10 Ha Long staples worth savoring
Yogurt with tapioca pearls, stir-fried horseshoe crab and steamed rice paper rolls with squid cakes are among prominent specialties of Ha Long Town, home to world-famous Ha Long Bay.
Yoghurt with tapioca pearls
Yoghurt with tapioca pearls has been popular in Ha Long, northern Quang Ninh Province for about 10 years, with many stalls here brewing their own yogurt.
The yogurt is topped with white, chewy tapioca pieces and coconut milk.
The stalls of Mrs. Nghi (10 Van Lang Street) or Tuan Lien (Tran Quoc Nghien Street) are recommended, with prices ranging from VND10,000 to VND30,000 ($0.43-1.30) per cup.
Banh gat gu
Banh gat gu (Nodding rolls) are a specialty of Tien Yen District. The rolls are made from sticky rice powder, with sizes similar to banh cuon (steamed rice paper rolls). The dish is often served with minced pork and chicken fat sauce.
These rolls seem to ‘nod’ repeatedly when lifted off a plate, hence their name. The price is VND30,000 per portion.
Recommended addresses are Mrs. Cuc’s (73 Hoa Binh Street) and Mrs. Thia’s (30A Hoa Binh Street).
Ha Long mussel porridge is cooked with sea mussels, making it different from its freshwater mussel equivalent in Hanoi. The porridge is served with green onions, cilantro, deep-fried scallions and crunchy bagel twists.
The best place to try this dish is Ha Long Markets 1 and 2. It is typically priced at VND15,000 to VND20,000 for a bowl.
Seafood noodle soup
People usually order seafood noodle soup for breakfast in Ha Long. A bowl of the dish usually includes shrimp, crab (or stone crab), mantis shrimp, fish cakes, green mustard (or celery). It is often served with herbs.
Prices range around VND40,000. Hai Van stall (Hai Phuong Street, near Dong Bac Corporation) and the seafood noodle vendor in Cau Trang area of Ha Tu Ward are some of the best joints to try this dish.
Fresh peanut worms are usually stir-fried with garlic, pineapples or vegetables. Other recipes involve grilling the worms with salt and chili, deep frying, or just eating them raw with mustard.
Peanut worms are not only delicious but also high in nutritional value. They are commonly sold on Quan Lan Island.
Sweet and sour stir-fried horseshoe crab
Horseshoe crab dishes include sweet and sour stir-fried horseshoe crab, horseshoe crab cake and steamed horseshoe crab eggs. However, if you have a seafood allergy, these are not for you.
Famous addresses for horseshoe crab dishes in Ha Long are Mrs. Ty’s (Alley No.6, Cao Thang Street), or vendors in Ha Long Market 1.
A horseshoe crab dish costs VND150,000 on average.
Snail stir-fried with coconut
Stir-fried snail is widely known among locals, with a price of about VND35,000 per dish, depending on the type of snail. Sea snails are fried with soy sauce, lemongrass, tamarind sauce, and coconut.
In Ha Long, many types of snails are available. Recommended addresses are: the snail vendor in the alley next to the old Quang Ninh Museum on Nguyen Van Cu Street and the Van Lang Street sidewalk snail vendor.
Steamed rice paper rolls with squid cakes
In Ha Long steamed rice paper rolls (banh cuon) are eaten with squid cakes instead of pork cakes or grilled pork as in other places in the north, creating a whole new style.
Hot banh cuonwith minced meat, wood ear, or prawns, are served with sweet and sour fish sauce and chewy squid cake.
Famed spots for this dish are Mrs. Ngan’s (next to Bach Dang Theater), the Goc Bang vendor (Nha Hat Alley, Bach Dang), or vendors in the local daytime markets. The price fluctuates at around VND40,000 per dish.
Squid cakes are often chosen by tourists as a souvenir. Squid meat is ground or hand-pounded to maintain its character. Squid cakes molded and deep-fried with the right heat are golden brown and boast a pleasing aroma.
Steamed blood and duck balut stewed with wormwood
Duck balut (fertilized egg) combined with wormwood has a unique aroma and taste. For the best quality, young woodworm leaves are often preferred. The indispensable spice is shredded ginger. Baluts are boiled before being stewed with wormwood leaves for 2-3 hours.
In Ha Long, steamed blood is a common side dish of duck balut.
A set of baluts and steamed blood costs from VND10,000 to VND20,000. A recommended address is Nguyen Thi Xuyen’s stall (located deep in Cot 3 Market, Hong Hai Ward).
Banh troi tau
Sweet rice soup or banh troi tau is a delicious dessert made with sticky rice, filled with black sesame seeds and mung beans, and soaked in hot, sweet ginger broth and coconut milk.
Crusts are soft, supple, and melt in the mouth, with a lingering, sweet after taste, and charming ginger aroma. The price is around VND10,000-30,000 a bowl.
You can visit Co Beo’s stall (316 Gieng Don Street) or snack stalls in Cot 3 Market, Hong Hai Ward to try this dish.