Vietnam is known not only for the friendly faces or weird motorbike noises, but also for the flavorful food that is localized to fit specific region. Anyone who already hit or wish to enter Vietnam and “reign” the foody empire would be interested in Central Vietnam. That is the place of the most hard-to-understand Vietnamese accent, but you just love to hear them talk because it sounds like singing. That is the place of famous yet under-recognized dishes like Spicy Beef Noodle Hue style, Quang noodle style, Banh can (savoury mini pancake) and more.
Yes, I figure you would be hyped up and all-set to explore and fill your stomach. But would you like to stay for awhile with this list which is going to fully describe and clearly portray the food for you? Alright, shall we start?
- Banh xeo (Sizzling pancake)
I get it. This is not so much under-recognized. The sizzling sound when the rice patter is poured into the hot skillet has the foreigners find savoury pancakes of Vietnam really fascinating. Though, maybe they still have not tried the true Banh xeo of the Centrals.
Firstly to notice, it is not that big of the pancake. You might have seen Banh xeo in the South, which is, to be honest, the size of your face. The Central's is only the size of an adult's palm; that way, it triggers your appetite even better. The pancake isn’t glossified with turmeric’s intriguing yellow color on the outside nor the fatty coconut cream. What makes it special is its sauce - nuoc mam. In the Central, they have the sauce with strong flavour or sometimes with peanuts. When the crispy pancake dip into the sauce and then you would feel all the flavor mixed together so smoothly: nuoc mam, the shrimp, the pork meat, bean sprouts and rice patter.
You can try Banh xeo this way in Hue and Phan Thiet. Especially, Phan Thiet has a whole route to serve this only dish. How sizzling is that!
2. Banh trang cuon deo (Soft Vietnamese rice paper rolls)
The combination of this spring roll is simple: soft rice paper, mam ruoc (shrimp paste), the greaves (not the Greek ones though) and quail eggs. All is rolled, of course, into a complex and tasty dish. The mixture is no other as you can taste the signature fermented ground shrimp in the form of paste along with the irrelevant element that is boiled quail eggs. Like what, right?
3. Quang noodle style
This dish might be something you can’t get enough of. It’s different from most other noodle soups in Vietnam in terms of the broth. Quang noodle broth barely cover the noodles; it would be only enough to slurp during the meal. Also, the broth cannot be watery but rather be rich and sticky. Generally, Quang noodle is served with pork and shrimp - this you might be aware already. Lo and behold, because once you enter Phan Thiet, you will find yourself constantly craving for Quang noodle with duck.
With duck, the noodle game is shifted. Imagine a bite of soft, fatty and savoury duck thigh along with the chilli yet sweet broth. Other flavors will enhance your taste like bean sprouts, peanuts, chilli sauce and veggies. Quang noodle style with duck of the mighty city Phan Thiet is something you must grab whenever you feel like.
4. Banh canh ca loc (Thick noodle soup with snakehead fish)
You must be nodding your head and thinking “Vietnam is the land of noodle.” Well, that’s true. Here it is - another thick noodle soup that will steal your heart.
This is a specialty from Quang Tri, in the north central coast region, and right next to former imperial capital, Hue. Unlike most noodles, banh canh involves tapioca flour which makes it thick, sticky, chewy and a bit transparent. The broth is not clear but rich in texture, providing a western-like soup. To upgrade the flavor, snakehead fish’s got the job done since the meat is juicy and no, you won’t have to worry about fish bone at all.
5. Banh can (Savoury mini pancake)
It would be a little hard to differentiate the dish above and this one with pronunciation. For that matter, ‘banh’ literally means ‘cake’ and therefore, it associates with meaning of this dish better. Either way, if you have them mistaken, I figure you just go ahead and eat and embrace it.
Vietnamese mini pancake is resembled all over the country, but in Phan Thiet, it represents itself as a specialty due to the sauce and side dish. There are 3 kinds of sauce: homemade fish sauce, dried fish sauce and fermented fish sauce that is more pungent. With side dish, the pancake is over the roof! You’ve got duck egg, chicken egg, quail egg, pork rind, char siu meat, meatballs, dried fish and more. Then veggies wouldn’t be just veggies but mango, carambola or tamarind. When banh can is served hot and eaten with all of the elements, the taste will blend smoothly to give your tongue a tease before causing you crave for more.
No! I’m not talking shrimps and crabs here. Let’s talk snails, shall we?
Snails eatery might be one of the most exciting and diverse dish in Vietnam food culture. They have all sizes and shapes, and believe me when I say they are all beautiful and mouthwatering. Not only do you can taste various kinds of snails, but you can also choose how they are cooked: with coconut, stir-fried or boiled, salty or whatever your taste buds feel like.
Snail eating has been around for a long time, suitable for both teens and adults, due to its variety and the fun experience it brings. It’s kind of a underground rule that you don’t eat snails alone. Look around and you will see there are always groups and groups. Snails that you can’t stop having more, beer that you don’t know if it tastes that good and the chit chat that you can’t drive yourself away - sounds good?
7. Cao lau
Have you experienced the food that no one really knows its origin? Here it is - the greatest culinary treasure that taste like no other Vietnamese dish and appears to resemble Chinese or Japanese cuisine; then again, Chinese people don’t consider it to be their creation.
Cao lau is the specialty of Hoi An - the ancient town in Da Nang. One thing that helps Cao Lau get a better resume than other Vietnamese noodle is the broth. The water to make broth must be drawn only from a specific well which is dug by the Cham people. It’s also said to be mixed with ashes from certain trees to create the yellow tinge and slightly thick texture. Strange? There, a mysterious and “fancy” dish will definitely capture your attention with its unknown history and appetizing flavor.
Those are 7 simple yet sophisticated dishes from the Central Vietnam that will captivate your Vietnamese food fantasy. Of course, there would be plenty of culinary specialties waiting for you here in gorgeous Vietnam. And you know what, to try all of the dish should not be your priority but to enjoy them with others. Go on a tour, bring your beloved along or make a friend, just pack and travel, right?
Vietnam’s proud to present these culinary masterpieces to you and hope you could find yourself adore our treats!