Halong Bay Food – Top 10 Must-try Specialties
Halong Bay, one of the most attractive destinations in the world, fascinates global tourists with not only the marvelous and unique natural beauty but also its exceptional local cuisine. From the quintessence of fresh seafood to special street food, each option brings irresistibly delicious flavors which definitely make your mouth water. Here are 10 outstanding recommendations for the best Halong Bay food that anyone must try when visiting the UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Fresh Seafood – The quintessence of Halong Bay food
The very first option in this list is undoubtedly local seafood. There are a wide range of marine specialties in Halong such as squid, prawn, crab, seashell, snail, and so on. The seafood will be cooked in various ways, from being steamed, grilled, fried to salad or soup, combined with a lot of ingredients and spices, offering travellers diverse and changed tastes.
In Halong Bay, you can enjoy seafood at a restaurant, on a luxury cruise, or even at some street vendors. A great suggestion for delicious seafood is Ambassador Cruise, a 5-star luxury ship serving a premium seafood lunch buffet and lobster cooked in European style. Another interesting choice is buying your own seafood in a market and asking your hotel’s chefs to cook for you. Some famous locations where you can choose fresh seafood include Cai Dam Market – 3km from Bai Chay Center and Ben Doan – 1km from Bai Chay Center.
Look at the most special kinds of Halong Bay seafood:
Horseshoe Crab (Sam)
This is one of the most unique seafood options in Halong Bay that you rarely find in other cities. You can enjoy horseshoes crab stir-fried in fat with sweet and sour flavors, made into a salad, stir-fried with vermicelli, or stir-fried in fat with red chili and lemongrass. Fried horseshoe crab’s egg and grilled horseshoe crab’s cartilage are also special dishes to try. The softness and sweetness of the crab meat will definitely dazzle seafood lovers.
Sipunculus Nudus (Sa Sung)
Another one-of-a-kind seafood specialty in Halong Bay is Sipunculus Nudus (peanut worm or Sa Sung). It features a 10-14cm long, ivory-white, and chubby appearance, and lives in only Halong sea area. This creature is rated as “Earth Ginseng” thanks to its high nutrition. Sa Sung is usually stir-fried in fat with garlic, baked as a snack to enjoy with beer, or cooked in porridge with some herbs and sliced ginger. As a rare and valuable kind of seafood, Sipunculus Nudus costs a relatively high price, approximately US$ 170/kg. Tourists can buy dried Sa Sung to cook at home or as special gifts for relatives and friends. You are advised to choose prestigious stores for high-quality products and avoid options that are too cheap because the quality comes at a price.
Austriella Corrugata (Ngan)
This type of shellfish features a good taste with a crunchy texture and is ranked among the top specialties of Halong cuisine. The corrugata can be processed in different recipes including being steamed, baked, grilled, cooked in soup, stir-fried in fat with noodles, and so on.
Oyster is a favorite seafood dish of many people thanks to its deliciousness and valuable nutrition (rich in protein, calcium, zinc, iron, vitamin, etc.). Halong’s sea features a high amount of salt and a rich source of food for oysters, bringing local oyster a better flavor as compared to those in other Vietnam sea areas. Halong oyster is characterized by a thin shell, soft body, and healthy minerals. The most popular way of enjoying oyster is eating them raw with lemon, mustard, and chili sauce. If you prefer more savory dishes, you can try grilled oyster with spring onion or cheese, or stir-fried oyster in butter with garlic, etc.
Acorn Barnacle (Ha)
Acorn Barnacle is a shellfish in the family of crab and lobster. Its popular living locations are underwater rocks or the bottom of ships. In terms of texture, it is quite similar to oyster (very soft) but the size is smaller. This type of seafood features fatty and sweet flavors as well as a lot of nutritional values. Acorn Barnacle can be processed into a porridge dish served with some herbs, black pepper, crispy fried shallot, or a sour hot soup with tomatoes and herbs (tasted with steamed rice).
Mantis Shrimp (Be Be)
This type of seafood features a shrimp-like appearance and deliciously sweet meat. It can be found in places with a tropical climate which include Halong, Vietnam. Mantis shrimp is rich in protein, calcium, and other beneficial minerals. Steamed mantis shrimp with lemongrass, stir-fried mantis shrimp with salt or tamarind sauce, or mantis shrimp vermicelli soup are the most favored dishes by both local people and tourists.
Squid is also a tasteful seafood dish that tourists should not miss when travelling in Halong Bay. Although you can find squid in many places, Halong’s version may impress you at the first bite. Thanks to extremely salty and food-rich sea water, the local squid seems to be bigger and thicker with sweet meat. Muc Mai is the most favored and high-quality type of Halong squid.
