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Lanterns in Hoi An

The best local delicacies to try in Vietnam that aren’t Pho

While some countries may wow their travellers with new dishes, questionable fusions and cutting-edge culinary skills, Vietnam sticks to what it knows best – their delicious ancient recipes that have fed local farmers and emperors alike throughout the ages. Whether you’re looking for warm and comforting meals or fiery and dynamic bites, “the land of the Ascending Dragon” has a lot to offer its visitors. We’ve shared a couple of our favourite delicacies below that you can try on our Vietnam adventures, that go way beyond a bowl of Pho. 

Traditional Vietnamese Egg Coffee

Treat yourself to a cup of cà phê trứng in the heady streets of Hanoi

Being the second-largest coffee producer in the world after Brazil, Vietnam definitely gets creative when it comes to its coffee. On cool mornings when the town of Hanoi is awakening from slumber or in the lazy afternoons, we’d recommend heading to the friendly Café Giang.

Established in 1946, the café has survived the test of time and gets crowds travelling from far and wide to try their house speciality – cà phê trứng (egg coffee). Invented by a bartender at the city’s Sofitel Legend Metropole hotel when milk was scarce in Vietnam during WW2, he cleverly whisked egg yolk and condensed milk to sit as a layer on top of the bitter coffee as a replacement. Today, his son, Nguyen Van Dao, continues his legacy at his own café, Café Giang, adding a little butter and cheese to the mix to make it fragrant and sweet. The rest – is his family’s own secret recipe.

So why not try this unique coffee for yourself in the heady streets of Hanoi on our Classic Vietnam and Angkor adventure? On day 2, after your sightseeing tour of the Temple of Literature, the Hoa Lo Prison and the Old Quarter of the city with your expert local guide, the rest of the afternoon is left free for you to enjoy tranquil walks around Hoan Kiem Lake, and enjoy local delicacies, such as a sweet cup of cà phê trứng at Café Giang.

Bot Loc Vietnamese Dumplings

Try some bot loc for lunch close to Hue’s Forbidden Purple City

Serving as the country’s capital until 1945, Hue has a rich and fascinating history. Situated in the centre of Vietnam sandwiched between the Perfume River and the South China Sea, Hue is home to many delicious regional dishes, from simple delicacies pleasing the appetites of Nguyen feudal lords and emperors to fiery soup concoctions and herb-infused sausages with complex, explosive flavours that are sold from street carts. 

On day 11 of our Cycling Vietnam adventure, you’ll immerse yourself in the historical and cultural city of Hue with a guided tour. After visiting the fascinating ruins of the Forbidden Purple City, you’ll take a boat along the Perfume River towards the elaborate tombs of Nguyen emperors and the famous Thien Mu Pagoda. Before you hop on the Reunification Express on an overnight ride to Hanoi, why not stop in one of the cafes, and savour one of Hue’s distinctive dishes?

One of Hue’s diverse specialities, aside from their water fern cakes, is their chewy rice dumplings, called bot loc. A clear looking dumpling, Hue’s chewy dumplings are primarily made from tapioca-based dough and stuffed with shrimp or pork belly filling. Most come wrapped individually in banana leaves which give it that added herbal hint when steamed. To truly dine like a local, enjoy these dumplings with fiery fish chilli sauce for some extra heat.

Spring roll family cooking class in Vietnam

Learn how to make traditional spring rolls from scratch in Hoi An

Located on Vietnam’s central coast, Hoi An’s ancient port has majorly shaped the dishes you’ll find in town, with French, Japanese and Chinese influencing the culinary fare on offer throughout the centuries. And what better way to try the cuisine, than taking a hands-on cookery class with your family? Not only is this fun for the kids, but you’ll also be able to transport yourself back to your adventure by recreating these delicious authentic dishes at home with your loved ones.

On day 6 of our Chopsticks and Coconuts Family Holiday, you’ll get the opportunity to ride by cycle through the quiet countryside lanes past quaint villages and local food markets before continuing on to Cua Dai Beach. Located 5km from Hoi An, this beautiful white sand beach is perfect for an afternoon of swimming, snorkelling or heading out on a boat trip.

In the evening, you’ll get your tastebuds tingling with a hands-on cookery class for the family, including one of Hoi An’s specialities, fresh spring rolls. Unlike other spring rolls which have flour-based wrappers, the Vietnamese wrap theirs with rice paper and are usually filled with a herby mixture of pork, vegetables, shrimp and rice noodles. Their flavourful hoisin and peanut dipping sauce complete this savoury dinner snack! Trust us, you’re guaranteed to have a lot of fun learning how to roll springs rolls with your kids.

Enjoy cool drinks on the Mekong Delta

Combat the heat with Chè Ba Màu – Vietnam’s liquid dessert on the Mekong Delta

With the sweltering temperatures in Vietnam, it comes as no surprise that one of the local’s favourite deserts comes in cold, liquid form. In what can only be described as dessert soup, Chè Ba Màu translates to “3-colour dessert”, a traffic-light drink filled with ice slush, coconut milk, red kidney beans, soft yellow mung beans and green bouncy jelly bites topped with rich coconut sauce. Insanely sweet but instantly refreshing, it’s a must-try when you’re visiting Vietnam.

On our Vietnam Adventure, we’ll drive to Vin Long, in the Mekong Delta, known as the 'rice bowl' of Vietnam. It’s here, where we begin our boat trip along the mighty Mekong River toward Cai Be Floating Market. Hop off and walk around the market to cool off and grab a vibrant coloured chè ba màu. But don’t be fooled by thinking this is the only sweet dessert on the menu in the region. Surprisingly, local factories in the Mekong Delta produce most of the country’s sugar cane and coconuts. So, on our trip, you’ll have the opportunity to stop and see some small cottage industries that produce rice paper and sweet coconut candy and try some for yourself.

If this has inspired you to book an adventure to "the Land of the Ascending Dragon”, take a look at our incredible adventures in Vietnam here.

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