The best Hoi An cooking classes, street food tours and culinary experiences include everything from Red Bridge Cooking School’s deluxe cooking class where you’ll learn to make stock for pho noodle soup and fresh pho noodles from scratch to the Original Taste of Hoi An food tours on which you’ll do a whopping 40 tastings over four hours.
The Central Vietnam UNESCO World Heritage-listed town of Hoi An is so enchanting with its picturesque riverside setting, colourful fishing boats that bob in the water, and illuminated lanterns strung between charming yellow houses, that it is tempting to do very little at all except stroll the narrow streets snapping pics or sit on a balcony bar sipping cocktails taking it all in (as the participants on my recent Vietnam Culinary Tour will attest).
Which would be a shame, as Hoi An is also home to fantastic Vietnamese street food and local specialties such as cao lau, and the best Hoi An cooking classes are some of Vietnam’s best. Along with outstanding cooking schools there are excellent street food tours in Hoi An, as well as other culinary experiences that enable you to not only learn to cook the food and taste the food, but also see how it’s grown, caught and made.
The problem is that doing a street food tour or cooking class in Hoi An has become such a must-do experience that now every restaurant, cafe, hotel and B&B offers a class or tour and there are so many choices that the task of choosing a culinary experience can be overwhelming. Not to fear, we’re here to help.
These are our picks of the best Hoi An cooking classes and street food tours based on our seven years of visiting, living in and taking small culinary tour groups to Hoi An.
Best Hoi An Cooking Classes and Street Food Tours
Best Hoi An Cooking Classes
Red Bridge Cooking School
Set on the tranquil riverbank just out of town, the Red Bridge Cooking School offers what is arguably the best of the best Hoi An cooking classes. This is where you want to go if the idea of learning to make a stock for pho soup and fresh pho noodles from scratch gets you excited. Red Bridge offers two cooking classes, the 5-hour classic cooking class, which is a more basic demo-style class for those who just want to say they did a cooking class in Hoi An, and a more hands-on 7-hour deluxe course. The latter kicks off with a quick shop at the market to buy ingredients and includes a saunter through Tra Que organic community garden, pictured above, for a lesson on local produce. After the class, you have the opportunity to paddle in the palm shaded swimming pool before lunch and a boat cruise back to town.
Nam Hai Cooking Academy
If you’ve ever had MasterChef aspirations and money is no object, for the ultimate holiday culinary education, check into the Four Seasons Nam Hai and sign up for the hotel’s cooking academy. Boasting some of the best Hoi An cooking classes, the academy offers everything from one-day to weeklong courses, all of which begin with an immersive experience. You might begin with a tour of the hotel’s on-site organic farm (which we were lucky to visit back in 2013 when they first established it), where 35 different seasonal varieties of vegetables and herbs are grown. Alternatively, you might visit nearby Phuoc Hai where you can learn how to row a traditional, round, bamboo basket boat. The bespoke courses are completely customised to your needs and they also offer craft classes to keep the kids amused.
My Grandma’s Home Cooking
In a town awash with cooking classes, Phuong, wanting to offer something completely different, created this slow food cooking experience with her grandmother, and it’s easily one of the best Hoi An cooking classes. A leisurely thirty-minute boat cruise from Hoi An to a small island on the river delta sets the scene for this unhurried experience. The day begins with a countryside tour and the opportunity to interact with local villagers and farmers, before you return to the family home where you’ll get some lessons in cooking grandma’s recipes using the island’s indigenous ingredients. You’ll also learn how to cook on charcoal.
Eat Hoi An Cooking Classes
Mr Happy of Eat Hoi An also offers something a bit different with his special family-focused culinary experience, which quickly became another of the best Hoi An cooking classes. His experience starts with a brief shop at a lively local farmer’s market to purchase some ingredients for the cooking class, along with the chance to pick some fresh produce from his family’s own vegetable plot at Tra Que Village organic gardens, above. Then you’re in for some of the most relaxed cooking lessons you’ll do in Hoi An in his grandmother’s rustic traditional farm-house kitchen.
