Vietnamese people eat everything! It’s simply because everything is considered to be edible! Let’s temporarily forget about those popular “phở”, “bún chả”, “bánh mì”…that are made out of regular ingredients like chicken, beef, pork or fish. Today we are going to sample Hanoi’s weird food, the food that you really have to set your mind open with an adventure of taste to enjoy. Or at least close your eyes and swallow.
Looks horrible? Taste acceptably OK
Hanoi’s weird food: will you have the guts to try?
1. Boiled Snails – “Ốc luộc”
Vietnam is not the only country in the world who eat snails. This snail eating culture was actually introduced to Vietnam by the French. A few kinds of snail are found eaten in many countries, but are still not entirely mainstream for foreign visitors to those countries. Snails can be stir fried with tamarind sauce and chili, or steamed with ginger, or well-cooked with green banana, tofu and pork. But boiled snails is the most common dish in Vietnam.
Boiled snails are popular among girls and women in the cold season of Hanoi
Snails are caught from rivers and ponds. They are well cleaned with lemon, chili and salt to get rid of all the dirt and saliva (Ewww! I know!). They then are loaded in a pot with lemon grass, pomelo leaves (grapefruit), lemon leaves and boiled just enough. In the meantime a special dipping sauce made out of fish sauce, ginger, chili, lemon, lemon grass, vinegar and sugar is prepared. The boiled snails are served smoky hot. This dish is really popular among Vietnamese girls and women in the cold season.
Where to try: The intersection between Hang Bac and Dinh Liet Street, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi
Weird scale: 3/5
2. Fried Cicadas aka “ve sầu”
Insects are not often found on the dining tables of Vietnamese families in the cities. But in the remote areas like in the mountains of the northern part of Vietnam and provinces around Hanoi these things are very common. You won’t even find this dish easily in Hanoi and many Hanoians don’t even know cicadas are edible. Cicadas are mainly roasted or fried until crispy. How it tastes? Crispy of course with a slightly softer interior.
Have you ever try fried shrimps? To me fried cicadas are mostly the same. And the smell is so good that will make you to have the guts to chopstick it to your mouth. Just like crispy bacon or Pringles you can’t help eating more and more of that Hanoi’s weird food. This dish is seasonal as cicadas only appear in the summer. You can obviously hear them singing loudly in trees days and nights from June to end of August. They sing so loud that sometimes I wish I could eat them all.
Preparing cicadas before deep fry them all
Where to try: Quan Kien, 143 Nghi Tam, Tay Ho, Hanoi or any of the Highway 4 restaurant chain in Hanoi.
Weird scale: 3/5
3. Fertilized Duck Eggs- “Trứng vịt lộn"
My bowl of fertilized duck egg- lots of protein for the day.
I have to admit this is my favorite dish and I eat it almost every day. It is believed to strengthen manhood. But surely I don’t need it that way. Hehe. Many of my foreign friends and guests scream when they first see this Hanoi’s weird food. After the first try not all of them fall in love with it. Because this is the weirdest dish of Vietnam for the look despite being a very common dish in Vietnam and Southeast Asia. This Hanoi’s weird food is more eaten by men as surely they have the mental strength to swallow a baby duck (with feather) at once!
Normally when I make my foreign friends try this thing I bring a long a bit of moonshine or vodka so they can dull the feel. Boiled fertilized duck eggs are served real hot with some ginger, lime and leaves of different kinds of herbs. Some salt and pepper added to your taste and you are good to go. Closes your eyes if you want. And if you want an extreme adventure of look and taste you can dig the egg. You won’t need a luck to find half of the duck inside with its head and feather. Don’t forget to take a selfie with eat before you put everything in your mouth!
Where to try: this dish is so common to be found at any corner of Hanoi early in the morning.
Weird scale: 5/5
This woman is preparing fertilized duck egg in front of my curious eyes
4. Goat penis –“ cặc dê” or “pín dê” and Goat testicles – “ ngọc dê” or “cà dê”
I was thinking about dog penis as it is considered to be more valuable with a better ability to strengthen manhood than goat ones. But then I remember promising you about not mentioning dogs and cats. As far as I know Vietnam is not the only country in the world seeing penises (from animals of course!) as delicacies. It took me a whole lot of courage to try this Hanoi’s weird food and I have to tell you it’s not that special in taste, but incredibly tough to chew. You’ll have the feeling of chewing old shoes! But for the price I had to pay the whole thing must be swallowed. With a mouthful of moonshine of course. Worth the money? I don’t know but I’m not gonna eat it the second time!
Spicy goat penises
Together with goat penis they also serve goat testicles, another crazy Hanoi’s weird food. Unlike the small penises that goats have, the balls are huge compared to their body proportion. And the most special (or the weirdest!) is that they serve this thing raw! Goat balls are grind and mixed with strong vodka or rice wine. This liquid is believed to make women happy when their men drink it. The smell is terrible I have to admit. The taste is like when you eat a raw meat ball. So what’s so special about this weird food of Hanoi? Come on it’s the balls from the goats!
Grind goat testicles before mixing with strong rice wine
Where to try: Nhà hàng Dê 98 Mai Hắc Đế, Hai Bà Trưng Hanoi or Hương Việt restaurant 706 Lạc Long Quân, Tây Hồ, Hanoi.
Weird scale: 5/5
Can you tell the sand worms in there? No?
5. Sand worms – “chả rươi”
Worms often make Westerners jump back when seeing. This sand worm is no different for its horrible look. But the taste when cooked is incredibly delicious. This Hanoi’s weird food is not that easy to find because sand worms only appear a few days a year. Restaurants have to buy as much as possible and frozen them for serving the year round. That explains why it’s quite costly. This weird food of Hanoi is a seasonal luxurious treat. The sand worms are best when mixed with a little pork and chicken eggs and special herd then fried. The smell is so good you will instantly forget how ugly the worms look. I always eat this weird food of Hanoi when I have a chance.
Alive sand worms before being cooked
Alternative to sand worms you can try silk worms if you are interested in trying worms. Silk worms are in contrast very cheap as this is an everyday regular dish of Hanoi. Simply stir fried with chopped lemon leaves, the silkworms had a very light crispy skin with a soft and creamy interior giving an earthy and faintly gritty taste. Dipped in salted spicy lime juice, they are reasonably pleasant to eat.
Where to try: The corner opposite the Ô Quan Chưởng in Old Quarter Hanoi
Weird scale: 4/5
6. