Visitors to Hoi An: prepare yourself for a gastronomic affair to remember. Hoi An’s food plays a huge part its overall draw and charm—and it’s why travel and food shows endlessly highlight the town. Whether it’s your first foray into Vietnamese cuisine or you’re a long time aficionado, you will be more than satisfied with what the town has to offer. Loosen your belt and get chomping!
As an important commercial port that flourished in the 17th and 18th century, Hoi An was at the crossroads for trade that spanned Asia and Europe. Chinese and Japanese merchants—as you no doubt will have learned on your cultural tour through the UNESCO old town—were allowed to settle and open businesses, bringing with them their own customs and food. The worldly influence in Hoi An’s cuisine is clear, and the town’s diverse eats are further enriched by the mass tourism that demands favourite dishes from other regions of Vietnam. Some of Hoi An’s specialty dishes are traditional, while others have become popular more recently.
Of the latter is banh mi, the ubiquitous Vietnamese baguette sandwich that fuses French (bread, mayonnaise, pate, cold cuts) with Vietnamese (barbecue pork, cilantro, herbs, pickled veg, chilli sauce). You can find it all over the country but there is banh mi, and then there is Banh Mi Phuong. American chef/food personality Anthony Bourdain sang its praises on his television programme in 2009 and the rest is history. Morning, noon, night, the small shop always has a line-up spilling out front, with people exchanging tales of how they’ve travelled across the globe for it.
There is no aroma quite as heart stirring as a batch of fresh baked baguettes. These days things are a little more sophisticated since Banh Mi Phuong’s humble beginnings as a food stand. There are a few more variations of fillings available (vegetarians can order “op la” for an omelette filling) but the standard is still a very affordable 20,000 dong. And yes, the banh mi is sensational.
It’s easy to see how white rose dumplings got their name. Known as banh vac in Vietnamese, a white rose is a steamed rice flour dumpling with a centre of ground shrimp meat and its delicate folds do make it resemble a flower. This Chinese-influenced dish is usually served on a flat plate with sliced shallots and a vinegary dressing.
Only one place produces and supplies the entire town with banh vac, so it will be the same dumpling at each restaurant, though the presentation varies. We love how Miss Ly Cafe 22 serves it topped with crispy fried shallots. Another treat are Hoi An dumplings, large deep-fried shrimp and pork “ravioli” topped with a tomato salsa.
Mi quang is a traditional noodle dish that originates right here in Quang Nam province. The type of noodle is what makes the dish so unique. It’s a thick-cut, broad, rice noodle that somehow manages to be soft, slippery and chewy at the same time. Traditionally it was made with alkaline water which gave it a yellow colour but these days turmeric is often used to give it the sunny hue.
Unlike a noodle soup like pho, it’s served with a small amount of very rich broth. It is usually topped with roasted pork, fresh lettuce, herbs and crunchy rice crackers. The wow factor comes in the form of a few boiled quail eggs, peanuts and small fried river shrimp, meant to be eaten with the shell on. Mi quang is authentic, traditional Hoi An food, unlike cao lau, a dish that is trying to steal all its thunder.
It seems you can’t turn a corner in Hoi An without seeing vendors selling cao lau, a dish that is a more recent invention that’s morphed into a Hoi An tourist specialty, the popularity spurred on by the mythology surrounding it—mythology being the key word. The fresh noodle is said to be made with the water from ancient Cham wells hidden throughout Hoi An, with production of this labour-intensive noodle starting as everyone is falling in bed. Fat, chewy, yellowed noodles are served with slices of fatty pork, beans sprouts, raw greens, crunchy bits of rice crackers and a dark, rich pork broth gravy. Ms Vy had a hand in cao lau’s meteoric rise so it’s fitting to try it at her restaurant Morning Glory. Or head to the central market food hall, which is lined with stalls eager to serve you a bowl for 20,000-30,000 dong. The food hall is located at Tran Phu Street, between Tran Quy Cap and Tieu La Street.
