Hoi An for Foodies

After wandering through Hoi An’s atmospheric back lanes and along the river-front promenade, it’s time to buckle down and start eating. For most visitors, a sampler of classic Hoi An specialties is on the menu. Virtually all the restaurants offer their own version of the classics, some better than others. In a massive generalization which kind of holds up, the further the restaurant is from the river, the better the food. Here are the dishes to look for:

Cao Lau – The one classic Hoi An dish you find on every menu and in dozens of street stalls is cao lau, a dish of thick, heavy rice noodles, bean sprouts and greens topped with roast pork and crispy croutons doused in a zesty mix of fish sauce, soy sauce, garlic, sugar, salt and pepper. It’s basic, and if you get good noodles, delicious. True cao lau is supposed to be made with water from the Ba Le well – although I’m not sure we really want that.

Hoi An White Rose (Banh Bao Vac) – The elegantly named White Rose is another Hoi An favorite. Delicate shrimp-filled dumplings made with translucent dough, this specialty is chaotically shaped to resemble a rose (if you really use your imagination.) The tasty dumplings are topped with fried onions and served with a spicy dipping sauce. Yummm.

Hoanh Thanh (Won Tons) – Don’t let the spelling of hoanh thanh fool you, this is Hoi An’s version of good ol’ fashion Chinese-style won tons. Of course, hoanh thanh are served many ways. My favorite were deep fried and covered in a salsa-like topping of vegetables and sweet and sour shrimp!!! Since won tons can be found across Asia, it may seem odd to list this as a Hoi An specialty. Believe me, Hoi An won tons are crispy, mouth-watering works of art.

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