When it comes to Vietnamese cuisines, foreign travelers quickly think of Pho, the beef noodle soup, Vietnamese pancake, spring rolls, etc. However, there are a variety of strange dishes that when first hearing their names, it is a real challenge to dare to taste. These exotic Vietnamese foods are delicious with unique characteristics and will come as a surprise to non-locals. Take a look at our 10 unusual Vietnamese foods to try in Ho Chi Minh, and you will get a deeper understanding of this country’s traditions and cuisines.
1. Balut (Hot Vit Lon)
The balut is a fertilized duck egg with a gestation period of 18 - 21 days in age, with nearly formed features of an embryo. This weird and unusual Vietnamese food is a nutritious and favorite street food. The image of trying to eat an egg with a fully grown fetus, possibly with bones and feathers, could be horrifying to some people.
The egg is boiled for about 5 minutes and served with Vietnamese herbs like the laksa leaves, salt mixed with black pepper in lime juice. Sip on the juice then enjoy the taste of the egg with the sprinkled seasoning; you will never forget this unusual food experience combining delicious flavors. Apart from the traditional method of boiling the eggs, people also cook balut by frying and mix with tamarind sauce and topped with mints and peanuts. You can easily find a balut in any street food area while walking or riding around exploring Ho Chi Minh City.
Because of the eggs contain high nutrients, there are some notes you should keep in mind:
• Balut is best to eat in the morning and eat with laksa herbs to balance digestion.
• 2 eggs/week is the recommended amount for a healthy adult
• Children under 5 years old should not eat balut
• People with health problems such as high blood pressure, diabetes, gout, heart disease should not consume balut
Where to eat this:
Address: 104 Xuan Thuy Street, District 2
Price: VND 9,000 per egg
Address: 43 Cong Quynh Street, District 1
Price: VND 7,000 per egg
2. Offal Stew (Pha Lau)
Offal stew with morning glory
The main ingredient creating this unusual Vietnamese food is the internal organs of the intestines, heart, stomach, kidney, and lungs of the cows or pigs. All parts are first cleaned with salt and hot water, then boiled and seasoned with five-spice powder, soy sauce, sugar, and black pepper.
What makes this unusual Vietnamese food so fantastic at first taste is the sweet coconut syrup, which is well cooked in marinated offal. Usually eaten with Vietnamese baguette or shrimp paste and tamarind fish sauce aside, a hot bowl of thick soup, delicious meat, some chili, and mints on top could satisfy your appetite. Wandering on the back streets, you can find some Pha Lau food stalls crowded with locals, but food hygiene should be of concern. In our guide of foods to try in Ho Chi Minh, some recommendations are listed below you can consider:
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
The tender meat is always seasoned deliciously with lemongrass, chili, and ginger after carefully cleaned and gutted. There is a diverse way to cook frogs such as frying or steaming with different ingredients, but grilling is most commonly served at street stalls. Slowly biting into the meat, it tastes just like the combination of chicken and fish with firm and soft textures, beautifully flavored with lemongrass and spices. Besides, frogs are a surprisingly nutritious Vietnamese food that helps to enhance your health. Regardless of the frightening image to many first-timers, the frog is one of the unusual Vietnamese foods you should not miss the chance to try!
Rice porridge with braised frog at Ech Xanh Restaurant
Where to eat this:
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
The original version of this unusual Vietnamese food consists of fried tofu, rice vermicelli, and shrimp paste. It is the simplicity of ingredients and the paste making the dish one of the most popular Vietnamese dishes. Until now, some locals still find the fermented shrimp paste’s smell unpleasant, while the others quickly get addicted to the intense flavors pairing the tofu with the cut noodle. A food lover would add some drops of kumquat, some chili, and sugar, and mixed all together in the paste to a desired tase. The shrimp paste is salty, a little sweet and sour, and a bit spicy; all flavors in a small bowl of sauce!
In many restaurants and stalls these days, the noodles can be served with steamed pork belly, rice pork nuggets or grilled fish. Don’t forget to pair Bun Dau Mam Tom with some Vietnamese herbs, such as mint leaves, perilla, sawtooth herb, and cucumber to thoroughly enjoy this delicious and unique Vietnamese food.
Where to eat this:
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. Fermented Bean Curd (Chao)
Fermented bean curd is popular in Vietnamese and Chinese cooking, and it is often used as an alternative to a type of sauce and to season various dishes to enhance the taste. Firm dried tofu is selected, then usually fermented with salt, chili, rice wine, and stored in jars of clay pots for up to a year. As one of the strange foods in Vietnam to try, this creamy fermented tofu is like soft bleu cheese with intense flavors. Chao is best served when used as a dipping sauce for boiled vegetables such as morning glory.