Sadly, many of the street vendors in Hoi An adopt a tourist pricing system. It’s not just foreigners; if they detect a Vietnamese accent from another province, they’ll try to take them for a ride too. So when it comes to the carts and stalls in the tourist centre, it’s more than okay to ask what the price is upfront. If it seems oddly high, to bargain down a little. A little teasing, and an, “I’m from Vietnam!” may win you a smile and a local price. It depends on the type of joint and what you’re eating, but to give you a general idea, a small bowl of noodle soup at a shop costs around 20,000 dong, a large bowl 30,000 dong. We had delicious eats, swift service and local prices by simply venturing outside the tourist centre.
For example, chicken rice or com ga has exploded in popularity in Hoi An. Similar to Hainanese chicken rice, it was brought to Central Vietnam during the marine Silk Road trading era. Now it’s Hoi An’s version of soul food: simple, hearty and delicious. Rice is cooked in flavourful chicken stock and served with shredded chicken (which has been boiled whole), herbs, thin slices of onion and a bowl of broth. Add a squirt of lime and a dollop of Hoi An’s famed fiery, smokey, sweet chilli jam (another must try) before chowing down.
Want to join the com ga mania? A local warned against popular Com Ga Ba Buoi and all the others on Phan Chu Trinh, saying it was touristy and overpriced. Instead, they directed us to two great joints just north of the tourist centre. Read on for the skinny.
An Hien Com Ga at 186 Ly Thuong Kiet Street starts receiving a rush of locals at 16:00. By the end of the night, that ginormous pot of rice and heaps of whole cooked chickens are gone as this place does brisk business with their 30,000 dong meal. The rice is so, so, so tasty and the saddest moment is when you’re scraping the last grain from the plate. We visited here several times and never saw another foreigner, which is a very good sign.
An alternative is the smaller joint Dung Com Ga (pronounced “yung”) a block west on the same street at 226 Ly Thuong Kiet. We think An Hien has the edge but Dung’s is still very good. Their plate is 20,000 dong.
With these Hoi An local dishes ticked off the list, there’s a wide variety of other Vietnam must-tries. Look for mobile vendors pushing carts, riding bicycles, carrying baskets balanced on yokes or zipping around on motorbike with a loudspeaker repeating what they offer. Then there are the pop-up stalls with plastic stools on the footpaths and in alleys. Finally, and our favourite, are the one-dish restaurants with multiple generations of the same family making one thing and doing it very well.
Bun is fresh rice vermicelli and bun bo or (beef) noodle soup is an extremely popular choice for breakfast, even on the hottest of mornings. Again, venture just outside the tourist centre for a super tasty 20,000 dong bowl at 101 Pham Hong Thai, just north of where Tran Hung Dao turns into Cua Dai Street. Locals whiz in on motorbikes for a take away while a crowd gathers around the stand, pushing to get their order in. A gran stoically doles out the noodles. You can also try the famed Hue-style bun bo Hue. Get there before 08:30.
Keep your eyes out for banh bao, the steamed bun similar to Chinese baozi, usually stuffed with pork and sometimes also with mushrooms and a quail egg. Find them in the steamers on street corners or on the go, in a glass case attached to motorbikes. Bun cary is a meat, fish or tofu curry, and you’ll no doubt also find the familiar pho noodle soup. For afternoon snacks, there’s banh can, a melt-in-the-mouth crisp nest of herb-infused, tempura-like batter cradling a flash-fried quail egg. Banh bot loc is a clear, chewy tapioca dumpling filled with pork and shrimp. Wash it down with fresh-pressed sugar cane juice nuoc mia. Sweets come in the form of donuts, hot soft tofu drowned in caramelised gingery sugar syrup or dau hu nong, and che, which refers to a sweet soup with a motley of beans and fruit.
Vegetarian restaurants (look for “Quan Chay”) have a wide variety of vegetable stir-fries, soups and dishes that use soy or bean curd mock-meats, usually with a display of trays of various things you can heap onto a plate with rice. Frugal travellers take note: these joints are very cheap. They’ll be especially busy on the first and 15th days of the lunar the month, sometimes also the 14th and 30th, when Buddhists in Vietnam abstain from meat. Keep in mind that sometimes restaurants and vendors with a meat specialty will close for those days.
