I was looking forward to my trip to Vietnam mostly for all the food and coffee I planned on eating while I was there. No place quite delivered on quality of food more than Hoi An. Next to Chiang Mai, this central region of Vietnam is home to some of the very best dishes in all of Southeast Asia.
One of my favorite things about traveling is consuming all the native food and drinks I can get my hands on. Because even though there really isn’t anything you can’t get in New York City, it’s never as good as getting it from the source. Where the ingredients and recipes are ingrained in the culture as much as the language.
Here is my list of everything you must eat and drink while in Hoi An. Including a list of some of my favorite Vietnamese restaurants and cafes. (Even one non Vietnamese suggestion)
Drink Coconut Coffee at Phin Coffee
Vietnamese people make some of the strongest and most delicious tasting coffee in the world. While Hanoi coffee shops are all the rage, do not leave Hoi An without visiting this adorable cafe. When you get there, order some of their famous coconut coffee.
The place is tucked away in a tiny alley. It’s the perfect distance away from the crowded streets of the old town. Don’t be afraid to chat with the staff. They are helpful and easily some of the nicest people you’ll ever want to sit and have some coffee with.
They will tell you all about Vietnamese coffee and it is obvious the amount of passion they have for their beverages.
Waste a day here. Have fun petting the neighborhood dogs while you watch them play. All while drinking as much coconut coffee as you can consume.
Eat Cau Lao and White Rose Dumplings at Morning Glory
Cau Lao and White Rose Dumplings are the must try dishes in this central region of Vietnam. Cau Lao is a noodle dish made of hot pork soaking in a sweet and tangy broth. It tastes as heavenly as it sounds. White Rose Dumplings are light rice paper dumplings steamed with seasoned shrimp and topped with crispy shallots.
Both dishes are absolutely mouth watering. While you can get them many places, you won’t find any better than Morning Glory Restaurant. While not a budget restaurant, it is worth the splurge. And by splurge I mean still cheap when compared to New York prices.
Even if you are trying to pinch pennies, do not skip this restaurant!
Old Town Market Dining
I tried the same dishes at the central market in the old town for a fraction of the cost. The taste was underwhelming while the atmosphere was chaotic. The women manning the multiple food venues pounce at you before you even have time to process what each place has to offer.
I picked a place that had the least pushy staff which gave my friend and I time to peruse the menu. Then I sat down at one of the metal benches right in front of where they cook the food. I ordered my now favorite dishes in Vietnam, and a LaRue beer to wash it all down.
It was an experience to sit down and eat dinner steps away from the woman cooking it. Especially with the chaos of the market around as the background setting. But if you really want a quick cheap place to eat, I think you’re better off sticking with Bahn Mi sandwiches.
All About Bahn Mi
There are two places that rival for the best Bahn Mi sandwiches in all of Vietnam. At just about 80 cents (US currency) a sandwich, you should eat them at any place, any chance you get. With roasted pork, pate, and pickled vegetables smothered in a spicy and tangy sauce, they are delicious, cheap, and take-away friendly.
Basically they are a budget travelers dream food and I consumed them almost daily while in Vietnam.
Bahn Mi Queen is probably one of the most well known places to get a traditional Bahn Mi Sandwich. It is delicious and you should try it. With plenty of seating, it was easy to get a table and the ordering process is efficient. The sandwich was everything I hoped it would be.
What I didn’t expect was being solicited for tailor made clothes while I ate my food by the tailor shop owner. She happened to be related to the restaurant owner and chatted up each table about her shop. A small price to pay for what is truly a delicious sandwich. But it was definitely worth an eye roll or two to my friend and I when we went back a different day for more.
What can I say, I’ll do anything for a tasty sandwich.
The other must go to Bahn Mi sandwich spot is Bánh Mì Phượng, or known by some as the Anthony Bourdain Bahn Mi place. I couldn’t give you the exact reason why, but I can say that this goes down as my favorite Bahn Mi sandwich (maybe it was the no external soliciting I got while eating).
But simply put, you should absolutely go to both restaurants. I ordered a traditional Bahn Mi sandwich at both places, but they do have chicken and vegetarian options as well.
The Best Mexican Food in Vietnam
Sometimes when you’re traveling for long periods of time, you miss certain kinds of foods that you can only get when you’re home. (Being born and raised in Southern California, I’ve even had to search high and low for the best Mexican food in New York.)
And sometimes while in a foreign country, you’re scrolling through google searches for the best restaurants in Hoi An. Ya know, just looking for inspiration – and you stumble across the proclaimed best Mexican food in Vietnam.
And so maybe you, your best friend, and your new found dorm hostel mate (who happens to also be from California) find yourselves in Hola Taco, drinking fresh margaritas and delicious nachos with pineapple coleslaw, and you have absolutely no regrets that you went with a non traditional restaurant for dinner.
If you have a similar craving while in Hoi An, go ahead and go to Hola Taco…I won’t judge.