When it comes to Ha Long, it’s not just about the marvel of Ha Long Bay; it’s also renowned for its delectable seafood-infused cuisine. Here are five dishes you shouldn’t miss when exploring this remarkable city.
1. Squid cakes
Squid cakes or squid patties are a must-try specialty of Ha Long City and were once voted one of the best dishes in Asia. Making squid cakes is a meticulous cooking process that requires great attention to detail. Fresh squid is supplied by local fishing boats, ensuring a high-quality source of ingredients. Diced squid and minced pork are finely chopped and patiently ground up by hand before being mixed with onions, dill, and other Vietnamese seasonings, including fish sauce and potato starch. After being freshly fried, they develop a slightly crispy exterior while maintaining a soft and chewy interior. Although squid cakes themselves are deliciously packed with the flavor of the sea and the fresh aroma of dill and are often served as an appetizer, the incredible local chefs also incorporate them into different main dishes.
One such dish is banh cuon (steamed rice rolls), which consist of super-thin sheets of rice powder gently cooked in a traditional steamer and filled with minced pork and wood-ear mushrooms. This is a very common breakfast dish for Vietnamese people as it is light and nutritious. The addition of squid cakes to the dish truly enhances its flavor. Apart from being used in steamed rice wrappers, squid cakes are also combined with steamed glutinous rice. The dish is simple, yet this simplicity reveals the authentic taste of its ingredients.
Squid cakes are truly a gift from the sea and a testament to the dedication required in their making. Ensure you don’t miss this delightful specialty when visiting Ha Long.
Recommended addresses to eat squid cakes in Ha Long:
- Banh cuon cha muc Goc Bang (Nha Hat Alley, Bach Dang Ward): 40,000 VND
- Banh cuon cha muc Ba Yen (36 Doan Thi Diem, Bach Dang Ward): 35,000 VND
2. Sam (horseshoe crab)
The coast of Vietnam is blessed with a rich source of seafood, and owing to endless culinary creativity, there’s always something new and exotic added to the cuisine list, such as sam. Although referred to as the horseshoe crab, likely due to its shell, scientifically, sam is more closely related to spiders. However, based on local experience, its appearance resembles that of a stingray, and its meat texture is quite similar to fish. This marine species is commonly found in Southeast Asia, particularly around shallow waters on sandy or muddy bottoms, like those along the coast of Ha Long. After removing its hard shell, sam can be prepared in various ways, including grilling, steaming, stir-frying, or as a salad ingredient. In Ha Long City, sam is highly popular, with prices ranging from 100,000 to 200,000 VND (approximately $4 to $8 USD).
Suggested places to try sam:
- Sam Ba Ty (7D Cao Thang, Cao Thang Ward): 50,000 VND – 150,000 VND
- Dung Hoa (96 Thanh Thien, Hong Hai Ward): 60,000 VND – 250,000 VND
3. Bun be be (noodles soup with mantis shrimp)
This dish truly represents the delicacy of the coastal city of Ha Long, offering both visual appeal and superb taste. The meat of the mantis shrimp is delicately removed from its hard shell to preserve its shape. The star of this dish is the light, mildly sour broth, created by steaming sweetness from pork bones and crabs and infusing sourness from tomatoes and pineapples. This unique combination results in a perfectly balanced taste. A complete serving of bun be be includes a bed of rice noodles, half a dozen mantis shrimps, pork ribs, fried tofu, and a garnish of green onions. For seafood enthusiasts, this treat is a must-try when visiting Ha Long Bay. A bowl of bun be be is priced between 45,000 and 80,000 VND (approximately $1.8 to $3.2 USD), depending on the variety of toppings you prefer.
Some suggestions for you to enjoy bun be be:
- Bun Cu Ky Huong Beo (20 Tan Mai, Bai Chay Ward): 50,000 VND
- Bun Be Be Huy Chien (Thuc Thoai, Hong Hai Ward): 50,000 VND
4. Sa sung (sea worms)
Despite its high price, sa sung remains one of the sought-after specialties in Ha Long City due to its high nutritional value. Sea worms resembling giant pink worms, about the size of two fingers, can be enjoyed fresh as sashimi or prepared in various ways, with sa sung porridge being the most favored. Sa sung encapsulates the taste of the sea within its chewy texture and peculiar appearance. They are also dried for longer preservation and serve as a cherished secret ingredient, imparting distinctive sweetness to many Vietnamese noodle soups, such as pho and hu tieu. If you’re an enthusiastic cook exploring Vietnamese cuisine, dried sa sung should find its way into your kitchen. The price of sa sung fluctuates according to natural supply and typically ranges around 400,000 VND (approximately $16 USD) per 100 grams.
5. Boba yogurt
And finally, there’s always room for dessert, especially in Ha Long, where boba yogurt stands out. While yogurt is a universally enjoyed treat, combining it with boba creates a completely new and delightful eating experience. When you order boba yogurt, you’ll receive homemade yogurt along with a separate bowl containing coconut milk, coconut shreds, and boba. It’s incredibly refreshing and creamy, with the added fun of chewy boba. This delicious dessert has gained such popularity that it has transcended its local roots and become a go-to dessert across the country for Vietnamese people. Boba yogurt typically costs between 25,000 and 35,000 VND (approximately $1 to $1.4 USD).
- Sua chua tran chau Ha Long (Sunworld, Bai Chay Ward): 25,000 VND
- Sua chua tran chau (10 Pho Van Lang, Hong Gai Ward): 25,000 VND