Supermarkets and Grocery Shopping in Hoi An
Market shopping in Hoi An is definitely an eye-opening experience, specially if you are simply accustomed to driving down to the local supermarket after work to fill up the cupboards and fridge for the week. We can assure you that that’s not quite how it works here.
Buying from fresh markets is invigorating—it can also be a daunting experience for those who are unused to the chaos, smells, unfamiliar products, and mystifying lack of price tags on anything. But, with a little practice at product selection and bargaining for a decent price, it can become quite an exhilarating way to shop.
Tiger Market and Hoi An Central Market
There are two main markets in town. The smaller Tiger Market, about a five-minute scooter ride from the old town on Nguyen Dinh Chieu, near the corner of Dinh Tien Hoang, Son Phong. This is mostly a local market where you will find a wet market and some good fruit and vegetables, along with a number of mini marts around the edge that have groceries and dry goods available.
Hoi An Central Market is big in the fresh produce game. This local wet market used to contain the main fish market, where the boats would come in at dawn and unload their catch. The space was not big enough though, so it was relocated to about two and a half kilometres down the road to Cam Ha. If you’re really serious about seafood, or perhaps planning on opening a large seafood restaurant in the next day or two, then by all means, get down there. For any normal-sized seafood purchases, the central market has got you covered.
On Fridays and Saturdays, the markets are even bigger than normal—the whole space in and around the main market area on Bach Dang street will be packed with sellers. The boundaries of who sells what and where are a little bit blurred. Basically, down by the river is seafood, along the main street on both sides, are the fruits and vegetables. In the wet market, all of the butchers and poultry sellers are in the south end of the building, dry goods come next as you move north with the indoor food market at the top (along Tran Phu street).
Hidden Hint: Get to the markets early for the freshest produce and best people watching.
There are two reasons to visit the market in the early morning. Firstly, the local mums, grandmothers, restaurant owners, and pretty much anyone who plans on cooking a meal that day will be there snatching all the good items, whilst the less motivated are still at home brushing their teeth. The second reason is this—you may have noticed that there is little refrigeration in many of the markets in Southeast Asia.
Make sure to check fish and meat for freshness. The food tends to be very well kept at these markets but it’s always worth checking. When selecting fish, it hopefully should still be twitching! If not, it should be really slimy, the gills (pull the bony gill flap open and look) should be deep reddish purple, and the eyes should be clear like a teddy bear’s glass eye, not cloudy. For prawns and clams, just smell them, right up close to your nose. They should not smell fishy. Instead, they should smell just like the ocean, nice and clean.
A lot of people have a problem with haggling over prices when they first come to Vietnam as it’s not part of your regular routine. Allow us to give you a few basic hints so you feel a little more comfortable with the process. It’s actually a fun game once you get used to it.
Tips and hints
First, remember this isn’t personal. Do it with a smile, don’t get angry or insulted. There are many stalls to buy things from. If you don’t like how it’s playing out, simply smile and say “Cam On” which means “Thank you,” and wander off, go to the next stall, and try again. Getting angry or excited is a massive no-no in Vietnamese manners, and will just make you look foolish.
Second, remember, the 20,000 VND you’re haggling over is just about 1 USD. You probably come from a place with high incomes and high standards of living, where a dollar doesn’t mean much. That dollar is much more important to the middle-aged lady running that market stall. She’s not driving home in a Mercedes, we can tell you that for sure. You may be charged a higher rate for being a foreigner, and don’t think they are picking on you, they will do the same for anyone who is not a regular, Vietnamese or Western. So, work the price down a bit. If you can get it down by around 20 to 25 per cent of the original asking price, you’re doing really well. Even 10 per cent is pretty good for some items. But, if you can’t get that much, don’t be sad. Everyone’s gotta make a buck.
Third, don’t be afraid to play it up. Say “Troi Oi (joy oi),” which means “My God!” then follow with “Mac Qua,” which means “So expensive.” And put some effort in, really act it up in a totally exaggerated way. We like to cry out “Troi oi, Mac qua!” and clutch at the heart as if having a heart attack, brought on by the terrifying price I’ve just been asked for. If that doesn’t work, put the item back on the shelf, and shake your head ruefully. “Mac qua! I have to sell my scooter to afford this,” with a sly grin and walk away. Four paces, and you’ll hear, “Oi, come back,” and then the game begins again, at a slightly lower figure. This little back-and-forth is one of our favourite things about market shopping—we don’t always get the price we wanted, but we do always have fun with it.
So get up early, get down to the market, and embrace the chaos! Dodge flying scooters like a shopping ninja whilst bargaining with wily old ladies for the choicest morsels and, most importantly, have a sense of humour. You’ll never look back!
