The street foods: An interesting tourist point of Hoi An

By HOANG LY |

(QNO) - Hoi An ancient town has not been famous with its beautiful and attractive tourist sites only, but you can discover here another wonderful part of Vietnamese cuisine which has expressed a part of the cultural manner of the ancient town people. Sitting side by side with other local people and tourists at a small street corner, you will realize happy and pleasant minutes in informal and friendly atmosphere, you can enjoy any foods which you like in any time with cheap prices.

Banh dap Ba Gia

When visiting Hoi An, most of tourists want to enjoy banh dap (dry pancake), especially Banh dap Ba Gia (Old Lady dry pancake). According to people in Cam Nam commune, this is the first banh dap stall in the region. Since it appeared about 30 or 40 years ago, many banh dap stalls have been built up along the Hoai riverside; therefore, Cam Nam commune has become the famous “Banh dap village” of the Central Vietnam.

Banh dap Ba Gia
Banh dap Ba Gia

Banh dap has now become popular in the Central, but it’s hard to imitate Cam Nam’s because of its own specific characteristic. They must be very thin toasted dry pancake and made of a kind of special fragrant rice. After being dried under the sun and roasted on a charcoal stove, they are stored carefully in the plastic bags.

Another important part to make a perfect banh dap is the sauce. It is processed from mam cai (a kind of Hoi An fish sauce which is made from the best small fishes in Cua Dai sea). A reasonable mixture of fish sauce, sugar, chilly, onion and cooking oil will make a bowl of delicious sauce. Nothing can replace this sauce when enjoying banh dap.

Banh Vac - White Rose Cake

Anyone coming to Hoi An without enjoying Banh bao, Banh vac is likely not to enjoy the ancient town’s specific flavors. It is said that a foreign tourist once enjoying these cakes in Hoi An and thinking about the petals of a rose named them White Roses. Since then, the cakes have appeared in restaurants under this name. These restaurants are always crowded with visitors coming here to enjoy White Rose cake.

Banh dap Ba Gia

Banh Vac - White Rose Cake

Banh vac is a combination of rice flour, a mixture of peeled shrimps and spices. The mixture is placed in the center of each cake and hermetically covered by the rice dough. The pretty small white products look like the petals of a white rose.

Xí mà sweet soup – a rural specialty

It’s a happy and warm moment when you sit at a small corner of Hoi An ancient town under a light rain with a bowl of hot, black and sweet-smelling sweet soup in your hands. This simple ordinary specific characteristic of Hoi An’s cuisine is my impression of Xi ma, sold on Nguyen Truong To sidewalk. Xi ma, or Chi ma phu, is not only a unique dish of Hoi An cuisine, but also a precious Chinese medicine. It helps to cure and prevent dysentery.

Xí mà sweet soup
Xí mà sweet soup

Xi ma is made from grinded black sesame, sugar, pennywort and some kinds of Chinese medicine. It is not easy to cook this sweet soup. It is neither burnt nor dry nor dilute.
The mixed medicine in Xi ma is also the cook’s private secrete which is known not to transfer to anyone. The only and the last Xí mà vendor in Hoi An ancient town is now nearly 90 years old, which makes Xi ma more attractive. His image has become a clear memory for both locals and oversea visitors

Hoi An boiled maize and maize sweet soup

Hoi An is a land of many typical specialties such as Cao lau, Mi Quang (Quang noodle), Banh dap, Hen…. Among them are two unique rural foods, Che bap and Bap luoc (boiled maize and maize sweet soup). It is said that you will not understand Hoi An completely if you have not enjoyed the boiled maize and maize sweet soup.

Hoi An boiled maize and maize sweet soup.
Hoi An boiled maize and maize sweet soup.

Along Hoai river banks, in large and clear space, a dozen of restaurants are selling Hoi An’s specialties. In the crop, we can see the green maize rows standing side by side continuously as if there is not an end point.

The Hoi An maize sweet soup is delicious just because of the only reason- the natural sweetness of the fresh maize. The yearly maize crop in Quang Nam province begins in March and ends in September. Cam Nam’s maize is the best of Hoi An, especially in the first days of the harvesting time. Thanks to the good growing condition of Hoi An, we can enjoy che bap year-round. It is very beneficial for the elders’ health.

Ban cuốn thịt nướng (rice crepes stuffed with toasted meat)

Ban cuốn thịt nướng.
Ban cuốn thịt nướng.

Going along the Hoai river banks, you can meet some Bánh cuốn thịt nướng stalls. Sometimes they are only baskets of fresh vegetable, meat and rice crepes. From a far distance, you can realize the delicious aroma of roasted meat. The baskets are put on the sidewalks, therefore you have to seat on a small chair to enjoy this specialty.

By HOANG LY