Hoi An visit will not complete if travelers do not visit Hoi An Central Market. Located in Hoi An Ancient Town, this multifaceted market is the liveliest and largest one around. It spread through five streets of the central tourist district. Visiting Hoi An Central Market is an experience not only for food-lovers but also for photographers, shoppers, and anyone that want entertainment. Let’s learn about the Hoi An Central Market history, what to expect, how to get the best meals, and helpful suggestions to ensure that your market dining experience is as memorable and delicious as possible.
History of Hoi An and its Central Market
In the past, during the 15th century, Hoi An was a commercial center for the empire of the Cham, a Malayo-Polynesian peoples, who controlled much of the lower and central coastlines of Vietnam. In the 16th and 17th centuries, Vietnamese Nguyen lords helped make it into an international trade port. Soon, it was considered the best place for trading in Southeast Asia for merchants from China, Japan, and even parts of Europe. In the 18th century, Hoi An as a trading center declined. However, with its commercial spirit and the city itself, in late the 20th century, it was recognized by UNESCO as an “exceptionally well-preserved example of a South-East Asian trading port.”
Originally, Hoi An Central Market was built in 1848, located on Nguyen Thai Hoc Street, the rectangular building included sections for fresh produce, meat, and fish. Water wells were built next to the market to supply vendors and the surrounding community. The market was demolished and rebuilt in the early 2000s, but the new building looks like it’s always been there. Today, with its array of produce, meat, and fish on display, alongside souvenirs and steaming bowls of Cao lau, the Hoi An Central Market is as bustling as it was centuries ago.
Where is the Hoi An Central Market?
Hoi An Central Market is a walkable distance to all the main cultural attractions of Hoi An on the eastern side of town. You can find the food court entrance at the intersection of Tran Phu and Nguyen Hue Streets. It spreads all the way to the Thu Bon river and across from the Cam Nam bridge to the Museum of Folklore in the west. It is bustling with people from before sunrise until after dark. The amount of street vendors varies depending on the day. But the central market is by far the most famous and lively market in all of Hoi An.
What Can You Find at the Hoi An Central Market?
At Hoi An Central Market, you can see lots of things relating to the real local life. Fresh fruits and vegetables are colorful and smelling. Live animals, clothes, household items and everything for life can be found at this amazing market.
Tourists can also buy some things to bring home. Vietnamese people buy Mung bean cakes, To cakes, Grilled coconut cakes, Hong Dao wine, “Mam thinh” and “Mam Cam Thanh”- two delicious Vietnamese fermented food.
The best part of the Hoi An Central Market for international tourists is perhaps the food court which has attractive selections of Hoi An’s specialties. Here, you can try Cao lau, Banh xeo, White rose, and much more paired with juice, a smoothie, or Vietnamese coffee. With dishes costing anywhere from 20,000 to 50,000 VND (80 USD to 2 USD), it’s an amazing place to enjoy the local flavor at a reasonable price.
Guide to Visiting the Food Court
Once popular with locals, the central market food court increasingly now focuses on tourists to Hoi An. This is evident in the English menus and friendly sales pitches used by stall owners to entice visitors wandering through the food court. However, just because it’s tourist-focused doesn’t mean it’s not tasty. You can get a good example of most local dishes at the food court. A little research, which can be a bit overwhelming, goes a long way when it comes to your central market food court experience in Hoi An. Stall owners and chefs are eager for your business, and you’ll know it from the moment you enter the building. You’ll likely be greeted and shown a menu and a seat by multiple hosts before you’ve had a moment to make up your mind.
The Food Court Vendors
Vendors have to pay a high price to hire their space. This means that keeping crowed is important to their livelihoods. Competition in the Central Market is fierce, but that’s good information for you because that means most vendors at the central market offer a reasonably tasty, classic example of Hoi An local specialties. Fresenally, Vietnamese street food vendors specialize in just one dish. But because the market is more tourist-oriented, most vendors have over 10 well dishes on their menu, which helps tourists be easy in option.
Food Court Location
You can find the entrance at the crossroad of Tran Phu St and Nguyen Hue. Only look for the big yellow building with the big red words “Cho Hoi An” ( Hoi An Market).
In front of the building is the well where vendors get their water to make Hoi An’s famous Cao lau.
You can also see vendors selling snacks, like sliced mango and Nem nuong (pork skewers), outside the market. The number of vendors you see at the market usually depends on the time of day. Lunchtime and evening witness the greatest concentration.
Around the Market
Alongside the Central Market’s key building, you are able to buy coffee and pantry goods, wood carvings, bowls, and souvenirs of Hoi An. The older women who sell these items are quick with a smile and a greeting. When you walk along toward the second or back building of the market, you’ll see vendors selling piles of freshly made noodles that are the same ones you can try inside the market if you order Cao lau or Mi quang.
If you go into the food court from the back, where it meets the outdoor wet market, you’ll have to pass through another building to get there. Vegetarians are warned as this building is the meat market. Here, vendors chop away at hunks of pork, chicken, and beef throughout the day, selling them to food stalls, chefs, and cooking class groups passing through frequently.
When to Visit the Food Court in Hoi An Central Market?
The food court is open every day from 6 AM to 7 PM. This is good information if you’re an early riser because you can enjoy a quick, traditional breakfast here. the menus stay the same throughout the day and do not feature western dishes like bacon and eggs. There are usually hustle and bustle in the food court which takes up the entire interior of the key yellow building.