If you are very interested in Hoi An cuisine, it’s well worth doing a cooking class or food tour.
Bun bo noodle soup: 101 Pham Hong Thai St; open daily until 08:30.
An Hien Com Ga: 186 Ly Thuon Kiet St; open daily 16:00.
Banh Mi Phuong: 2B Phan Chau Trinh St; T: (0905) 743 773.
Dung Com Ga: 226 Ly Thuong Kiet St; open daily at 16:00.
Miss Ly Cafe 22: 22 Nguyen Hue St; T: (0510) 386 1603; email@example.com; open daily 11:00-22:00.
Com Ga Ba Buoi: 22 Phan Chu Trinh
The Ms Vy empire of restaurants (Morning Glory, Mermaid, Vy’s Market) is perennially popular and there’s no denying she’s found a formula that appeals to the masses. They are solid picks and easy to find, but there are plenty of other worthy restaurants to try.
Streets Restaurant Cafe is one of our top picks for Hoi An, and not just because the food is yum. Streets is a training restaurant for street kids and disadvantaged youth, providing culinary and hospitality skills, housing and support in an 18-month programme. Under the watchful eyes of teachers, students provided an experience that honestly surpassed all our other dining experiences in Hoi An.
Enter the cheery yellow building and you’re greeted, given a welcome snack and cold towel, and your drink is poured for you. The menu is an excellent introduction to classic Vietnamese cuisine and Hoi An dishes, tamed a notch for Western palates. Our bun ga nuong, cold rice vermicelli salad with chicken, was the perfect dish for a hot day. All dishes are 75,000 to 95,000 dong. Streets is popular. In high season without a reservation, try going in off hours.
Tucked down the lane to Ba Le Well, Ba Le Well Restaurant is hugely popular with both locals and tourists drawn by the deluge of media and guide coverage. Metal tables spill out into the alleyway—squeeze into one to be hastily served a set menu of plates eaten nem style. Fill a rice paper wrapper with lettuce, fresh herbs, pickled cabbage, a deep-fried spring roll with a selection of barbecue lemongrass pork, pork meat balls and banh xeo, a fried rice flour pancake stuffed with bean sprouts. Don’t forget the chilli sauce. A set is enormous and will have you waddling out—a light snack for vegetarians this is not. It’s good and filling, but not life changing; perhaps it’s impossible to live up to the hype. The weakest part on our visit was the banh xeo, which was greasy—we’ve had much better. Still, it’s an excellent feed and won’t break the pocketbook. A set is 120,000 dong. Go during off hours to avoid the mania.
The Little Menu has done a beautiful job with its space. Striking large-scale oil paintings adorn shabby chic walls and unlike so many of the cramped restaurants in the old town, the high ceilings, wood tables and decor have a way of making diners feel relaxed and comfortable. The house speciality is the addictive crispy duck spring roll, 80,000 dong. And save room for dessert: green tea creme brulee, white chocolate mousse or coconut creme caramel. The friendly service is the cherry on top.
The acclaimed Mai Fish (Ca Mai) is one of three belonging to Chef Duc. Unlike his Mango Mango and Mango Rooms Restaurants, Mai Fish focuses on traditional Vietnamese family dishes so if you’re afraid to try street food, you can enjoy the Hoi An classics without the gristly bits. The cheapest and one of the most popular items is the banh mi, at 60,000 dong. Other mains run 100,000 dong and up. Because of the open concept kitchen, the inside dining room fills with heavy cooking smells but most people head straight for the riverside terrace anyway, a lovely spot in the evening. We found the service to be rather abrupt and unfriendly and we were disappointed with the cao lau—the slices of roasted pork were dry and tough as leather and oddly, we were served it with a bottle of soy sauce which is basically a restaurant insulting its own food. However, the neighbouring tables were raving about the presentation and taste of their dishes, so perhaps it’s a matter of choosing wisely.