Best Hoi An Street Food Tours
Original Taste of Hoi An
Skip breakfast and be prepared to skip dinner when you sign up for what is arguably the best Hoi An street food tour, the Original Taste of Hoi An culinary walking tour. Established by Australian ‘retiree’ and long-term resident Neville Dean, the Original Taste of Hoi An food tours were the city’s first and remain the most in-depth of the town’s culinary excursions. Led by Neville’s knowledgeable Vietnamese guides, these are food tours made for hard-core street food fans, with a whopping 40 tastings over four hours at backstreet stalls, simple eateries and a restaurant. A highlight is a stop at one of Hoi An’s best banh mi stalls. Just as Tony Bourdain made Banh Mi Phuong famous outside Vietnam (Phuong’s baguettes already had a local following within the country), Neville introduced travelling food lovers to Madame Khanh, an elegant woman with a neat gray bun whom he nicknamed ‘the Banh Mi Queen’, and on this tour you’ll get to sample her banh mi op la, which comes with an omelette.
Hoi An Food Tours
If 40 tastings sounds like 30 too many, then opt for Hoi An Food Tours’ morning street food walking tour which offers just ten delicious local tastings, including a stop for banh mi at the Banh Mi Queen’s shop. A highlight is the chance to watch the sizeable family of the inventor of Hoi An’s famous ‘white rose’ dumplings sit together making the dumplings, before you sample the delicate morsels. You’ll also visit Hoi An’s main market and at the end of the tour enjoy a complimentary foot massage.
Eat Hoi An Culinary Tours
For the more culinary adventurous among you, cheery Mr Phuoc – or Mr Happy, as he prefers to be called – offers food tours on foot and bike, including intrepid strolls through Hoi An’s backstreets, trying local snacks such as baby duck eggs. On the cycling tours through the lush emerald rice paddies to the organic farming cooperative of Tra Que Village, above, where Mr Happy was born, you’ll spot water buffalo and can participate in rice planting or harvesting depending on the season.
More Hoi An Culinary Experiences
Hoi An Central Market
Eat, drink and shop your way through Hoi An Central Market. It’s best to go early in the morning for the colour and atmosphere as much as the culinary offerings. Bonus: there are fewer tourists around. Have breakfast in the high-ceilinged food hall where local cooks call out to invite you to sample their specialties, such as cao lau and mi Quang. Don’t be surprised if a spoonful of spicy broth is thrust in your face. And don’t refuse it either! After, browse the market stalls, where you can buy locally made cooking utensils, such as knives and wooden spoons, a stainless steel Vietnamese single-cup coffee filter for as little as a dollar, along with jars of Hoi An’s famous chilli sauce. Note that stallholders can be a bit pushy, so don’t act interested in something unless you’re serious about buying it or you won’t be able to get away. In Vietnam the first sale of the day is considered lucky, so prepare for a cranky look from the vendor if you don’t buy.
Hoi An Vegetarian Cooking Class
It may not have made our list of best Hoi An cooking classes but these vegetarian cooking lessons in making Vietnamese vegetarian food and vegan takes on Hoi An specialties is well regarded. Like most cooking classes in Hoi An, it begins with a local market tour where you get a lesson in bargaining. You’ll also learn how to make Vietnamese coffee.
Hoi An Rice Farming Tour
On this hands-on rice farming experience, you’ll cycle to the rice paddies where you’ll meet local farmers to learn about the cultivation and planting of wet rice, before having a go at plowing using water buffaloes, and sowing, transplanting, harvesting, and threshing rice. When you’re done in the fields, you’ll learn how to grind rice to make rice flour then get a lesson in cooking traditional turmeric pancakes from the rice flour, which you’ll get to enjoy with the farmers.
Fishing Village Visit and Basket Boat Ride Tour
On this Hoi An fishing village experience you’ll be taken to Phuoc Hai fishing village at Cua Dai beach where you’ll join the local fishermen, who fish daily using nets, to learn traditional fishing techniques and gain an insight into their everyday life. You’ll also learn to row a bamboo basket boat as you explore the water ways and coconut palm forests, as you learn about how the area was affected by the Vietnam War.
Those were our picks of the best Hoi An cooking classes, street food tours and culinary experiences. Do let us know if you do any of these and what you think, and do feel free to share your own tips if you think you’ve discovered one of the best Hoi An cooking classes or food tours.