Unique and Unusual Vietnamese Food Dishes That You Can Try in Ho Chi Minh City

Vietnam is a land of wonderful dishes and food that you probably will not find anywhere else, and these exotic foods will greatly challenge your taste bud and your bravery too, at some point.

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When you think about famous dishes in Vietnam, you will often think of Pho, Banh Mi, Banh Xeo etc, but there are more to Vietnamese cuisine that you probably have never known before. Let’s try out these exotic foods that will surprise you for its unique characteristics and delicious taste.

1. Balut

Photo: Explore Hanoi
Photo: Explore Hanoi

This is the dish that a lot of tourists consider “weird”, and slightly…creepy. Balut is not only popular in Vietnam but also in some Asian countries such as China, Philippine, and Cambodia. However, Vietnamese balut is left a little longer than that in other countries. It is also cooked, served, and eaten in a different way.

Balut is a cheap and best sources of protein and calcium. It contains beta carotene and Vitamin C which support your immune system and clean radicals from your bloodstream. The egg is packed with niacin, riboflavin and thiamine which boost your energy.

In Vietnam, Balut is a favorite light meal, beer food, and nutritious food for pregnant, children, patients and elderly people in Vietnam as well as Ho Chi Minh City. Vietnamese pregnant women believe that the fertile eggs help their unborn babies to be taller, stronger and more intelligent. It has been said that the babies would have more hair if their mothers eat fertile duck eggs during the pregnancy. Balut is good food for a dietary supplement because one egg contains 181 calories, 14 grams of protein, 10 gram of fat, 1 gram of carbs, 100 milligrams of calcium, iron and phosphorus.

Where you can get the best balut dishes in Ho Chi Minh City:

Kim Thao

Address: 104 Xuan Thuy Street, District 2

Price: VND 9,000 per egg

Street Vendor

Address: 43 Cong Quynh Street, District 1

Price: VND 7,000 per egg

2. Vietnamese organ stew soup (Pha Lau)

Photo: visa2asia
Photo: visa2asia

Have you ever heard of offal stew? If you have not, then this one is perfect for a cold, rainy day eating with your family and friends.

Pha Lau is a traditional Vietnamese dish originating from Ho Chi Minh City. The dish is made with offal (pork, chicken, duck, or cow) that’s marinated in a mixture of soy sauce, garlic, pepper, salt, sugar, white wine, cinnamon, star anise, and five-spice powder.

The offal is then fried and cooked in coconut water (and often curry powder) until fully cooked. Pha Lau is usually accompanied by chili-garlic dipping sauce on the side and loaves of bread or rice. The dish is often served with small wooden chopsticks for picking up the offal and dipping it into the sauce.

Where you can get the best offal stew in Ho Chi Minh City:

Pha Lau Co Thao

Address: 243/29G Ton Dan Street, District 4

Price: From VND 20,000 to VND 25,000 per person

Pha Lau Li

Address: 1A Suong Nguyet Anh Street, District 1

Price: From VND 26,000 to VND 36,000 per person

3. Ech Chien Bo (Fried Frog Legs Tossed in a Butter Sauce)

Photo: Thuy's Viet kitchen
Photo: Thuy’s Viet kitchen

What about fried frog legs? This is actually a popular dish in Vietnam, and it is also great being a side dish when you drink beer. You can find it anywhere, in a luxury restaurant or street vendors.

Ech Chien Bo or fried frog legs is a classic accompaniment for late night drinking in Vietnam. You can usually find this dish in any countryside or city sidewalk cafe. Frog legs are eaten in France and many other parts of the world, but not necessarily in the US. Additionally, frog legs tend to have higher water content than chicken, so they will keep the moisture better during cooking. Lots of foreign tourists will likely be turned off by frog legs, but give them a try and you will be pleasantly surprised with the burst of flavor. Alternatively, you can also use chicken for this dish.

Where you can have the best Ech Chien Bo dish in Ho Chi Minh City:

Ech Xanh Restaurant

Address: 371D Nguyen Canh Chan Street, District 1

Price: VND 80,000 – VND 300,000 depending on the type of dish

4. Fermented Shrimp Paste Noodle (Bun Dau Mam Tom)

Photo: Dulichlive
Photo: Dulichlive

It isn’t an exaggeration to say that Vietnam is the land of vermicelli and noodles. From the widely-recognized Pho bo (noodles with beef) to the scrumptious, people’s all-time favorite Bun cha (fermented rice noodles with grilled pork), noodles are indispensable.

But have you ever heard about a dish called Bun dau mam tom (fermented rice noodles with fried tofu and shrimp paste)? Different from the aforementioned dishes in which the rice noodles are long and quite thin, the kind used for Bun dau mam tom is shaped like a patty and usually cut into bite-sized triangular pieces.

