Maybe it was Hoi An’s history as a maritime merchant’s crossroads, one where flavours and ingredients from across Asia and around the world would meld in delicious harmony. Or, maybe it was the late, great Anthony Bourdain championing the town’s banh mi and myriad bowls of sensational local noodles. Whatever the reason, the formerly sleepy port on the north Vietnam coast has become a Mecca for lovers of great food. It never disappoints and with 800 places to eat in a town of just 120,000, you’re truly spoilt for choice. Prices are also an absolute steal, with brilliant stuffed banh mi or delicious bowls of local noodles rarely costing more than one US dollar. Barely a 90-minute flight from Hong Kong, it also represents one of the most compelling cultural getaways for an easy long weekend.
Start the day at Madame Khanh, The Banh Mi Queen
Hoi An is said to be home to the best examples of Vietnam’s famous stuffed baguettes, banh mi. Certainly there are no shortage of options, with countless little roadside stalls, tiny shops and regular restaurants all serving their own take. Homemade patés, secret chilli sauces, mayonnaise, barbecued meats, juliennes of crisp vegetables and even Laughing Cow cheese are just some of the ingredients you’ll find on offer. Madame Phuong is the town’s most famous thanks to constant lines—they sell up to 3,000 a day—and Anthony Bourdain’s ringing endorsement. I preferred the quieter but not modestly named ‘Madame Kwanh, The Banh Mi Queen’. The 70-something used to craft them all herself with deft layering by chopsticks, but even though today she has staff make them, never has one US dollar been so well spent. My tip? Go for the barbecued meat option for sandwich nirvana.
Madame Khanh, The Banh Mi Queen, 115 Trần Cao Vân, Phường Minh An, tp. Hội An, Vietnam; +84 777 476 177; madamkhanh.com