Cha Muc – Squid Ball
As one of the ten most famous dishes of Vietnam in 2013, cha muc or squid ball is a specialty that you must try in Ha Long. I’ll show you how the local people make squid ball. The squid is ground by hand into squid paste. Afterward, it’s seasoned with pepper and fish sauce, the paste is molded into a flat, round shape. Then, these patties are deep fried until they turn into an attractive yellow. The squid ball is ready to serve!
An interesting fact about this food is that the squid in Ha Long is sweet while the squid in central and southern Vietnam is salty. Therefore, the squid ball here is the most delicious in the entire country. Squid ball is usually served with sticky rice (xoi) or rolled rice pancake (banh cuon).
Bun Be Be – Noodles with Mantis Shrimp
In the past, mantis shrimp was not a popular seafood in Ha Long. However, it has become a favorite seafood of local people recently. And bun be be or noodles with mantis shrimp is the most popular dish. The mantis shrimp is boiled and peeled. The shell is cooked with pork bone to make the broth tastier. Then, boiled mantis shrimps are placed on top of a big bowl of noodles and broth. Squid, squid pie, shrimp, fried tofu, and vegetables are also added to the noodles to enhance the flavor.
Ga Loi Am Nuong – Loi Am Grilled Chicken
This grilled chicken is named after Loi Am pagoda because this dish can be found at the foot of the pagoda which is 15 kilometers away from Ha Long city. You need to take a ferry across a huge lake to get to Loi Am pagoda which gives you access to this delicious food! The trip may be a little arduous but it’s worth it to chow down in beautiful scenery.
These chickens are released on hillsides to search for their food, so their meat is firm, not fatty, has a natural yellow color and delicious scent. Another highlight is that the chicken is still alive before you order the dish. After the order is received, the chicken is cooked and grilled immediately. The menu only has two dishes: regular grilled chicken and grilled chicken with mugwort. Dipping the grilled chicken into lemon pepper salt and enjoying it with boiled or stir-fried vegetables is the best.
Sa Sung – Peanut Worm
Sa sung or peanut worm lives in deep caves under the sand. It is reddish-brown and looks like a giant earthworm 10 to 15 centimeters long. In northern Vietnam, dried peanut worm is used to sweeten the broth of pho or other noodles. Sweet and sour peanut worm, grilled worm with chili sauce, and salad are the most favorite dishes made from peanut worm. You may be scared of its ugly shape at first, but try a bite. Traveling is all about adventure!
Banh Gat Gu – Nodding Cake
Banh gat gu or nodding cake looks similar to rolled pho (pho cuon) or rolled rice pancake (banh cuon). The rice cake is curled up into a long roll. When you eat this dish, you must nod your head up and down to finish eating the whole cake. This is where it gets its unique name. The cake is served with a special sauce including a bowl of chicken fat and a bowl of minced meat, fried onions, fish sauce, and chili.
Bun Xao Ngan – Stir-fried Noodles with Mud Clam
Mud clams are bigger than a clam, and they have a grey and white color because they live deep under the sand. Mud clam is mostly caught naturally from March to October in the lunar calendar. Did you know that Vietnamese fisherman and farmers usually use the lunar calendar for their work? This is because the moon affects the tide and the tide affects the lives of plants and animals.
There are many ways to cook mud clam. Grill ‘em, steam ‘em, make ‘em into porridge, serve ‘em with noodles, or you can even use these little guys to make wine! Among these options, stir-fried noodles with mud clam is the most favorite dish. The mud clam is washed and cut into small pieces. The noodles are seasoned and stir-fried in the pan for a few minutes. Then, sliced wood ear and Chinese black mushrooms are added to the mix. Lastly, stir-fry the mud clam for a few more minutes before the dish is ready to serve.
Chao Ha – Acorn Barnacle Porridge
Ha or acorn barnacle has a similar shape to the oyster, but the acorn barnacle is smaller. In Vietnam, acorn barnacle is only found in the sea of Quang Ninh province. Because Ha Long is the city of Quang Ninh province, this dish has become a specialty of Ha Long. Acorn barnacle cannot be cultured in a farm, it’s a wild animal! Acorn barnacles cling to rocks deep in salt water. The local fishermen need to use a hammer to separate them from the rock.
There are a few different dishes made with acorn barnacle, but chao ha or acorn barnacle porridge is the most popular dish. The fresh acorn barnacle is marinated with pepper and fish sauce, then stir-fried with onion. After the rice is cooked, the acorn barnacle is stirred into the rice. Once the rice cooks down into a porridge, you just have to add a few garnishes. Add some spring onion, coriander, and pepper on the top. Local people like to eat a hot bowl of this delicious porridge at night.