Hoi An's favourite comfort food
Com ga originated a few tens of kilometres down the coast, away from Hoi An, in Tam Ky. It’s similar to the Hainanese dish wenchang, which was introduced by immigrants to Central Vietnam during the marine silk road trading era. Hoi An then claimed the title of being the main shipping and R&R port for traders waiting for the tides to turn before continuing on their way back home. This history contributed to the creation of pretty much all Hoi An’s specialty dishes and why the food here is considered to be so very different to the rest of Vietnam.
Com ga is Hoi An’s favourite comfort food; translated it’s simply chicken rice — delicious fluffy rice cooked in chicken stock with a tiny bit of turmeric for colour, thrown in a wok and served with boiled, coarsely shredded chicken plus Vietnamese mint, lime juice, sliced onions and chillies.
A good old-fashioned street vendor will also offer a good sized spoonful of stewed innards along with some chicken blood cake, ginger and garlic on top for extra flavour (it’s not quite as bad as you might think it sounds and you will be offered the choice). We prefer ours with a little Quang Nam smokey, fermented chilli sauce.
The table will be set with various confusing dipping sauces and sides – fish, chilli and occasionally oyster dipping sauces line the table along with jars of pickled green chillies and plates stacked with slivers of young papaya, carrot and a side bowl of clear chicken broth. Sit back for a moment and watch other diners; you’ll soon get an understanding of what goes where (much of it on the floor if you’re at a good street food stall).
A great street food stall to try com ga is at Com Ga Huong on the pavement outside 48 Le Loi Street. It’s one of Hoi An’s most famous com ga joints for very good reason and although it does see a few tourists (it’s right in the centre of all the action) it’s still reassuringly packed with Vietnamese. Huong’s opens daily at around 14:00 and stops serving once the pot is clean.
For family-run restaurants, try Com Ga Ba Buoi at 22 Phan Chu Trinh. It’s reputed to have been set up in the 1950s and has been run by the same family ever since. A large plate will cost you the advertised (tourist) price of 30,000 VND. Further up the street at number 16 is the imaginatively named Com Ga, which is always packed. The two sisters that run this stall serve a slightly different version again, adding coconut milk to the rice to lend a slightly more exotic flavour. Prices here vary (for tourists) but expect to pay around 20-30,000 VND depending on their mood.
If you prefer your com ga served in slightly more upscale surroundings, Mermaid – 2 Tran Phu and Miss Ly’s Cafe on 22 Nguyen Hue are our favouite tourist-oriented restaurants. If you are nearer the backpacker end of town, then White Sail on Tran Cao Van serve up a mean and clean version — expect to pay upwards of 40,000 VND for the privilege though.
By Caroline Mills
Last updated on 24th July, 2014.