Mealtimes in the Food Court
You will see plenty of people, including Hoi An locals coming to have breakfast in the morning at the Central Market. The most crowded time is definitely lunch, which is also when you will encounter the most travelers. By mid-afternoon, the market usually empties out. However, vendors are still in full force at this time and will definitely take notice of potential diners walking through the food court.
If you want to have a more relaxed experience we suggest you should go in the evening a half hour before closing time. Some vendors may already be gone by then. The ones who remain are usually winding down for the day and not too focused on visitors. This means that you can go for a walk around for a moment without feeling pressured to make your dining choice.
The Food Court – What to Expect?
Regardless of when you go, it’s helpful to understand the layout of the food court to make the most of your time there. From the front of the main building, you can enter the court through any of three large, open doors. Each leads to an aisle of vendors selling food and drinks from individual stalls. There are 24 stalls in total, running down four long aisles of six stalls each. All of them have a wraparound bar and small plastic chairs where diners sit while eating.
What’s on Offer at the Food Court?
Most of the vendors in the court serve various local and national dishes. You are able to find the mouthwatering ingredients that they use to make them displayed in the front of their stalls, behind a glass partition. As soon as you go in, vendors pay attention to you. They will eagerly approach you with an English language menu of what they serve. These menus start with a list of the specialties of Hoi An such as cao lau, mi quang, and white rose dumplings. You will make sure to want to try at least one of these if you go to the food court. That’s what the vendors here do best. Prices are fairly equal in all the stalls. You will be able to pay no more than 30,000 VND (1.30 USD) for a bowl of cao lau.
Drinks at the Market
While many food stalls have a limited menu of tea, water, and soda, a handful of stalls specialize in making juices, smoothies, and coffee drinks. Prices starting as low as 15,000 VND (.65 USD). From these stalls, you can order nearly any fruit (or fruit combination) in a smoothie or juice—avocado, mango, coconut, and dragonfruit are all popular options. If you are adventurous, try mixing coffee with fruit; a novel feeling will come to you. What a good thing, you don’t even have to drop by two stalls to get an eating dish and a drink. As you sit down to order your meal, a vendor will come over and hand the drinking menu to you. A delicious mango smoothie will appear right next to your steaming bowl of cao lau noodles. You usually pay for your entire order on one bill, only drink vendors request payment separately.
Navigating the Food Court in Hoi An Central Market
When stepping into the food court, it’s easy for you to feel overwhelmed. Usually, first, a server offers you the menu with a radiant smile. But to get the best dishes, it takes you a lot of time to consider your options.
Most first comers to Hoi An will walk through the Central Market’s central door and go into the main aisle. This means that the vendors toward the front of the aisle have the best access to tourist traffic. Therefore, an easier time getting diners. Smile politely and continue down the aisle to get a look around before agreeing to eat at a stall.
You will be able to enter through the left or right door at the front of the market food court or from a side door. This will give you access to stalls along the periphery that you might otherwise miss.
Choosing a Food Stall
Basing on its savory display, It’s easy for you to choose a good stall. This will often consist of mounds of spring rolls, pork legs, fresh fruit, and greens. But don’t forget to look in the back of the stall too. Here, you will are able to see signs of freshly-prepared dishes, such as boiling pots and greased sauté pans. That being said, some vendors may outsource a dish or two to a neighboring stall if they are too busy.
Sometimes, you may find a few stalls empty, depending on when you go. Generally speaking, the closer to closing time, the fewer you will see. You may even return to find your favorite vendor from yesterday is not there. Stalls do not post regular hours and chefs also need their holidays. Look at the number of diners. If you see a lot of Vietnamese people at a stall, it is a sign that you have found a good stall.
Some of the Best Vendors at the Food Court
Known at the food court in Hoi An Central Market, Ms. Ha’s stall and Be Na’ stall are popular. You will find the friendly Ms. Ha in the last stall on the left of the court’s middle aisle. She serves up generous portions of Cao lau, Mi quang, and even a delicious tofu version of both dishes for vegetarians. It’s worth visiting her stall for the food and unwavering hospitality. If you only have one chance to visit the food court, you cannot help dropping by Be Na’s stall. Walk down the main aisle and you will find it four stalls down on your left. The lady there does a brisk cao lau business throughout the day.
You can find delicious versions of Banh trang nuong, or large, flat rice crackers topped with green onion and spices just outside the market. Usually called “Vietnamese pizza,” they’re heated up over a grill, topped with mayo and chili sauce, and then folded and served. For just 20,000 VND (.87 USD), they are perfect for a pre-market or post-drink bite.
You will be able to get one of Hoi An’s most famous Banh mi just outside the food court at the original Banh Mi Phuong stand. A simple glass stall to the right of the market, it is open from 7 am to 7 pm every day.
If you like something a bit different, enter the food court from the front. Drop by the first stall furthest to the right. Here, you can try a delicious version of bun bo hue, a popular spicy dish containing rice vermicelli (bun) and beef (bo). In Hoi An’s food market. you will find local and national specialties, like this plate of banh bot loc Hoi An dumplings.
Having only a short time to stay in Hoi An, you do not also miss the central market; eating at the food court is the perfect reason to go. For only a couple of dollars, you will able to get some of Hoi An’s traditional dishes, plus a real Vietnamese market experience. The market is also a great place to revisit so that you can try different vendors and dishes.