7 Weird Vietnamese Dishes That Challenge The Bravest Foodies

While a heaven for foodies, Vietnam also has numerous exotic plates that will amaze foreign tourists, and challenge the bravest hearts. Despite their unusual appearances, these strange dishes are actually beloved by many throughout the nation.
March 03, 2022 | 08:07

Aside from the famous food such as Pho, fried spring rolls (Nem Ran), or Bun Cha, Vietnam also poses several extraordinary plates to visitors around the world because of their bizarre tastes and appearances. According to a survey done by Lonely Planet magazine, here is the top 7 weirdest food that you can try in Vietnam.

1. Trung Vit Lon (Fertilized duck egg)

Photo: Shutterstock
Photo: Shutterstock

Balut egg has been voted to be one of the “weirdest” dishes that are highly recommended by foreign visitors when they come to Vietnam. Unlike other plates, balut is made by incubating a fertilized bird egg for weeks, then steaming and eating the undeveloped chick right from the shell. This dish is rich in protein that Vietnamese, of all ages, enjoy eating for their breakfast. It can be eaten with ginger, Vietnamese coriander, and spices.

When you break the shell of a balut, you should be careful not to let the liquid ooze out. This liquid inside the balut tastes a bit like chicken soup but has a much stronger flavor. As a result, you need to hold your balut vertically when you crack it, some places will offer a small cup for you to hold the egg.

Each region has different ways to enjoy balut. For instance, in Hanoi, the eggs are removed from the shell and put right into a small bowl (they do not use cups) and use a small spoon to eat. In Southern Vietnam, after boiling, baluts are placed in a small cup, large egg head upward, then just gently peel the top of this with your fingers, then sprinkle with a little black pepper and salt.

Lonely Planet recommended tourists, who never tried balut eggs before and might feel uncomfortable with this dish, they can try another alternative food that is quail egg. The small size of quail eggs with tamarind and sweet lemongrass will make visitors feel easier to eat.

2. Ga Tan (Black chicken in herbal soup)

Ga Tan Den, a dish of black chicken in herbal soup © Fabienne Fong Yan
Ga Tan Den, a dish of black chicken in herbal soup © Fabienne Fong Yan

This food is quite popular here in Vietnam and is loved for its medicinal and nutritious values. The sauce is made from different herbs and dried fruit (including mugwort, dried date, and goji berries) from China, with the main ingredients, are chicken meat, or black chicken, a special chicken species in Vietnam. Vietnamese black chicken has several particular qualities including bluish-gray skin, pitch-black bones, and five toes on each foot. Vietnamese black chicken often has white feathers, whereas black chicken in some other countries may appear in various colors such as black and brown. In Vietnam, black chickens are often used to make special chicken soup and other nutritious dishes, as its meat is considered more nutritious compared to other breeds of chicken.

Ga Tan soup is especially highly recommended for women.

3. Chan Ga (Chicken feet)

Photo: Foody
Photo: Foody

If there are dishes that you can find in both street vendors and luxury restaurants, chicken feet is certainly one of them. Although not expensive, chicken feet can be made into very attractive dishes in many different ways such as fried with chili and honey sauce, or boiled and served with spices, ginger, lemongrass in a traditional way. This is the reason why farmers in Vietnam often breed chicken with “giant” feet.

The dish is lovely at first sight. The colorful ingredients create an incredible harmony and charming fragrance. With spicy, sweet, and sour sauce, chicken feet and their chewy gelatinous tendons encourage us to eat without worrying about being too full.

Chicken feet bring the endless joy of gnawing. Chan Ga Chien Mam (chicken feet fried with fish sauce), a dish popular in the central region, now dominates food stalls in Hanoi.

Instead of soaking in “rainbow” sauce, as is done with chicken feet with lemongrass, kumquat, and chili, boiled chicken feet are fried on a pan coated in fish sauce and cooked until the sauce becomes condensed.

4. Tiet Canh (Blood soup and animal organs)

Photo: Dien may XANH
Photo: Dien may XANH

Tiet Canh is one of the least favorite food for foreign tourists, because it contains fresh animal blood, and can carry infections if not carefully prepared. To make Tiet Canh, first, they blend the blood with a saline mixture or diluted fish sauce to keep it from coagulating too quickly. Then they season the mixture, add baked or fried meat, and set it aside. Once the blood coagulates into a cool, silky pudding, it’s topped with basil, mint, onion, and peanuts for an added crunch. Strong alcohol, usually rice wine, accompanies the final product.

A similar dish but better known to tourists is organ porridge, which is made from the organs of pigs, cows, ducks, or chickens.

5. Oc (Sea snails dishes)

Photo: ShopeeFood
Photo: ShopeeFood

Vietnam has many different kinds of sea snails, and lots of them can be made into delicious dishes. Besides the ordinary and traditional plates such as sea snail noodles or sea snail porridges, tourists can also enjoy a dish of boiled snails at the street vendors everywhere. Speaking of snail dishes, Saigon is agreed, by the majority, to be the ideal destination to taste this amazing Vietnamese seafood. While Hanoi’s snails are usually boiled/steamed with lemongrass or lemon leaves, Saigon’s seafood restaurants have diverse ways of cooking that bring out every delicious flavor of the snails and ingredients.

While most of the street food is sold during days and nights, people often enjoy sea snails in the evening. The familiar ingredients for making snail dishes include lemongrass, ginger, tamarind sauce, and green onions.

6. Sua Do Cham Mam Tom (Raw octopus with 'mam tom')

Photo: myhanoii
Photo: myhanoii

Sua (raw octopus) is one of the rare street dishes that are not easy to find in Vietnam, but tourists can still catch a street vendor that will sell them the delicious, mouth-watering raw octopus with ‘mam tom’ in the early morning. The raw octopus can be made with different herbs such as mint, perilla, and is eaten with fermented shrimp sauce – a special sauce that you can only find in this country.

Mam Tom (Fermented shrimp sauce) is considered a difficult dish to eat, salty, and has a very pungent smell. However, this sauce dish makes itself become one of the most significant cuisines of Vietnamese people, which foreigners often joke that if you can eat Mam Tom, you are Vietnamese.

7. Silkworms, river worms, and other worm dishes

Photo: i Tour Vietnam
Photo: i Tour Vietnam

Grilled silkworms nymphs (con nhong) are popular street food in Vietnam and are often served in many restaurants here. This dish is highly recommended for its rich protein and minerals. In the north, in particular, silkworms are bred on mulberry leaves in villages. When prepared for food, they are dried and mixed with salt in order to be fried with fish sauce.

In the Mekong Delta of southern Vietnam, Duong Dua (Coconut worm) is a famous dish. Coconut worm (Duong Dua in Vietnamese) is a kind of snout beetle at its larvae phase. It is considered a harmful pest as it hollows out coconut’s trunk tree and lays eggs inside, then the eggs are hatched into larvae and feed on the tree's nutrition. Unlike silkworms and river worms, the southern people often eat the coconut worms alive with fish sauce.

It depends on different countries and cultures that people can find several dishes from other places are “weird”. Fabienne Fong Yan – the owner of the survey, said that people should not quickly judge one’s country culinary. “You can either like or dislike those dishes above, and that is okay. Because there are many other choices for you at restaurants, street vendors, and markets in Vietnam.”

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