In the 16th and 17th centuries, Hoi An was the busiest port on the South China Sea, attracting traders from China to Japan to Europe. Today, the city is a UNESCO World Heritage site located in central Vietnam, known for its distinct yellow buildings and great cuisine.
The food of Hoi An is unique within Vietnam, with some similarities to the cuisine in the nearby former Imperial capital of Hue (more on Hue in my previous post). Hoi An’s history as an important port, which included a large Japanese settlement, certainly influences the cuisine.
In April 2021, a new restaurant called Hoi An Quan opened in Houston. While Houston has restaurants specializing in cuisine from nearby Hue, before Hoi An Quan, we did not have a restaurant specializing in dishes from Hoi An.
Walking in, the restaurant looks more like a movie set, with the distinctive yellow-colored walls of Hoi An, paper lanterns and other decorations. It is one of those places built for Instagram and Tik Tok influencers, which made me quite pessimistic about the quality of the food I was about to try. I’ve been to a lot of bad restaurants recently, with their only redeeming quality being the cute decor, often including a neon sign saying in cursive letters the Gen-Z equivalent of ‘Live, Laugh, Love.’ But Hoi An Quan was thankfully not that place. The food did not disappoint.
What to get:
- Cao lau – Special noodle dish from Hoi An. A must.
- Banh beo – You may have tried banh beo at Nam Giao, Dong Ba or the Asian Night Market, but Hoi An’s banh beo are different – much larger than the banh beo chen from further north, the toppings here are also different. Also a must.
- Bap xao – A dish I had never had before, with corn, salted egg and small dried shrimp.
Tip: Sit at the short tables to your left as you walk in.
Check out these articles about Vietnamese and other food in Houston: