Vietnam is well-known for its vibrant and unique street food, with a wonderful diversity from north to south.
These tiny stalls, filled with tantalising aromas of noodle soup, banh mi sandwiches, and other delicacies, crowd the streets in every city.
But it’s not just a cuisine – street food is a very social and cultural experience. These street side restaurants are an important part of Vietnamese life, places for talking and sharing a laugh over food, tea, or beer.
Hoi An, like many older parts of Vietnam, boasts a vast network of street side and back alley eateries, filled with tempting, flavourful and steaming delicacies available for only a few USD.
One of the most popular options is mi quang, a regional favourite which costs between 30,000 – 55,000 VND.
It is a dish composed of thick rice noodles, sometimes tinged yellow by turmeric, served in a few teaspoons of broth. The steamy liquid is flavoured with fish sauce, black pepper, garlic, and shallots, and can come with any number of ingredients. Sometimes the main feature is pork, other times it is chicken; beef, fish and shrimp versions can also be found.
The flavourful dish is often accompanied by egg, herbs such as mint and coriander, lettuce, sliced banana flower, chilli sauce, and peanuts.
Small, crispy squares of banh trang me (toasted sesame rice crackers) crown the dish, and can be softened in the broth and eaten with the delicious medley of tastes.
Its sister dish Cao Lau, found only in Hoi An, is made with slightly thinner noodles in a broth, topped with greens, sliced pork, fried pork rind, and other goodies.
So the next time you see a woman in a traditional rice paper hat spooning out these delicious specialties, take a chair and enjoy the exotic mix of flavours and textures. Sit shoulder-to-shoulder with locals, and relax with a cold cup of tra da (iced tea).