VietnamMiscellaneousVietnamese Dishes That Scare Most Westerners

Vietnamese Dishes That Scare Most Westerners

Vietnamese food is well known as one of the best foods in the world. You might have heard of Phở (Vietnamese noodles), Bánh mì (Vietnamese baguette), and Nem (Vietnamese spring rolls). Besides the delicious dishes, some Vietnamese foods still scare most Westerners. Do you dare to try them one day when traveling in Vietnam?

Mắm Tôm – Shrimp Paste

Shrimp paste – as the name suggests – is made of fermented shrimp. Although shrimp paste is not a dish, it is a critical dipping sauce or seasoning in many Vietnamese cuisines such as Bún đậu mắm tôm (a combination of vermicelli noodles, fried tofu, boiled pork, herbs, and shrimp paste) and Bún thang (a noodle soup with noodles, sliced fried eggs, tared chicken, herbs and sliced Vietnamese sausage), etc.

Its particularly pungent smell puts off a lot of people on their first try, especially non-Asian people. However, once you’ve become acquainted with the smell, you will learn to enjoy shrimp paste with various Vietnamese foods.


Balut is called Trứng vịt lộn in Vietnamese. It may look like a harmless boiled egg on the outside, but there’s a duck embryo inside. Eating a baby duck inside an egg may not sound so appetizing for those unfamiliar with Vietnamese.

Vietnamese people believe that balut is incredibly nutritious. Moreover, locals casually have balut as a snack or make it into an entire dish. People usually eat balut with salt, sliced ginger, and Vietnamese coriander (or Persicaria odorata). Others would prefer to elevate the dish by making tamarind sauce or an herbal-infused broth to cook with balut.

If you’re curious enough to try the dish, balut can easily be found at a fairly low price at street vendors. Consider going with a Vietnamese friend or a local guide to build up your courage to try balut.

Thịt Chó – Dog Meat

Contrary to the mentioned dishes, dog meat is not widely consumed in Vietnam, but some people enjoy it as a drinking food.

They usually boil the dog meat, cook it with herbs like ginger, galangal, and chilis, or cook soup with bamboo. Shrimp paste is an essential ingredient for dishes made from dog meat because dog meat has a stronger flavor than pork and chicken.

Dog meat consumption has always been a heated debate among Vietnamese. For dog lovers, it is so disheartening to see their dog friends killed and cooked. On the other hand, dog meat consumption has always been a piece of Vietnamese culinary culture. Therefore, there’s no need to feel pressured into trying the food if you don’t want to. Nonetheless, it is advisable to respect that dog meat is an option for food among some Vietnamese.

Đuông Dừa – Coconut Worms

Coconut worms served in fish sauce is a special dish in the Southeast provinces of Vietnam. If eating bugs doesn’t sound terrifying enough, you’ll also have to eat the worms when they are still alive. The worms usually live inside coconut trees and live off the tree’s nutrition, so it is entirely safe to eat. Having said that, the idea of eating worms alone is what most Westerners cannot get behind. For a less “lively” version of the food, coconut can also be grilled or fried with butter.

Learn Vietnamese To Have The Best Experience In Vietnam

If you are a person who loves exploring the life of local people and eating their local food, you should learn some Vietnamese because not many people can speak English. Don’t let the language barrier stop you from having the best experience in the country. You can learn Vietnamese online with the help of native speakers or download a learn Vietnamese app and bring it with you during your trip. If you are brave enough, remember to try the dishes mentioned in this article and share with your friends how you feel.

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