I can be a little bit obsessive when it comes to food. I drive my husband crazy with the amount of research I do before I visit anywhere. I am of the opinion that if I have limited time I want to get the most I possibly can out of it. I weighed up the pros on cons of tours all offering tastings of the best street food in Hoi An. The Original Taste of Hoi An caught my eye. I was delighted when I was invited to be their guest and jumped at the opportunity to join them on a tour.
One of the first things that I read about the tour was that it is the only Vietnamese Food Tour featured in National Geographic Traveler Magazine’s 15 Food Tours Worth The Travel . BBC Good Food also raved about the tour. That’s quite some claim to make so I was more than happy to see if it lived up to the hype.
This was my second visit to Hoi An. I have travelled extensively throughout Vietnam savouring its culinary delights. I have eaten in fancy restaurants and sat on plastic chairs on the side of the road in search of the perfect meal. There is no doubt in my mind that if you are a foodie then you must make a beeline for Hoi An.
The day of the tour dawned and I skipped breakfast because I was about to try more than 40 different dishes. I could hardly wait and met Neville in my hotel lobby to set off on my culinary adventure.
Neville is a larger than life Aussie and he and his wife Colleen run the tour. He is witty, very entertaining and has a vast knowledge and love of the local food and culture. He started the tours in 2011 and is still going strong. The tours are hugely popular so please book well in advance.
Where to find the best street food in Hoi An
Naturally, it’s not where the tourist can be found, but where the locals eat and shop. We made our way to the Tan An market for the first part of the tour. It is much the same as many markets that I have visited throughout SE Asia, but the first thing that I notice is that there is no smell of meat or food that has been left out in the sun for too long. Instead the fresh smell of herbs, and delicious food being cooked wafts across the market making me instantly feel hungry.
I don’t intend to take you through all the dishes we ate, but instead, I have chosen some that surprised me and a couple that I really enjoyed. Overall there was nothing that I did not like, but some things were more memorable than others.
Pancakes and snails
We stop and try a bit of this and a bit of that. We have one of my favourite snacks, crispy pancakes filled with bean sprouts, herbs, pork and shrimp and then wander off along the road. We come to a vendor selling snails. These are not the French variety, but tiny snails that are collected daily from the ocean. It is a popular snack in Hoi An but you could never have them as a meal. They are small and it takes a great deal of patience to extract them from the shells and to my surprise they are delicious. This is not something that I thought I would eat in Vietnam. I was definitely tasting interesting food and some of the best street food in Hoi An.
We walk on a bit further and come to a bubbling cauldron of black gloopy witches brew. It is called Xi ma (pronounced See Maa) or black sesame and is a sweetened soupy concoction. It is delicious and nutty in flavour. You can taste coconut and apparently it is good for your digestive system. It is served hot directly from the pot. Honestly, I would have walked straight past this, but I am so glad that I tasted it.
Pho is the national dish of Vietnam. You will find it wherever you go. The secret of a good pho comes down to the quality of the broth. I have learnt over the course of many bowls of pho up and down the country is that no two bowls are the same. There are secret ingredients handed down in families that chefs guard religiously to make their pho unique.
The pho of the north is totally different from the way it is prepared in the south of the country. In simple terms, it is a broth with noodles added, beef or chicken pieces with fresh herbs and chilli. This is however really an oversimplification and you have to taste pho to understand the depth of flavour it delivers. It is food for the soul.
Next up is a Bánh mì which translates simply as “wheat”. A Bánh mì is a fabulous version of a sandwich. It is filled with pâté, pork, fresh herbs and crunchy veggies all stuffed into a heavenly crisp baguette. For my money, it’s probably one of the best sandwiches in the world!
It originates from the time when the French were in Vietnam, in 1887, when it was just a buttered baguette with some pâté. Once the French left in 1954 it evolved into what it is today.
The Tasting Room
We make our way back to the tasting room that Neville has set up. We taste more and more delicious food and learn a bit about their origins. It’s all washed down with a cold beer which is most welcome after the heat of the morning.
Neville supports the local community in so many ways. I like the fact that many of the dishes we tasted are from recipes that have been handed down through the generations and the same families are still preparing them for us today. Everything is crafted with love and it is a privilege to taste these age-old recipes.
We finish our tour with an iced coffee. Did you know that Vietnam is the second largest producer of coffee in the world with an annual production of more than 1.5 million metric tonnes per annum? I had no idea just how much the Vietnamese love their coffee.
It is called ca phe sua da – which means “coffee, milk, ice”. Strong coffee is dripped through a metal filter into a glass with more than a dash of condensed milk. As the coffee drips it melts the condensed milk. Then it is stirred and a good amount of ice is added.
I don’t have sugar in my coffee and the first hit was cloyingly sweet. Somehow, it grows on you. It is refreshing and is perfect in this climate.
The French may have introduced coffee to Vietnam, but the Vietnamese have put their own unique twist on it and made it into something special.
Discover more: The Ultimate Guide To Hoi An
Was this the best street food tour in Hoi An? Did the Original Taste of Hoi An live up to my expectations? Quite honestly I had not set the bar high enough. It managed to exceed all my expectations by leaps and bounds. If you are a foodie and want to learn about the culture as well as enjoy amazing food then this is the only tour that you should consider doing in Hoi An. I know that you will be blown away by it like I was.
You can book your tour directly on The Original Taste of Hoi An’s website.
Thanks to The Original Taste of Hoi An, but naturally, these views expressed are my own.
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