From all of our travels, one of the most memorable tours that we did was the Original Taste of Hoi An Food Tour. Having enjoyed and done that tour several times already, we decided to try a different one this time. Since Hoi An is known for having great food, there are a lot of new foodie tours that have sprung up here over the years. We found a free walking food tour (tip-based) with good ratings and decided to give it a try.
We met Vinh near the post office and had a great feeling from the start. He was friendly, energetic, passionate, and his English was really good. He did a particularly great job of giving an upfront explanation about what a "free tour" entails and what to expect on our journey.
Che (10,000vnd, ~$0.55cad)
Our first stop was at a small stall by the main market, where we tasted a common desert in Vietnam, called Che. It’s a mix of beans and jellies made from agar (seaweed gelatin), topped with coconut milk and condensed milk.
Banh Mi (30,000vnd, ~$1.70cad)
Next, we stopped at the Banh Mi stall that was made famous by Anthony Bourdain because it appeared on his TV series, No Reservations. Hoi An has so many Banh Mi stalls, and each offers different variations of great tastes. At this stall, we tasted the traditional Banh Mi sandwich, filled with pate, savoury meats, vegetables, herbs and sauces.
Banh Dap (5,000vnd, ~$0.30cad)
Banh Dap is a layer of a wide fresh rice noodle sandwiched between layers of a crispy baked rice pancake. The fun thing about this dish is that you have to karate-chop it before you eat it. This action creates bite sized pieces that you dip into some fish sauce and enjoy. At this particular stall, the owner makes a very potent homemade fish sauce that is well known amongst the locals. The fish sauce was really tasty, but too strong/fishy for most of the people in the group, so most of them switched to soy sauce instead.
Banh Kep (15,000vnd, ~$0.85cad) and Chen Trung (10,000vnd, ~$0.55cad)
For the next location, we walked a ways before turning down a small random alley. Vinh stopped at a local lady's house where she cooks and serves Banh Kep (Vietnamese Pizza) and Chen Trung (cooked quail eggs) in the front veranda of her home. This particular "stall" closes early, so we were their last customers of the day!
Che Xi Ma (15,000vnd, ~$0.85cad)
Nothing like a bit of desert to cut your meal! Our next dish was Xi Ma, a sweet black sesame soup. We stopped at the oldest shop in Hoi An where the family has been serving a generation-old recipe for decades. Their recipe includes medicinal Chinese herbs to maintain health, so in addition to enjoying the delicious taste and warm texture of the dish, locals come to eat the soup for good health. Vinh told us that the owner doesn't allow customers to have more than 2 servings a day!
Before going to the next spot, we stopped at a well that was hidden behind a building. We were told that this is the special well that everyone in the city uses to make the yellow "Cau Lau" noodles. We're not sure what exactly is so special about the water here, but apparently every morning, people gather around this 1000 year old well to gather the precious water to make the noodles.
Cau Lau (30,000vnd, ~$1.70cad) and Ban Xeo (20,000vnd, ~$1.10cad)
We proceeded to a restaurant near the Bale Well to try the typical and famous dish from Hoi An called Cau Lau. This restaurant is owned by one of the original Cau-Lau-making families. They used to only make and serve Cau Lau, but because they have become popular and customers request other food options, they now they serve other dishes as well. Since this was our last main food-stop of the evening, we also decided to try their Ban Xeo (Vietnamese pancakes) and it was great as well!
Sinh Tố Thập Cẩm (25,000vnd, ~$1.45cad)
To finish the evening, Vinh took us to a small stall at the side of a main road to try Sin To Thap Cam, a fruit salad served in a cop with ice and sweet milk. If you want, they will blend it to make a smoothie for you, but Vinh recommended that we try the traditional version where the fruits are left in slices and you get to use your spoon to smash all of the ingredients together until you have the consistency that you want. It was delicious and a great way to finish our meal!
We've done quite a few food tours during our travels and always end up overly full by the end. The thing that we really liked about this tour is that the food was not "included" so we just paid for each of the dishes as we went along. This gave us more control over the quantities of food that we got, so that we didn't have to over-eat or "waste" food. This, and the fact that Vinh was such a passionate and awesome tour guide, made this experience super fun and memorable. We all really enjoyed the tour, so it was a perfect way to end our last evening in Hoi An!