Their more upscale Mango Rooms is a splurge. We didn’t try it because it was beyond our budget but the tuna ceviche, interesting cocktails, the menu of fusion dishes and the small riverside terrace were awfully tempting. The happy hour, three-course set menu lunch (380,000 dong) and dinner (500,000 dong) are good value.
Ba Le Well Restaurant: Track 45-51 Tran Hung Dao; T: (0510) 386 4443; open daily 10:00-22:00.
Mai Fish (Ca Mai):
Streets Restaurant & Cafe: 17 Le Loi St; T: (0510) 391 1948; www.streetsinternational.org/home/28-history-streets-international.html; open daily 12:00-21:30.
The Little Menu: 12 Le Loi St; T: (0510) 393 9668; open daily 10:00-22:00.
Nu Eatery is one of our longstanding Hoi An favourites. Located down the first alley west of the Japanese Bridge, this nook-in-the-wall restaurant is utterly charming with its patterned tile floors, faded turquoise walls and wooden tables. It does what other restaurants in Hoi An can’t seem to do: a narrow menu of dishes with seasonal ingredients, all prepared and plated to perfection—no cao lau or White Rose dumplings here. The delightful small bites fuse Asian and Western flavours, like delicious pork belly sliders served in steamed buns and creamy slaw.
Appetisers, soups and salads are only 60,000 dong, while a hearty main are 80,000 dong. Try the divine rice bowls, available with meat or in vegetarian versions. Brave the steep, rickety stairs for additional seating up top, a wonderful spot to wind down the day. While there’s no view of anything in particular, it’s an oasis of calm in a tourist hurricane.
Ganesh is something of a legend. If the name rings familiar, it’s because there are locations across Vietnam, but it is universally acknowledged that the restaurant in Hoi An reigns supreme. People go as far as to say it is the best thing about Hoi An, period. This casual eatery attracts all walks of life with Indian favourites: samosas, curries, dahl, scrumptious naan and things hot from the tandoori. A veg curry is only 80,000 dong, while a meat dish hovers around 99,000 dong. Even though every inch of space has been squeezed out of the dining room, make a reservation or get there before 18:30, or else you’ll be waiting for a table. And get your order in stat. Food does take time to arrive, a testament to everything being made fresh to order.
Those craving Italian will be pleased with well-established Good Morning Vietnam. Its menu covers all the Italian courses, from zuppa to dolce, and all the important carbohydrates in between. A basic pasta and tomato sauce is 125,000 dong and basic pizza is 125,000 dong, but of course, the sky is the limit with toppings and sauces. We were very pleased with our house-made ravioli. The service is lacklustre and harried, yet the food hits the spot for those tired of spring rolls and rice.
Part of the Ms Vy empire, Cargo Club cafe-restaurant is one of the most family-friendly restaurants in town. Whether you want breakfast, cafe fare, afternoon tea, Vietnamese or Western dishes—pasta, salads, sandwiches, desserts—Cargo churns it out to a steady crowd. Prices are not cheap, with a breakfast set at 85,000 dong and mains at around 180,000 dong. The rooftop terrace overlooking the river is one of the town’s best—make a reservation to snag a table there.
Another family friendly joint: Outside of town on Cua Dai Road, Dingo Deli is a haven for travellers craving Western comforts, and parents seeking a break—the playground will keep kids happily entertained. The indoor seating is air-conditioned and the menu runs the gamut: gourmet salads, soups, custom sandwiches, pub snacks, Mexican, gluten-free meals, fresh juice, all-day breakfast, along with cakes, pastries and desserts—phew! You can also pick up bakery and deli goods.
Cargo Club Cafe & Restaurant: 107-109 Nguyen Thai Hoc St; T: (0510) 3911 227; firstname.lastname@example.org; msvy-tastevietnam.com/cargo-club
Dingo Deli: Ganesh: 24 Tran Hung Dao St, T: (051) 0386 4538; email@example.com; ganesh.vn; open daily 11:00-15:00, 17:30-22:00.
Good Morning Vietnam: 102 Nguyen Thai Hoc St; T: (0510) 391 0227; open daily 10:00-22:30.
