The Best Chicken Rice (Com Ga) In Hoi An
Throughout the entire world chicken and rice have consistently found themselves paired on a plate. In the case of Cơm Ga Hoi An (pronounced comb ga), this iconic dish is married with a medley of herbs and textures adapted by the Vietnamese. Flavoursome garden chickens, rice, shredded papaya, and herbs make this a comforting staple food.
While wandering in Hoi An, it’s hard to avoid the sheer magnitude of vendors dishing up this local speciality. While some vendors are open all day, a select few appear in the evening, and others only open for a few hours. To aid you in your search for this dish, we’ve tweezed out the best com ga restaurants in Hoi An.
Ingredients of Hoi An chicken rice (com ga)
Some of the most difficult dishes to create and enjoy are not ones of frivolous plating techniques or high price points, but the ones with nothing to hide behind. Chicken rice is a perfect example of this. The most basic incarnation of the dish will include only four ingredients. If one is not done properly, pinpointing the issue will not be difficult.
Chicken – The chickens used for com ga are typically free-ranged birds from country gardens. The reason for this is because the texture of their flesh is more firm and springy due to their active lifestyle. This also results in a much nicer chicken flavour in the meat, even if it a little less tender than their factory-farmed cousins.
First, the chicken is cleaned with salt and rinsed well with cold running water before being simmered in a pot. Onion is always added in with the chicken—anything extra is the preference of the chef. Once cooked, the flesh will be shredded into small pieces and seasoned with salt, pepper, lime juice, and a dressing derived from chicken broth. Sliced onions will be added, and then tossed together.
Rice – The rice is cooked in the style of a pilaf, using the flavourful broth from simmering the chicken. Depending on the chef, sauteed garlic or shallots may be used, or turmeric is often added for a rich golden colour.
The resulting rice should be soft, fluffy, savoury, and aromatic. There should be a richness tasted in the rice from the chicken fat that was present in the broth. It shouldn’t be mushy and soggy, or dry and hard, and it definitely should not be greasy—these are the signs of a poor cooking procedure.
Slaw – Used for textural contrast in the dish, shredded green papaya is served either on the plate or on a side plate to share. The papaya is soaked in water to help retain its crunch and is dressed in sugar, salt and lime. The shredded carrot will also make an appearance with the papaya occasionally.
Soup – Alongside every dish of com ga you’ll be given a small bowl of chicken broth—this flavourful liquid is a product from cooking the chicken. Eyes of fat should be visible on top, as well as a yellowish colour imparted from the chicken. If your soup is crystal clear, it wasn’t made using the cooking liquid.
Herbs – Like most Vietnamese dishes that exist, com ga isn’t complete without herbs. The most common one used is Vietnamese mint, which adds a floral and medicinal element to the plate. Occasionally peppermint, coriander or a mix will be used. Depending on the chef’s choice, it does greatly affect the result, due to the powerful flavours in the herbs.
The history of com ga
At one point, Hoi An was considered one of the best trading ports in the world. Because of this, Chinese traders not only frequented the ports but also settled in the Quang Nam province. Many were from the island of Hainan in China, a mere 300 kilometres northeast of Hoi An. With new people came new food, and with that, the Wen Cheng chicken dish made its way to the Quang Nam province.
The dish is simple, consisting of Wen Cheng chickens cooked in the style of “white cutting”—a process where the chickens are cooked in water with aromatics. When the water reaches a boil, the heat is turned off, and the bird is left to cook in the broth until done. The chicken is then taken out and cut into pieces, where it’s then usually dipped in a mixture of salt and spices. Rice is not a part of the dish, but it’s a common accompaniment.
Chicken rice is a dish that has been served in Central Vietnam for over 200 years. It was originally founded in Tam Ky, Quang Nam’s capital, where it is called Tam Ky Com Ga. This version is fairly plain, with golden-coloured rice, fresh herbs, bean sprouts, along with a bowl of innards in a spicy sauce. Back in the 90’s when Hoi An first started seeing tourists, local stalls were still serving Tam Ky’s version of com ga. Nowadays different variations of com ga are sold all over Vietnam, and Hoi An has its own equally as popular adoption.
Other chicken options
If you’re a tourist, it’s very likely that when ordering com ga you will receive a “tourist friendly” version of the dish. You may notice that many of the local’s plates have a slightly different variation of the dish than you, which has the addition of congealed blood, intestines, or heart. If you feel brave and would like to try it the local way, make sure to ask for long ga.
Com Ga is always served with shredded chicken unless you ask for otherwise. The other options are to have a whole or half chicken or special cuts such as chicken thigh.
Another dish commonly found at com ga stalls and restaurants is goi ga (chicken salad). Goi Ga consists of soft chicken, onions, young banana, along with a gingery dressing and aromatic herbs including Thai basil, mint, and Vietnamese mint. The name and ingredients slightly vary with this dish depending on the region of Vietnam. Furthermore, it’s a classic dish that frequently appears on the Vietnamese table whether it’s at a family meal, an appetizer at parties or even as an accompaniment to a bowl of rice congee. Goi Ga is a great dish to share with your companions in addition to your com ga or to have instead as a change. That being said, make sure to ask the price first as it can be quite expensive (and often a huge portion) depending on where you get it!
Where to find the best com ga in Hoi An?
While chicken rice can be found in restaurants and manicured establishments, some of the best locations exist roadside and down alleys. Without further ado, here are Hidden’s favourite spots to grab a plate of chicken rice.