There are a variety of mouth-watering dishes made from squid: steamed squid, grilled squid, deep-fried squid with butter, stir-fried squid with vegetable, grilled chopped squid (Cha muc), etc. In addition to fresh squid, dried squid is also an appetizing snack that can be enjoyed with a cold beer. Processed fresh squid is placed on the shore and exposed to the sunlight for several days, or up to a month to become completely dried. Pieces of dried squid are long and sweet, when grilled it has a smoky smell that can attract anyone. Tourists can try this dish at local restaurants as well as buy some as gifts for relatives and friends.
Halong Grilled Chopped Squid (Cha Muc) – The symbol of Halong food
This dish can be regarded as “The symbol of Halong” and was also voted as one of Vietnam’s tastiest dishes by Asian Record. Although you can eat Grilled Chopped Squid in some other places, the flavor of Halong’s version seems to be more distinctive.
The specialty is made from chopped or minced fresh squid, floured, and deep-fried. Despite its relatively simple recipe, Cha Muc Halong features an excellent taste and irresistible smell. The kind of squid selected for Grilled Chopped Squid is “Muc Mai”, a special and exclusive squid in Ha Long Bay. For the best quality food, people have to choose fresh, big, and thick squid caught in the early morning to make sure that the dish is crunchy and delicate. Besides the principal ingredient, other spices such as dill, black pepper, fish sauce, etc. are also added in order to bring out the signature flavor of Cha Muc. This dish is completely hand-made. Local people patiently grind up the squid meat by hand to make it crispy and tasty.
Not only has a mouth-watering flavor, but Halong Grilled Chopped Squid is also a healthy dish thanks to its high nutritional value. An average squid that weighs over 1-1.2 kg contains a lot of protein, iron, magnesium, fat, and so on. The presence of Omega-3 in the dish can help reduce blood pressure and the chance of heart disease.
Halong people usually enjoy Grilled Chopped Squid with Vietnamese steamed rice rolls (banh cuon) or sticky rice (xoi) and sweet and sour dipping fish sauce. Such a perfect combination that you will never forget!
Tien Yen Hill Chicken – The best Halong Bay food other than seafood
The best Halong Bay food includes not only seafood-related options but also land-based ones, namely Tien Yen Hill chicken. Tien Yen is a small town in Quang Ninh Province (70km far from Halong City), where chickens are raised in a natural way. Specifically, they are free to run on hills and find food in nature without any cage. This special breeding method may mainly account for the exceptionally delicious chicken meat that is firm, buttery, and sweet.
Tien Yen Hill chicken can be processed in a variety of recipes, but the most preferred dish is boiled chicken. In this way, the natural flavors of chicken meat can be maintained. Despite the simple cooking way without any spices or ingredients, the chicken still has an irresistible attractiveness with its alluringly oily yellow skin. You can enjoy boiled chicken with a special sauce made from salt, pepper, and lemon.
Nodding Cake (Banh Gat Gu) – An excellent choice of Halong street food
When it comes to famous Halong Bay street food, Nodding Cake (or Banh Gat Gu) is the top-list recommendation. Originated in Tien Yen Town, Quang Ninh Province, this dish is sophisticatedly hand-made from selective rice powder and served hot with special fish sauce cooked with minced pork, fried onion, and chicken fat. Besides this traditional way of enjoying Nodding Cake, locals also combine it with Khau nhuc (steamed caramelized pork belly) or Grilled chopped squid (Cha muc) for more appetizing flavors. Is anything greater than a plate of hot and delicious Nodding Cake on cold days?
Regarding the strange name, because the cake roll is long and soft, when diners hold it in their hands, it will hang down, looking like a person nodding. Another funny explanation is that the dish is so delicious that diners have to noddle (an action expressing satisfaction or compliment).
To sum up, Halong cuisine is characterized by a diverse selection of tasty and unique local dishes. As the most outstanding specialties, fresh seafood will tempt tourists’ appetite with various choices and menus. Among Halong Bay marine creatures, Horseshoe Crab and Sipunculus Nudus (peanut worm) are considered exclusive to this coastal area and feature specially delicious flavors. Besides, you must try Grilled Chopped Squid (Cha muc) – the symbol of Halong food, which can be combined with sticky rice or Vietnamese steamed rice rolls. Tien Yen Hill Chicken and Nodding Cake (Banh Gat Gu) are also yummy options that you can enjoy when coming to Halong.
Based on our top 10 culinary suggestions, you can learn more about Halong Bay food and save your favorite dishes for the upcoming food tour. The magnificent landscapes and mouth-watering specialties of Halong will promisingly enable you the most delightful and exciting experiences.