Nu Eatery: 10A Nguyen Thi Minh Khai St (west of Japanese bridge); T: 01295 190190; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.facebook.com/NuEateryHoiAn; open Mon-Sat 12:00-21:00.
Cocobox makes you feel good inside and out with its smug 60,000 dong cold-press juice combinations that make raw fruit and veg and healthful ingredients taste good. If you’ve had one too many beer and banh mis, The Pipe Cleaner might do the trick. Or be sinful with scoops of house-made ice cream (get it affogado, drowning in a shot of espresso).
If you’re too full for a sandwich or baked treat, the shelves are loaded with made-in-Vietnam products in fancy packaging so you can pick up souvenirs and snacks. The big drawback is the limited seating. The cafe is always, always full except for first thing in the morning, when the whole town is quiet, so this is the best time to indulge in a bowl of their house-made yoghurt mixed with crunchy cinnamon granola and fresh Da Lat strawberries. It’s a tiny spot on Le Loi, a block north of the river.
A spin off of their signature restaurant in Sapa, The Hill Station is a jaw-droppingly beautiful cafe-deli bursting with creaky French colonial character. The building is in the eastern side of the old quarter, hidden on the short street Nguyen Duy Hieu directly across from Yaly Couture’s big factory showroom. The downstairs is sleek and chic while the upstairs has a rustic, heritage feel—if those crumbling walls could talk, we’d imagine some interesting stories. An Americano is 45,000 dong, sandwiches 100,000 dong. Get a cheese and charcuterie board with your glass of wine, or find a place to check email at one of their tables with plugs.
There’s a simple pleasure in Mia Coffee, a corner cafe with an L-shaped terrace hidden by a curtain of greenery. At this cafe, the price is right: only 24,000 dong for a long black and 58,000 dong for a panini. Save room for carrot cake. Find it at 20 Phan Boi Chau Street, east of the cloth market.
In 2017 the social enterprise that gave us culinary training restaurant Streets Restaurant Cafe took over a bakery and now those on the way to An Bang Beach will find an air-con respite at 9 Grains by Street. Perk up at this pit stop with a proper espresso (Arabica beans from Da Lat), refuel with a 70,000 dong sandwich or cool down with an ice cream. There’s a breakfast menu, WiFi, comfy seats and cafe tunes, as well as fresh bread if you need a loaf.
It’s worth mentioning Hoi An Roastery—it seems you can’t turn a corner in the old quarter without finding one. A slick set up with three locations, it’s the Starbucks of Hoi An, attracting the masses with quality beans and a flash design. You can get your coffee any way you like and there’s a range of desserts and pastries for 59,000 dong.
9 Grains Bakery: 441 Hai Ba Trung; open daily 07:00-17:00.
Cocobox: 94 Le Loi St; T: (0510) 3862 000; cocoboxvietnam.com; open daily 09:00-22:00.
Hoi An Roastery—Espresso & Coffee House: 135 Tran Phu St; T: (0510) 392 7772; hoianroastery.com/; open daily 07:00-22:00.
Mia Coffee: 20 Phan Boi Chau St; T: (090) 555 20 61; www.facebook.com/miacoffeehouse; open daily 08:00-17:00.
The Hill Station Deli: 321 Nguyen Duy Hieu St, across from Yaly Couture; T: (0510) 629 2999; thehillstation.com; open daily 07:00-22:00.
It’s like having front row seats to a live theatre at GAM (Gemstones Art Museum), a gem gallery-cum-wine bar. Their front terrace overlooking the busiest section on the river, near the An Hoi pedestrian bridge, is ideal for people watching and worth the price of a beer (40,000 dong and up) or cocktail (115,000 dong). Once the sun is gone, things light up upstairs. There’s more prime viewing to be had on their balcony, open at 19:00. The upstairs admission is “free” with the purchase of a drink.
Another wine bar worth quaffing at is White Marble, at the busy corner of Le Loi and Nguyen Thai Hoc Street, one block north of the river. The high tables, tapas menu and decent menu of wines by the glass (110,000 to 150,000 dong) or bottle make this an attractive spot to swirl and sip.