This traditional Vietnamese dish consists of rice vermicelli noodles, fried tofu, and fermented shrimp paste. All the elements are served separately, along with a heap of fresh green herbs. The dish is occasionally accompanied by slices of boiled pork, and before serving the shrimp paste is traditionally drizzled with few drops of lemon or kumquat juice.

Although it is served in restaurants, this unique combination is best known as a street food item that is sold by numerous street vendors.

Where you can get the best Bun Dau Mam Tom dish in Ho Chi Minh City:

Bun Dau Co Khan

Address: 102/26 Cong Quynh Street, District 1.

Price: VND 65,000 per set

Bun Dau Homemade

Address: 1 Nguyen Van Trang, District 1

Price: VND 68,000 per set

Bun Dau A Vung

Address: 53 Luong Huu Khanh, District 1

Price: From VND 30,000 to VND 60,000 per set

5. Coconut Worm (Duong Dua)

Photo: aFamily
Photo: aFamily

When tourists first see this kind of special dish, their first reaction would be “They are alive!”. It will greatly challenge your tastebud, and your courage too, to even dare to try such a thing.

Coconut worms are called “Duong Dua” in Vietnamese, also called coconut weevils.

The worms live in coconut trees and eat the youngest part of the plants, so they contain plenty of healthy proteins. However, they are only as big as an adult’s index finger, about 3 to 5 cm long, and light yellow in their whole body.

Because coconut worms do great harm to coconut trees and can only be harvested when cutting down a whole tree, the local authorities have prohibited the breeding of coconut worms for food. Nevertheless, tourists are still able to try this delicacy. In case a live, wiggling worm freaks you out, there is still a myriad of dishes of cooked coconut worms for you to try.

Live Coconut Worm with Fish Sauce: This is the easy-processing and also the most common dish with coconut worms. Firstly, living worms are dipped into alcohol to get rid of the contaminants. Then they are cleaned before going straight into Vietnamese fish sauce. Some may say it has a fatty texture and tastes like the combination of cheese and egg yolk, but you have to get over your fear to try first.

Where you can get the best Duong Dua dish in Ho Chi Minh City:

De Sua REC REC

Address: 366B Cach Mang Thang 8, District 3

Price: VND 20,000 – 30,000/worm

6. Coconut coffee (Cafe Cot Dua)

Photo: Vibrantly Vietnam
Photo: Vibrantly Vietnam

Don’t think these two things can go together? Then you are wrong. This is one of the most famous coffee in Vietnam, and maybe the best to have in the summer too.

Vietnamese Coconut Coffee (Cafe Cot Dua) is an interesting drink that has the intensity and aroma of coffee and the subtle richness of coconut milk. This strong and velvety coffee is definitely a must-try.

Coconuts can be found everywhere in Vietnam, a tropical country. For a very long time, Vietnamese people have been using coconut milk in food, desserts and drinks.

Cafe Dua can be enjoyed either hot or cold. The richness and fragrance of coconut milk compliments the aroma, intensity and chocolate notes of Vietnamese coffee so well. Vietnamese coffee itself is usually very strong, so as a result, there’s often an added element to tone it down.

Where you can get the best Vietnamese coconut coffee in Ho Chi Minh City:

Cong Coffee shop

Address: Vincom Center, 70-72 Le Thanh Ton Street, District 1

Price: VND 65,000

7. Duck blood pudding (Tiet Canh Vit)

Photo: thucthan
Photo: thucthan

And last, it is an extremely strange and creepy dish that surely put many tourists off. But it worths a try, since you are in Vietnam and want to experience the weirdest food than eating a bowl of Pho like everyone else.

Duck blood (Tiet canh vit) is one of Vietnamese traditional food which has won the hearts of many dinners in the country. Vietnamese people don’t throw away blood of animals and poultry but use blood as an ingredient for delicious dishes. They can boil or steam the blood to make Blood pudding used to top Hue noodle soup, Blood pudding with glutinous rice eaten with Soup cake or cook with rice to have Blood congee. Tiet canh vit is made from raw duck blood, minced boiled duck neck, boiled duck organ meats, herbs and spices. It’s listed as one of Top 13 foods fear factor by Business Insider. However, its taste isn’t like its look and name. The flavorful Duck blood is a perfect mix of tender duck blood, duck neck, crunchy gizzard, tough guts, buttery liver, crispy peanuts and sour lemon juice. According to Vietnamese people, the food has attractive smell from raw duck blood and herbs.

Where you can get the best Tiet Canh Vit dish in Ho Chi Minh City:

Huyen Vit Restaurant

Address: 12C – 12G Bach Dang Street, Tan Binh District

Price: VND 15,000/bowl