Shopping for western groceries
When researching this portion of the article, we were totally surprised by the quality and variety of western groceries readily available in town. Sure, some things will set you back a big wad of hundred thousand VND notes, like small goods, sausages, Australian beef, and quality cheeses. However, most items are actually pretty reasonably priced, considering they are imported from a long way away. So, here are some details on where you can go to get your Oreo or Vegemite fix, your favourite breakfast cereal, and a reasonably priced bottle of wine or scotch.
The Hoi An Supermarket – 9 Mart
Address: 193 Ly Thuong Kiet
This highly anticipated new kid on the block officially opened on the 25th September 2018 and is the closest thing to a supermarket in Hoi An. It has two well organised levels and items are priced clearly.
Confectionary, crisps, dried fruit, nuts, spreads, dairy products including a range of nut milk options, wine and soft drinks— so many favourites and familiar brands you might be missing from “home.” It even has a fast food eatery at the back with tables and chairs serving western standard fast food. We can personally vouch for the crunchy fries we had to dig in to after our shopping excursion. There’s also a banh mi stall at the front of the store if you want something on the go.
Baking ingredients including cooking utensils, measuring cups and spoons, egg slicers, can openers, vegetable peelers, cupcake holders,, fresh fruit and vegetables (organic options available), frozen food including potato croquettes, french fries, pizzas, along with frozen meat, chicken and fish. You’ll also find personal grooming items including moisturisers, cleansers, razors, sunblock, feminine hygiene products and toilet paper.
The two levels are serviced by a lift, there are small carts available and toilets on both floors. It is fully air-conditioned, allowing you the time to peruse the aisles adding to the overall supermarket feel. Really, all it needed was some bad elevator music to shop to, and this would be the complete experience! The staff couldn’t be more helpful and are keen for the store to be a success.
Hidden Hint: This is a new establishment and they are eager to be a success—if there’s something that you can’t source just mention it to the staff and they will do their best to order it in for you.
Address: 501 Hai Ba Trung
Here you will find tortillas (regular and GF), pasta (regular and GF), muesli, oats, brown sugar, flours including buckwheat, jams, sauces, spices and dried herbs, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, canned beans, chickpeas and lentils, juice, biscotti, basic cheese, milk, yoghurt, a small range of frozen products like chips and tater tots, and wines and spirits. It’s only a small shop, but it is packed full of goodies for the homesick. Also, you will find familiar soaps and shampoos, feminine hygiene products, mosquito spray, sunscreen, and washing powder that doesn’t smell bizarre!
Hanh Nga aka Tiger Mart
Address: Nguyen Dinh Chieu
The first thing we saw was fresh salmon portions, porterhouse steaks, and whole eye fillets. They were pretty expensive but totally drool-worthy. Also, basic cheeses, butter, mac ‘n cheese, frozen pizza bases, nuts, biscuits, yoghurt, olives, pasta sauces, soy milk, peanut butter, tomato sauce, tobacco, red wine and other kinds of vinegar, olive oil, macadamia oil, honey, baking stuff, mayo, cans of beans and chickpeas, dried beans, mustard, salad dressing, cereal, sausages, bacon, nori, and surprisingly cheap pasta. Also, we saw some cartons of beer at good prices. This is the mother lode! Located right next to Tiger Market, it makes for a very convenient shopping experience. So, you can grab your fresh stuff from the market, then head across the road to Han Nga. Just head to the southern end of Nguyen Dinh Chieu, and it’s easy to spot—it’s on the east side of the road.
Address: 277 Cua Dai
Small goods, fine cheeses, homemade sausages, cakes, bread baked on the premises, meat pies, sausage rolls, HP sauce and Vegemite! A great range of deli items at this Hoi An institution. Gordon the owner has invested in huge professional kitchens and for many residents, Dingo is the only place to go. With a great selection also available in the restaurant and a kid’s play area, many choose to eat in, they also offer a delivery service for orders over 150,000VND (Last order 8:30pm).
While Hoi An has always had superb markets, the availability of western foods here has grown hugely over the years. Nowadays there are not a lot of western foods that can’t be found in town. It really is just a case of knowing where to find them or asking someone to order them in for you if they’re not readily available. With the recent addition of 9 Mart to the scene, most western foods can now actually be found under the one roof.
While most people hunger for a taste of home from time to time, don’t miss out on the experience of Hoi An’s markets. It can be a lovely part of your day going and chatting to a local vendor and choosing the best produce—this is what the locals do every day. Even if your Vietnamese is minimal you can still no doubt share a joke and a laugh as you use body language to do your daily shop. We can almost guarantee that the vendors will remember you next time you pass, calling out with a friendly greeting or a wave.
We think fusion food is your best bet—spice up your shopping and your recipes with a mix of both—a quick whip around a western store than a more laid back sensory experience and a chat at the local market for all your fresh items.