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Top 3 frightening Vietnamese specialties that horrify tourists

Many may immediately think of duck embryos, shrimp paste or dog meat as the creepiest dishes in Vietnam. But these specialties that we are going to offer take the horror factor to a higher level.

Diverse in tastes and ingredients, Vietnamese cuisine has won the hearts of many travelers for its elegance and novelty. But if you only try the eye catching, attractive looking dishes, you are definitely missing out on one of the best things about Vietnamese cuisine: adventure!

Fascinating or disgusting? It’s up to you to decide.

1. Coconut worms (Duong Dua)

This famous specialty from the Mekong Delta, the land of coconuts, has made many-a-tourist run from the fat worms wriggling on the plate.

Who would dare to put these wriggling worms in their mouth?

Who would dare to put these wriggling worms in their mouth?

Rich in protein and free from pesticides, the delicious worm, which is a form of beetle larvae, lives in coconut trees and is healthy and safe to eat.

Photo by Phuong Nam restaurant

Photo by Phuong Nam restaurant

It is also widely believed that eating the worms can enhance men’s sexual abilities.

There are at least 10 ways of cooking the worms, such as steaming, frying or boiling them in coconut water, in a salad or simply pouring some sauce on them and eating them alive.

Photo by Tieu Phong

Photo by Tieu Phong

The fat, meaty worms are about the size of an adult’s toe or finger, about three to five centimeters long.

Besides Mekong Delta provinces, tourists can try the creepy dish both at both restaurants and food stalls in Hanoi and Saigon. In restaurants, the price ranges from VND15,000 ($0.6) to VND20,000 ($1) per worm.

2. Interal organs with excrement soup (Nam Pia)

If you think that animal’s excrement is not for eating then you may have to rethink after trying this traditional delicacy from the Thai ethnic minority group in the northwest of Vietnam.

The main elements of the dish are the excrement in the small intestine and internal organs of cows or goats.

Photo by Yutaka

Photo by Yutaka

After boiling the internal organs, the small intestine with the excrement inside is mixed with minced herbs (especially mac ken, a special forest herb). In some areas, people also add some cow’s bile. The mixture is boiled for an hour.

Mac ken, the special forest herb that adds spiceness to the dish. Photo by Yutaka

Mac ken, the special forest herb that adds spiceness to the dish. Photo by Yutaka

The brown soup smells foul and the first taste has a weird, bitter flavor. It does improve though, and you may end up falling in love with that delicious bitterness that lingers in your mouth even when you’ve finished the dish.

The delicacy is best served with some mint, banana flower and boiled pork.

The dish will have a lasting impression if you dare to try it. This Thai ethnic delicacy is truly “the taste of the forest”.

3. Uncooked blood soup or pudding

The sight of fresh blood from ducks, chickens, goats or pigs is a nightmare for the faint-hearted.

Slaughtering animals for their fresh blood not only happens in horror films, it is a real specialty here in Vietnam, with pig’s blood the most popular.

Photo by nhahangvietnam.vn

Photo by nhahangvietnam.vn

The process to make the dish is not at all that complicated.

First, the cook gets the freshly drawn blood and adds some fish sauce or salt water, then thoroughly stirs it with chopsticks. Next, mix in some minced meat or cooked innards, herbs and groundnut so that the blood coagulates. You can also add some lime to make it tastier.

Photo by amthucxumuong.com

Photo by amthucxumuong.com

Many claim that the raw version of the dish is the most delicious, but others like it boiled.

However, not to mention foreign toursits, many Vietnamese cannot bear to look at it or even sit down if there’s blood pudding on the table.

So, will you dare to try this bloody dish?

Food

A bowl of fish cake noodles that will leave you wanting for more

A Hanoi restaurant serves steaming bowls of various kinds of noodle soups with three types of vegetables to warm your stomach.

When the weather starts to turn chill, nothing can be as satisfying as slurping on a steaming bowl of delicious sour and spicy noodles soup. Besides bun rieu (salty tomato broth, served with crab or fish) and bun oc (snail noodles soup), another popular choice among Hanoians is bun ca (fried fish cake noodles soup).

When it opened a decade ago the fried fish cake noodles soup restaurant on Le Van Huu Street was just a small eatery, but it now has branches in several other places. But the original one still attracts the most customers.

A full bowl of noodle soup, fish cakes and fresh boiled carp.

A full bowl of noodle soup, fish cakes and fresh boiled carp.

For just VND35,000 ($1.5), each bowl is served with a plate of vegetables, including giant elephant ear plant, water dropwort and mustard leaf. Customers can ask for just one kind of vegetable if they want.

Like most fish cake noodles soup restaurants in Hanoi, this one serves crunchy fried fish cakes to eat with a variety of noodles like rice vermicelli, flat rice noodles and cassava vermicelli.

At the restaurant, the cake is made with climbing perch fish. The pieces of cake are about match-box size, the outside is fried to a crunchy golden color while the inside remains soft and flavorful.

On order, the soup also comes with pieces of freshly boiled carp. They are firm and don’t taste fishy. This is what makes the restaurant stand out for its regulars.