Com Ga TY
Address: 27 Phan Chu Trinh – Opening Hours: Evenings only until sold out –Cost: 30,000 VND ($1.25 USD)
Positioned at the top of the alley is TY’s food cart that advertises the stall’s concealed location. Head down the alley a short distance to the large illuminated “Com Ga TY” sign. There you’ll find metal tables and plastic stools inside the family’s home and seats also outside, lining the alley. With the seating situated just out of earshot from the bustling road and the relaxing music coming from the neighbouring restaurant, it makes this spot a rare and peaceful gem within the city.
The plate served here offers a healthy mix of all of the components, along with a small soup that is rich and deep in flavour. It’s worth mentioning that the soup here is served local style and does include chicken giblets. Ask for the soup without if it’s not your cup of tea.
Long Com Ga Chicken Rice
Address: 53/16 Phan Chu Trinh – Opening Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday – Sunday – Cost: 35,000 VND ($1.50 USD)
Located in the midst of a winding alley, this restaurant-style com ga stand is easy to miss if you don’t notice the signs. To find this buzzing spot, navigate yourself away from the busy street and past the many scooters that are parked. Decorated with colourful lanterns, tinsel and a canopy of vines, Long Com Ga provides proper wooden tables and chairs, as well as three seating areas to choose from. There is a front section that is quiet, an air-conditioned mid, and a larger slightly more crowded rear section containing the bulk of the seating. It makes Long Com Ga a great choice for people looking to sit down for a casual restaurant-style meal with streetside-style flavour. It’s also a good choice if travelling with a family, as they have high chairs available.
The dish here is quite clean and light—it hides behind less than other places. Their sauce with quail eggs is to die for and can bump up the flavour if needed! Also provided is an English menu that includes other chicken options, a vegetarian salad, and a variety of beverages.
Hidden Hint: Make sure to try the lotus seed milk. It’s not exclusive to Long com ga, but it’s delicious!
Com Ga Ba Buoi
Address: 22 Phan Chu Trinh – Opening Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday – Sunday – Cost: 35,000 VND ($1.50 USD)
It’s one of the longest standing eateries in Hoi An, having been in operation since the 1950’s. Their com ga is the perfect example of doing one thing really well and not wavering from it. The inside of the restaurant is painted in bright teal and has fairly limited space, with one-third of the area dedicated to the kitchen, and the rest for patrons. Forget personal space, as it’s not unusual to find yourself elbow to elbow, sharing a table with fellow com ga enthusiasts. During the busiest of times, temporary tables are set up in front of this popular place.
The portion size here is small for the price point, which could be detrimental in the long run as other establishments build their reputation. Having said that, it is a great example of good com ga, and the small touch of the salt and pepper mix they provide on the table isn’t found at most other sellers.
Hidden Hint: Ba Buoi can be extremely busy—avoid peak times or be prepared to possibly wait for a spot to become available.
Com Ga Phuc
Address: 136 Tran Cao Van – Opening Hours: 4:30 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. Monday – Sunday – Cost: 35,000 VND ($1.50 USD)
The husband and wife team at Com Ga Phuc take over what is a barren patch of concrete by day and fill the space with short ruby red plastic stools and metal tables by evening. Eating here under the tarp canopy embodies a very local feel, with motorbikes cruising by and locals pulling up for their takeaway dinner. There is an English menu that also offers chicken porridge, chicken salad, as well as a pork rib and rice dish. They don’t sell drinks here, but 20-metres away is a drink stand to fill the gap.
The chicken rice at Phuc is a bit different, with tomato, lettuce, and cucumber garnishing the plate. The soup you receive also contains a stronger presence of ginger compared to other stalls.
Com Ga Hien
Address: 593 Hai Ba Trung – Opening Hours: 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Monday – Sunday – Cost: 40,000 VND (1.70 USD)
A definite heavy hitter among the locals in Hoi An, this shop is only open for two and a half hours in the evening. With seating sprawled out on the sidewalk, it can be an incredibly hectic place to come eat. The number of patrons that pile in on and daily basis attest to its stature. At its peak, you’ll find four people shredding, scooping, and dressing plates for hungry locals on stools and motorbikes.
The rice here is particularly enjoyable due to the use of a glutinous variety. It gives the dish more weight and a denser mouthfeel compared to others.
Com Ga Lan
Address: 14 Phan Chu Trinh – Opening Hours: 7 a.m. – 9 p.m. Monday – Sunday – Cost: 30,000 VND ($1.25 USD)
Nestled in Old Town among many of Hoi An’s com ga stands is Com Ga Lan. The friendly couple here operates a well-received and consistent establishment. This charming little restaurant is decorated with classic Hoi An lanterns and offers to seat both inside their cosy home and outside along the street.
The plate at Lan is well balanced between all of the classic com ga elements, and the soup is flavourful with it’s diced carrot, egg whites and chives. This com ga comes with a dollop of chilli on top, so if you can’t take the heat make sure to ask for it without. What sets this joint apart for us is the small dish of green chilli and fish sauce they include for you to spoon over the rice and to dip your chicken.
Hidden ’s thoughts
Now you have everything you need to know about the best com ga and where they are located in Hoi An. While the dish’s individual elements may sound mediocre on their own, when they’re mixed and dressed, the dish truly comes alive. Don’t allow yourself to be put off by small chairs, tight spaces, or the lack of a menu; these are characteristics of many of the places you should be keeping an eye out for!