Are you a food lover and you believe there is nothing that you cannot eat? If so, here are some extreme food in Vietnam for you to challenge yourself. They might not be the regular options for food tours, but feel free to ask if you want to try, Vietnamese people love to share their favorite food.
Pig Brain Soup
Weird as it may sound, pig brain soup can be considered the least extreme food in Vietnam compared to other names on the list. The brain has no crazy smell, its texture and taste are so enjoyable and easy to eat that it is a common food for Vietnamese toddlers and kids.
Pig brain is not the sole topping, so although it is the main character, you can also find crab, quail eggs, mushroom, corn, and century egg. The soup is typically gelatinous thanks to tapioca scratch. Parsley and chili can be added to make it tastier and help you warm yourself up in breezing days. The ingredients are adjusted depending on the cook’s taste, but it always promises to be a healthy snack.
Can you spot the pig brain in this bowl of soup?
Many great places that sell pig brain soup are just small street stores or vendors, so it would be better to look for ones with a high turnover rate since they might have acceptable food hygiene. Here are our suggestions:
Sup Cua Ut Tuyen
Address: 160 Nguyen Thi Nho, Ward 15, District 11
Opening hours: 1:30 PM – 11 PM (usually the soup runs out at around 9:30 PM – 10 PM)
Price: VND 15,000-20,000
Sup Cua Cho Tan Dinh (Sup Cua in Tan Dinh market)
Address: Tan Dinh Market, Nguyen Huu Cau, Tan Dinh Ward, District 1
Opening hours: 10 AM – 4 PM
Price: VND 40,000
Bun Dau Mam Tom
Bun Dau Mam Tom is a dish much loved by the local, but with the expats, it depends on whether you can put up with the sauce – Mam Tom, also known as fermented shrimp paste. Being not only extreme but also one of the Smelly Foods in Vietnam, Mam Tom can knock you out on your first try. Although the sauce is the soul of the dish, it would be a waste if you also skip the rest of this dish. You can ask to replace Mam Tom by other sauces such as Nuoc Mam (fish sauce, which is also smelly, but in a more acceptable way) or Nuoc Tuong (soybean sauce).
A serving of Bun Dau Mam Tom is a balance between carb, protein, fat, and fiber
Bun Dau Mam Tom consists of rice vermicelli, crunchy newly-fried tofu, boiled ham hock, rice flake patty, fried pork intestines and some herbs including perilla, Vietnamese balm, basil. Try to take a big bite to taste them all at the same time, and it might make you fall in love, no matter what sauce you use. Most restaurants would also serve drinks that perfectly go with this unique dish like Vietnamese kumquat tea, lemon ice tea, and more.
A cold sweet-and-sour drink and Bun Dau Mam Tom is the perfect duo
Addresses for a good Bun Dau Mam Tom:
Bun Dau Homemade
Address: 1 Nguyen Van Trang, Ben Thanh Ward, District 1
6 Truong Dinh, Ben Thanh Ward, District 1
104 Hoang Dieu, Ward 12, District 4
Opening hours: 10 AM – 11 PM
Price: VND 35,000 – 98,000
Bun Dau A Chanh
Address: 198 Thanh Thai, Ward 2, District 10
358 Nguyen Thuong Hien, Ward 11, District 10
Opening hours: 10 AM – 9 PM
Price: VND 25,000 – 57,000
Bun Dau Co Khan
Address: 26 Cong Quynh, Pham Ngu Lao Ward, District 1
Opening hours: 10 AM – 9 PM
Price: VND 35,000 -115,000
Vietnamese people love eating organs, so they have found many ways to cook them creatively. Pha Lau is one of which. Despite being an extreme food in Vietnam, it does not have a shockingly strong smell or taste. You might hesitate due to the idea of eating animals’ organs, but Pha Lau is worth a try and it may change your mind.
A portion of Pha Lau usually includes intestine, kidney, lung, stomach, and heart. They can be grilled, stirred with tamarind sauce, but the original and most common version is to cook them with coconut milk and serve with rice, bread, or noodles. The perfect dipping sauce for Pha Lau is the sweet-sour fish sauce which each cook would own their secret recipe.
Unlike many other organs dish, Pha Lau will not make you fed up even if you eat a lot of it
Delicious as it might be, it is much more important to choose a hygienic place to eat Pha Lau since all the organs need to be carefully prepared and cooked. Organs are also high cholesterol food, so it should not be eaten too much. Some locally well-known Pha Lau vendors and stores are:
Pha Lau Co Thao
Address: 243/29G Ton Dan, Ward 5, District 4
Opening hours: 8 AM – 10 PM
Price: VND 22,000
Pha Lau Di Nui
Address: 243/30 Ton Dan, Ward 5, District 4
Opening hours: 3 PM – 9 PM
Price: VND 20,000-30,000
Trung Vit Lon (Balut)
If all the food above turns out to be a piece of cake for you, this one will be the real challenge. Balut, or Trung Vit Lon, is just a regular, casual snack for Vietnamese people of all ages and also goes well with Vietnamese beers. It is so popular that there is a superstition that whenever you want to say goodbye to bad luck, eating a Trung Vit Lon would be the easiest, fastest solution.
Balut is an exotic food, but like any other dish in the world, you need to know the right way to eat it to get a full experience. To be ready to eat, a Trung Vit Lon needs to be hard-boiled, being soft-boiled would make it inedible. Gently tap on the bigger top of the egg to make a small hole, just big enough to drink the juice inside (should not miss a drop of it!). Then, you can eat whatever inside the shell with laksa leaves and a mixture of salt, pepper, lemon juice.
However, what usually scares out Western tourists is that, besides the well-cooked yolk and white, you can find a baby duck after breaking the shell. It is still little enough to eat in one bite, but it has already quite developed that you can see its figure and a few of its feathers. The advice is that you do not need to look too close when you eat it for the first time.
Eating with your eyes closed might be a good solution
Trung Vit Lon can be found in many street vendors. Here is a store with high recommendations:
Address: 104 Xuan Thuy, Thao Dien Ward, District 2
Opening hours: 3 PM – 11 PM
Price: VND 10,000/egg
Summary of Extreme Food in Vietnam
Pig Brain Soup, Bun Dau Mam Tom, Pha Lau, and Trung Vit Lon are some extreme food in Vietnam. They are a little bit weird, but not scary. They are loved by millions of people in Vietnam and all around the world, so maybe you should try it. You will not only get to taste good food but also learn something about the local culture.
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