Another signature dish of the restaurant is the fried fish cakes dipped in sweet and sour fish sauce. Since the fish is fried on order, the pieces remain thick and tasty

The fried fish cakes are made on customers' orders. Photo by VnExpress/Tuan Dao

The fried fish cakes are made on customers’ orders. Photo by VnExpress/Tuan Dao

With a little bit of kumquat, chili sauce and pickled garlic, there is a delicious bowl of noodles soup that customers usually polish off to the last drop. The restaurant owner said since the broth is made from fish bones and marrow bones, the broth is clear and naturally sweet without needing any added artificial flavoring.

Duc, a first time customer, said: “I think the broth here is really nice. The fish cakes are thick and warm, and not shriveled like at other places.”

The restaurant also does takeout of fish cakes, fried eel cakes, crunchy fried fish, boneless fish and more.

This small restaurant has been attracting a large number of customers for a decade. Photo by VnExpress/Tuan Dao

This small restaurant has been attracting a large number of customers for a decade. Photo by VnExpress/Tuan Dao

Source: Tuan Dao(VNEXPRESS)

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Food

Coconut sticky rice a rare treat on Hanoi streets

The dish emerged decades ago, but it remains difficult to find a place in Hanoi that makes it really well

On the outside, the coconut sticky rice, xoi dua, is a very simple, tasty dish, one of several varieties of the dish that is a popular breakfast choice of many in Vietnam, including Hanoi.

However, there’s more to this particular variety that makes it difficult to get one that has the right taste.

Basically, the dish is a combination of glutinous rice with sesame, shredded coconut and a dash of brown sugar. It has a light sweet taste, great fragrance and does not “fill” you like other, more well known sticky rice varieties.

Despite its great taste and looks, the coconut sticky rice is not a ubiquitous presence on the street because making it is a relatively difficult, time consuming process.

The cook has to steam the rice twice after adding a pinch of salt. Then, the white strands of grated coconut and the sesame, essential to the dish, have to be roasted carefully. If the fire is too strong, they will get burnt, and the taste and fragrance of the dish will be lost. The second steaming happens after the rice has been mixed with the grated coconut and coconut milk.

Following the second steaming, the roasted and ground sesame, is sprinkled on top of the rice with a little touch of brown sugar and all this is mixed up before the dish is served.

A dish is both shiny and bright, with both the dark rice and white coconut having a glossy finish.

One of the few places that aficionados of this dish will recommend is Hoa’s coconut sticky rice stall on Ngo Van So Street. She also sells other sticky rice varieties including the xoi gac (with gac fruit ), xoi do den (black beans), xoi lac (peanuts) and xoi dau xanh (mung beans).

Hoa highlighted one more “difficulty” in making the coconut sticky rice. “Preparing the rice is what takes the most effort, you have to wash very carefully to make sure that every single grain is of good quality.”

Source: Viet Nguyen (VNEXPRESS)

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Food

Coffee that’s been brewing for 50 years in south Vietnam

Customers of a nameless, unassuming coffee shop in An Giang are drawn by the ‘scent of time’ it exudes.

Near the Long Xuyen canal and Ong Manh bridge, Ho Thi Hanh has been running her coffee shop for 50 years. Her café has no sparkling billboard or even a clear address, but its simplicity, neatness, unchanged ambience and special coffee flavor have won the hearts of many customers.

Local patrons refer to the shop “Muoi Ngau café”.

Hanh prepares the coffee after the customers place their order, so that every cup has a fresh, strong flavor. She brews the coffee in an earthen pot on a brick stove fuelled by rice husk. She uses an aluminum spoon to take the coffee powder from a tin container. None of her brewing tools are made of plastic.

Once the coffee is brewed it is strained through cloth mesh before being poured into cups.

Many customers said they can smell the “scent” of time as they wait for and enjoy their coffee.

Before pouring the coffee, Hanh warms the cups by dipping them in boiling water, so the beverage retains its heat and warmth for longer.

There is also a tea pot in the café that is usually refilled with boiled water. Hanh only uses one stove to boil the water for brewing coffee and tea. She is always busy brewing, pouring and serving. In the morning when the place is packed, she seeks some help from her two children.

Despite the incessant work flow, Hanh attends to each and every one of her customers. She can notice who has finished their drink, and promptly refill their cup with coffee for free.

“Should drink some more for fun,” she said, smiling.

At the end of the day, the cloth filters are washed and placed on the side of the house to be dried by the sun and wind that blows from the nearby Hau River.

The café’s takeaway options are simple, too. The coffee is poured into a plastic bag tied with rubber bands. A bag of tea that is double the size goes along.

The shop is part of an old house, with unpainted walls. It can accommodate just three sets of wooden tables and chairs, all weathered by time.

The aroma of coffee has been lingering on the ceilings walls for more than 50 years.

People usually order a hot black coffee with some sugar and ice. The milk coffee here bears the southwestern coffee style: the milk portion almost equals that of the coffee, creating a refreshingly sweet drink.

“In the past, when we first came here and asked her permission to take pictures, she would give us free coffee,” said Phi Thong, 22, a local resident.

A cup of coffee costs just VND5,000 ($0.2). Most of the customers are local workers, who drop by for a takeaway drink in the morning, or sit and relax to get some rest during a long working day.

The café is also the rendezvous for everyone from different walks of life to gather, have breakfast and engage in some chit-chat.

The milk coffee.

Ut, 44, a vendor living nearby, has had coffee from Hanh’s café for more than 20 years. “Every day I buy a takeaway coffee bag. In the past I used to buy it for my dad, but now, I myself enjoy the drink.”

Source: Linh Tam (VNEXPRESS)

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