Vietnam was a crazy crazy ride. This was my first encounter with South East Asian cuisine in all its glory. I am a big fan of trying strange foods and I can usually deal with gross stuff if it is exciting enough, but even for me some of these dishes were too much!
1.Snake Village- Not for the weak of heart!
Location: Le Mat
This can be a terrifying experience for some but amazing for a lover of strange foods! The village is full of decanters like these with alcohol preserved snakes and lizards – supposed to be great for virility. The weirdest thing to try is popping a snake’s beating heart and taking a shot of vodka mixed with snake blood. Sounds creepy as hell but it’s all over in a second.
2. Frog legs and rice wine
Location: Hanoi Old Quarter
Take a break from the insane happy hours at Hanoi hostels and grab some juicy frog’s legs (they taste just like chicken) and rice wine which is highly potent and guarantees a sure shot hangover. If you dig that, it costs only 40,000 dongs a bottle. Go for it!
3. Sticky Bamboo Rice
Location: Enroute Mai Chau
The bus to Mai Chau, a small village about 4 hours from Hanoi picks you up really early in the morning. Make sure you do a quick stop over to have a yummy snack of sticky bamboo rice dipped in a powdery mix of sesame seeds and salt. Top it up with some strong Viet coffee. This should keep you up for the beautiful roads ahead lined with lush paddy fields.
4. Strange sea food
Location: Lang Co beach
I am not even sure what some of these strange creatures in the aquarium were called. Some sort of snails I am guessing. Spotted them in a small restaurant on the sea. You can point to whatever you like from their aquariums and they cook it up right there and then. I was being safe so I went with mussels and shrimp.
5. Pork Blood pho
Location: Most parts of Vietnam
The Viet put all parts of the pig including liver, kidney, intestines and lard in their pho and banh mis (baguettes). This deceptively innocent looking dish contains bits of pork, beef and coagulated pig blood which tastes a little like salty jelly. This was my usual breakfast every morning.
6. Barbequed Squid
Location: Ho Chi Minh, Hanoi Old Quarter
Flattened alcohol barbecued squid served as street food are chewy and taste like shoe! Try some with the local beer if you must – makes it a little bearable.
7. Porcupine meat
One of the reasons I went to Dalat was to try porcupine meat. It is available in only select places and is quite expensive at 500,000 dong a plate. The meat tastes a bit like old cheese. I was lucky (or not) to taste some at a Vietnamese wedding. Not too big a fan of it!
8. Snails in lemon grass
Location: Dalat, Hanoi Old Quarters
Now this snail dish was b-e-a-u-t-i-f-u-l. Snail scooped out, wrapped in pork tucked back in the shell with lemon grass sticks. The lemon grass added the flavour, the pork the saltiness and the snail meat the crunchiness. It was the perfect introduction to snail meat!
9. Weasel Shit Coffee
Location: Dalat, Hanoi Old Quarters, Ho Chi Minh
I have no idea why or how this coffee was invented! Like a person actually thought let me try the coffee bean shat out by a wild weasel. Anyway it was too strong for my taste but those who love strong coffee might like it.
10. Balout – Duck foetus
I had been warned against eating this, I wish I had listened to the advice. The duck egg was bought by a farmer I was lunching with, in honor of a guest (me) over for lunch. I saw his daughter eating it and thought how bad could it be! So I dipped it in some lemon, salt and pepper and popped the whole thing at a go. Bad. Idea. It was half boiled, soupy, and I could feel the beak and parts of the foetus crunch in my mouth. It tasted like death!!!