For a bird’s eye view and cool evening breeze, head upstairs of the book/gift shop at 166 Tran Phu Street for The Chef Restaurant. The first floor is an elegant yet casual open dining room, while the rooftop terrace overlooks the town’s merry rooftops. It’s a sweet spot to relax. The menu of Belgian beer is extensive, but if a 118,000 dong bottle is a bit dear, regular beer is 20,000 dong. Starters hover around 50,000 dong, while mains are 115,000 dong.
There’s nothing seedy about the cheekily named Dive Bar, part of Cham Island Dive Centre. It’s a fun hangout spot to meet people and socialise. The lively crowd is complemented by live music some nights. It’s a lot larger than at first glance, with a pool table and a back garden area. The dive centre/bar also throws on a monthly full moon beach party on Cham Island.
To catch the game, head to 3 Dragons, a pub in a pretty two-storey colonial family house just east of the market. There’s an entrance both on Phan Boi Chau Street and on the other side on the river, making it an appealing riverside location. Yes, they’ve got big screens in addition to the requisite pool table and a menu of pub favourites, as well as a few Vietnamese bites. An Aussie Burger will set you back 190,000 dong, a Full English Breakfast is 140,000 dong and hark all ye Canadians, there’s poutine. It’s all served with friendly efficiency and their kitchen is open later than most. There’s usually a quiz night once a week.
O’Malleys Irish Pub should be more popular than it is, but given its location in the quiet east edge of the old town and the pricier drinks ($2 for a small draught—no bucket drinks here), it’s a low-key spot. Attached to Anantara Resort, it has five large TVs to watch the game, including one massive screen, a billiard table, darts and a variety of seating: indoor, outdoor garden, cushy high-back sofas, high tables, low tables and bar. It’s your typical pub: warm wood panelling, black and white photos, pub fare and the obligatory Guinness sign. Look for promotional vouchers in the free monthly Hoi An what’s on/map found all over town.
Yet another beautiful heritage wooden house in the old quarter is home to a great place to lounge. Green Mango is an atmospheric spot with a generous happy hour from 12:00 to 20:00.
Most watering holes in the old quarters promptly shut at 22:00. To keep the libations going, you’ll have to head to the other side of the river, crossing the bridge to An Hoi Islet where there’s a whole row of bars ready to ply backpackers with bucket drinks and shisha. It’s hard to recommend one over the other and names change so frequently—all have round-the-clock happy hour, all cocktails will use cheap alcohol or be watered down—so it only takes a quick scan to figure out where is the popular spot of the moment. Do not leave drinks unattended, leave your valuables at home and be extremely sceptical when it comes to the motorbike taxi drivers waiting around here—we’ve heard reports of aggressive behaviour.
Alas, even these joints are forced to shut down at midnight and those motorbike taxis will offer to take you to something still open. Use good judgement and extreme caution when it comes to after-hours dive bars. They are rife with scams and we’ve heard alarming reports of spiked drinks and armed motorbike gangs waiting to pounce on backpackers.
3 Dragons: 51 Phan Boi Chau St; T: 0936 595 333; http://3dragonshoian.com/; open daily 08:00-00:00.
GAM (Gemstones Art Museum): 130 Nguyen Thai Hoc St, close to An Hoi Bridge; T: (0510) 393 8468; gam-hoian.com; open daily 09:00-22:00.
Green Mango: 54 Nguyen Thai Hoc St; T: (0510) 392 9918; email@example.com; greenmango.vn
O’Malleys: 01 Pham Hong Thai St (at Anantara Hoi An Resort), two blocks east of central market; T: (0510) 391 4555; www.facebook.com/omalleyshoian; open daily 15:00-23:30.
The Chef: 166 Tran Phu St, 1st floor; T: (0510) 3911 225; firstname.lastname@example.org; open daily 09:00-22:00.
The Dive Bar: 88 Nguyen Thai Hoc St; T: (0510) 3910782; www.vietnamscubadiving.com; open daily 10:00-00:00.
