Image: Baby clams, An Bang beach, Hoi An
AN BANG BEACH
On the weekend and throughout the summer as the sun slips from the sky, huge crowds descend upon An Bang beach to escape the stifling heat of the old town. The beach becomes a patchwork quilt of colourful picnic mats and the shallows a soup of frolicking families.
At the same time in the parking lot, the air is filled with the scent of sticky street meat and just fried coconut fritters as a small collection of ad hoc kitchens fire up behind dinky market stands. Here, neighbourhood grandmas and aunties share their personal versions of soups, snacks, and many other cherished local dishes with their community. Unlike the old town, few tourists get involved, meaning the food is sold as it should be, fresh, honest and cheap.
PS: It would be wrong not to include Bia food! The best of the bunch is grilled dried squid (ask for a side of Quang Nam chilli jam), it's a bit like beef jerky, but squid.
On peanuts, the season is short (April to August). Outside these months, you will be buying a 10,000d bag of dust.
Quails eggs. The peanut sellers often carry around a thermos box. On a lucky day, they will have hard-boiled quails eggs at 15,000d a bag. These are delicious and come with a suspect little wrap, it's salt and pepper.
THE TOP FOUR
Banh Beo Nam
Banh beo nam
Little pots of heaven. A rice flour cake set in a small porcelain dipping bowl. Each cake is topped with a shrimp and pork 'stuffing', a scattering of crunchy rice noodles and is served with a side of green chilli dipping sauce.
They are available from the lovely, smiley lady pictured above at An Bang market from 6am till 9am and cost 5,000d each (order five).
Hen Tron with
Banh Trang Dap
Hen Tron with Banh Trang Dap
Normally, with food guides we try to remain unbiased, but if I was on death row and ordering my last meal - it would be this. Hen tron are baby clams. An Bang style - cooked in a fragrant broth with lemongrass and chives. You can have them in a rice soup, on their own with banh trang dap (rice crackers) and chilli jam. You'll find the sellers on the beach during the summer at sundown. Banh dap, 4,000d. Hen, 25,000d.
Head for An Bang market, and a few meters further to the left is a pho kitchen where they serve central style beef pho (a slightly sweeter, more tropical version of the northern dish, with added pickled papaya, green mango and an optional peanut garnish).
A bowl costs 30,000vnd and it's available from 06-09:00.
Turn right at the crossroads before you get to the beach. 25 meters up you'll see a small dirt track to the right - here, you'll find the best Mi Quang - tender five spice pork, shrimp, quails eggs and fat, flat white noodles in a herby broth. It's a pop-up home restaurant - open from 6am till they run out (it's best to get there before 08:00) and a huge, delicious bowl comes in at just 25,000vnd.
From cao lau to (banh) xeo and everything in between. Constantly updated and MSG free (our street food researcher has this weird thing..).
Rather like Bun Bo Hue, which is a more vibrantly spiced pho with spaghetti style noodles and a lemongrass broth. The locals favourite is just down from Blu Mart on the right side of the road leading down to the beach. On a normal day they have packed up by 07:30 (if so, there is another just left of the traffic lights at the entrance to the beach). A dish will cost 25,000vnd.
Available throughout the morning from the little corner stall at the beach crossroads, beach banh mi come in a more basic form than those in the city. Less salad, more herbs and plenty of spice - choose from pork (thit heo) or egg (banh mi op la).
Banh mi op la - 12,000d and bahn mi thit heo, 20,000d