice cream carts, you’ll find them around the Night Market. Watch as they make ice cream curls before your eyes.
Most corner shops sell such western delights as boxed cereal, Tim Tams and Chocolate Digestives.
The Best Street Food in Hoi An
There are more variations on street food in Hoi An than I could possibly name. But still, we’ve had a good go at trying them all. More to come on this section.
Visit Your Local Pho Joint
Pho Bo ( beef pho) is simplicity itself. The stock contains a very small amount of star anise, cinnamon, onion and sugar along with an abundance of beef bones. At serving time your pho chef will fill your bowl with cold rice noodles before dunking a few slivers of ultra finely sliced raw beef into the stock. The beef and a ladle of hot stock are enough to heat your noodles. Good pho comes with accompanying herbs, a few peanuts and bean sprouts. Eat it for breakfast or dinner. It’s become the ultimate comfort food for us in just a few weeks.
Seafood Restaurants, the Market and Street Food
A Seafood Feast, Where the Locals Eat
Hoi An Central Market
The Central market has a sort of food court where vendors will do their best to attract you to their stalls. Each stall serves a very similar selection with a fixed price menu in English. It’s good, reliable and we eat there often, but I’ve still not had a street-quality Mi Quang there. We have a full post on shopping and eating at Hoi An Central Market here.
Ba Le Well Restaurant, A Fixed Menu Treat
Best Place for Western Style Coffee and Cakes in Hoi An
Our vote goes to Mia Coffee, we became regulars and bought their freshly ground Arabica beans to use at home. We’ve tried Hoi An Roastery, Coco Box and Dingo Deli but Mia gets our vote. They have perfect carrot cake, cheesecake and fresh fruit smoothies too. The smartest restaurants stick with a few items and execute them well each day.
There is another very nice coffee and cake shop behind Ang Bang Beach, it’s called Mi Son.
Other Restaurants We Can Recommend
Greek at Mix Restaurant
If you’re craving Western food, go Greek! We loved our meals at Mix restaurant particularly the huge selection of Greek salads or dips with fresh pita. Prices are good, main courses start at 70,000 dong and the owner is friendly and welcoming. An attractive riverside setting and a well decorated atmospheric interior help everything along too. They serve huge sharing plates of fish or meat which we haven’t yet tried, I think 1 would do for all 4 of us.
Thai at Thai Kitchen
There are a few Thai restaurants in Hoi An, the one we’ve tried, Thai Kitchen, is run by a Thai / Spanish couple and the Massaman curry was out of this world. We love Vietnamese food, but sometimes you just need that flavour punch of Thai food. We will try the other Thai restaurants before we leave.
Expat Bar and Creative Fusion Dishes at The Happy Buffalo
UPDATE: Friends visited The Happy Buffalo in August 2018 and reported that it’s changed hands and is not the place it was. Which is a shame if it’s true. I’m trying to find out more.
We’ve only recently discovered this crazy expat bar and restaurant, the owners offer a warm Canadian welcome, flowing drinks and some truly unique dishes. Order a different dish each and share, this food is interesting and amazing. Try banh xeo pizza, cau lau noodle mac and cheese bites, banana flower salad cups, duck spring rolls, fish tacos and more. Everything we’ve eaten there is superb and prices are good, around 50-100,000 Dong per plate. They do great cocktails too. They don’t use MSG.
Indian at Ganesh
Good Indian food at decent prices, lunch for 4 came in at $20. Warning, I reacted badly to MSG after visiting this restaurant the 2nd time.
Burgers and Hot Dogs at Jim’s Burgers
Chef sneaks down to Jim’s Snack Bar when he needs a solid meat feast. All that Ironman training leaves him hungry and Vietnamese food is just too healthy sometimes. Substantial, hearty, delicious burgers but not cheap. Prices start around the 110,000 Dong point. Luckily for me, Jim’s also does really good vegan burgers.
MSG in Hoi An and Restaurants That Don’t Use MSG in Hoi An
MSG is a real problem and it seems the more MSG I eat, the worse my reactions become. How to tell if your food contains MSG? Your beer will taste weird afterwards. To me, the beer starts to taste like formaldehyde. Assume that everything you eat contains MSG unless otherwise stated. If, like me, you have a real problem with MSG, type ” I cannot eat MSG, is this food safe for me ? ” or similar, into your phone and get it translated into Vietnamese to show your waiter before ordering. We are fairly certain that the street food we buy regularly from locals-only food stalls does not contain MSG, otherwise the following restaurants state that they do not use MSG.
Mien Hien vegetarian restaurant says that it does not use MSG ( see below) A huge vegetarian and vegan exclusive menu, all good.
Chips & Fish is a great little place with good Vietnamese food for vegetarians and omnivores. It’s on the “party” side of the river, but far enough away from the noisy obnoxious music bars to be peaceful. Great prices. Their fried fish is the best any of us has had in Hoi An and their tofu with aubergine is great.
The Little Menu states that it does not use MSG but the menu is limited, very westernised Vietnamese ( Australian beef, tuna steaks and so on ) and expensive with poor vegetarian options.
The Happy Buffalo see above
The Phoenix Restaurant. Michael is a British expat and serves up burgers, breakfasts, toasted sandwiches and some Asian ( Thai and Vietnamese) food. He hates MSG but watch out for the ketchup in Hoi An. Limited vegetarian options.
Jim’s Snackbar. I think you’re safe from MSG here, next time we go I’ll ask. Serves good vegan burgers but always be cautious with ketchup.
Our Favourite Restaurants for Vietnamese Food in Hoi An
Cafe 43 has good, cheap Vietnamese food and a strong vegetarian menu too. It’s very popular and service can be terrible but the excellent vegetarian cau lau and grilled tofu in banana leaf keeps pulling me back. Unfortunately they use MSG and after a while we had to stop eating there.
Sao Mai is a small family run restaurant right on the waterfront near Hoi An Central Market. It’s away from the main tourist crowds that gather near the Japanese Bridge, but busy enough to be a good people watching spot. They serve good Banh Xeo, white rose and mojitos. If they use MSG it’s at a low level.
Mien Hien is opposite cafe 43, is vegetarian only and does not use MSG. Increasingly this restaurant is our choice despite my husband and kids being carnivores, we just can’t handle the high levels of MSG found in Hoi An restaurants.
Pho Xua is a nice little restaurant ( near Ba Le Well) that does good Vietnamese food. Low prices, but gets very full with Asian tourists.
Chips & Fish No MSG, nice food, other side of the river.
For you, for Pinterest
We didn’t try every restaurant in Hoi An, but we tried a lot. I haven’t named the ones that were bad. Also we’re still here and rapidly filling as many gaps in our culinary knowledge as possible. We’ll add more to this post. Plenty of restaurants over-charge, many use MSG and plenty serve bad tourist-fodder, but seek out Hoi An’s gems and you’ll leave very happy eaters. We’ve never had an MSG reaction after eating street food aimed at locals in Hoi An. We hope you enjoy the best food in Hoi An during your stay and figure out what to eat in Hoi An and where to eat it, it makes such a difference to arrive in town with a little insider information rather than falling victim to the fake reviews you find on some sites. Also, I’m curious. Is this what you thought eating on the road would look like? Better or worse? Cheaper or more expensive? Tell me.