White Marble Wine Bar & Restaurant: 98 Le Loi St; T: (0510) 3911 862; email@example.com
In addition to the aforementioned Streets Restaurants in the Vietnamese food section above, here are other establishments that are good for both stomach and soul.
Tea please: part of the Reaching Out social enterprise, the Reaching Out Teahouse employs speech- and hearing-impaired servers who would struggle to find employment elsewhere. The setting in an ancient house at 131 Tran Phu Street, in the heart of the old quarter, is gorgeous. The characterful space is full of antiques and interesting details that make sipping tea an artful treat. There’s loose-leaf tea and coffee, hot or cold, with tasting notes of each kind on the menu. A pot costs 60,000 dong. Also visit their fair trade shop at 103 Nguyen Thai Hoc Street.
U Cafe’s multi-storey riverside building east of town has unobstructed views of the water and this cute spot claims it’s a social enterprise that aims to help youth through employment and training. It’s a pleasant spot to watch the river with a coffee, tea, juice, smoothie or ice cream. There’s even a small water feature on the upstairs terrace. The building is on the small motorbike/pedestrian river promenade east of town and Anantara Resort. It’s close to the Petrolimex station and 39/41 Tran Quang Khai.
Reaching Out Teahouse: U Cafe: Hoai riverside road, near 39/41 Tran Quang Khai St; T: (0510) 350 1118; https://ucafehoian.wordpress.com/; open Mon, Wed-Sun 08:00-21:00.
Beachfront dining is a memorable part of the An Bang Beach experience. A string of good eateries are decked out with chairs, loungers, huts, toilets and rinse-off showers, providing a fantastic place to chill out for the price of a meal.
Soul Kitchen is a top spot with its comfortable chairs and cabanas overlooking the ocean, its laidback vibe and light music, replaced by great live music in the evenings. They serve typical beach fare: salads, snacks and meat and seafood from the grill (120,000 to 150,000 dong). Portions are generous and usually served with thick-cut fries and salad. There’s lots of staff though this restaurant is often busy and orders do take some time to arrive. To find it, as you arrive to An Bang, head down the lane to your left.
In the same row of restaurants is Luna D’Autunno, where you can indulge in a darn delicious pizza on the beach. The generously sized pizzas range from 130,000 to 170,000 dong, and there are also pastas, salads and gelato. Our only gripe is that despite recent renovations, the loungers are uncomfortable. The cushions need a fabric cover or towel else you end up having to peel yourself from the plastic.
If Soul Kitchen is too busy or you’re not in the mood for Italian, check out The Hmong Sisters for barbecue, the ultra relaxed Banyan Beach Bar or one of the local seafood restaurants. If you use a joint’s beach beds and umbrellas, you will have to pay for it unless you purchase something.
Banyan Beach Bar:
Luna D’Autunno: An Bang Beach (6 Cam An); T: (016) 5947 0374; www.lunadautunno.vn; open daily 11:00-21:30.
Soul Kitchen Beach Bar & Restaurant: An Bang Beach; T: (090) 644 0320; www.soulkitchen.sitew.com; open daily 07:00-23:00.
The Hmong Sisters:
For fruit, veg, meat and seafood, there’s the Central Market at the river. Dingo Deli has baked breads, cookies, cereals, fresh dairy products and a deli section with cold cuts. 9 Grains also has fresh bread. The Hill Station has gourmet cheeses and cured meats. Cocobox has foodie things like dried fruit, coffee, teas and spices. For anything more substantial, head into Da Nang which has big box Lotte Mart, Big C and a small grocery store at Vincom Shopping Mall. In terms of proximity to Hoi An, Lotte Mart is the closest (25 kilometres).
Cindy Fan is a Canadian writer/photographer and author of So Many Miles, a website that chronicles the love of adventure, food and culture. After falling in love with sticky rice and Mekong sunsets, in 2011 she uprooted her life in Toronto to live la vida Laos. She’s travelled to over 40 countries and harbours a deep affection for Africa and Southeast Asia. In between jaunts around the world, she calls Laos and Vietnam home where you'll find her traipsing through rice paddies, standing beside broken-down buses and in villages laughing with the locals.