For local vegetarians in Ho Chi Minh City, a preferred food is enjoying fermented bean curd with hot rice. For tourists, it's challenging to find fermented bean curds as it mainly appears in homemade Vietnamese meals. You can eat another version of this bean curd served as a dipping sauce at authentic restaurants paired with other Vietnamese foods.
Where to eat this:
Hum Vegetarian - Lounge and Restaurant
Address: 2 Thi Sach Street, District 1
|To have fun trips in Ho Chi Minh City, check out our authentic motorbike tours with professional local guides!|
6. Coconut Worm
For the Southern folks from the Mekong Delta, coconut worms are the gift of nature; they are mostly in Ben Tre province, home to vast forests of coconuts trees. The larvae are harmful to coconuts trees, drilling holes in their trunks, leaving the trees to wither and die gradually. The farmers cut down the coconut trees to collect worms when they are fully grown and fat. Despite the damage these worms can cause and a ban in raising coconut worms, they are still sold and consumed openly by traders and curious foodies.
This unusual Vietnamese food may raise hairs on your arms just from seeing people eat it. The larvae can be made into butter or flour-fried dishes, or, infamously, eaten alive after being dipped in chili fish sauce.
Where to eat this:
De Sua REC REC
Address: 47, Duong so 7 (Street no. 7), Binh An, District 2
Price: VND 20,000 - 30,000/worm
Click on the link to see more insects and worms restaurants in Ho Chi Minh City.
7. Kopi Luwak (Ca Phe Chon)
Weasel coffee beans
Kopi luwak is also known as civet coffee or weasel coffee. The farmers feed the civets with the original coffee cherries, and after the civets poop them out, the farmers come along to harvest, clean, and roast the "processed" beans. This is considered some of the most expensive coffees in the world.
Where to buy this:
Trung Nguyen Coffee Chains
Address: 219 Ly Tu Trong Street, District 1
Price: varies depending on the types of beans
See here for other places to buy and drink weasel coffee in Ho Chi Minh City.
8. Mouse Meat
Mice are usually trapped and caught by the farmers after they eat the rice from the paddies. In the countryside, the meat is not only fried but can also be marinated and barbecued. This meat is another strange food in Vietnam to many travelers, but it is one of the favorite dishes to pair with strong liquors or beers.
Get a travel insurance plan for your backpacking trip to Vietnam:
9. Coconut Coffee
Besides good quality coffee, uniqueness is a top priority factor. Young locals warmly receive this trendy new drink mixed with coconut and black coffee. Making coconut coffee is straightforward. Just add condensed milk, coconut milk, and ice cubes to the blender and grind the mixture. Then put the prepared beans into the jar and shake to make the coffee bubbly. Shake until the cafe has a thick and smooth foam. Put the shaken coffee in the glass. Finally, slowly pour the top coconut mixture into the glass containing the coffee. The bitter coffee mixed with the milk of coconut juice will make you amazed. And it is best to try it hot.
Where to try this:
Cong Coffee shop
Address: Vincom Center, 70-72 Le Thanh Ton Street, District 1
Price: VND 65,000
10. Blood Soup (Tiet Canh)
Blood soup is a traditional dish of Northern locals. The most popular soup is duck blood, made from a bowl of fresh blood with peanuts and herbs added on top. Sometimes pig's blood is used. This one is considered one of the most unusual Vietnamese foods. When it is served, it feels just like jello but with stuffing. The blood makes it taste sweet, and you should swallow it instead of chewing it.
Where to eat this:
Huyen Vit Restaurant
Address: 12C - 12G Bach Dang Street, Tan Binh District
Price: VND 15,000/bowl
These exotic Vietnamese foods we listed here are a just small part of the diverse cuisines. Have you ever tasted one? If yes, let us know your review in the comments.
If you prefer to discover traditional Vietnamese foods instead, when you are in Ho Chi Minh City, check out our fun Ho Chi Minh Food Tour.
Vietnamese Smelly Foods, don't smell before you taste these foods
Snails on a Plates, the strange but most popular street foods in Ho Chi Minh City
When you subscribe to the blog, we will send you an e-mail when there are new updates on the site so you wouldn't miss them.
I tried the balut on a food tour, it is not as scary as it seems. I'm looking forward to being more adventurous should I join another food tour
The frog actually tastes like chicken, but better
Balut and the coffee are actually so tasty
I tried the live coconut worm larvae... I'm officially scarred from eating that. The texture isn't bad but, the feeling of it still squirming inside my mouth and throat numerous times gave me a gag reflexes while trying my best to swallow it.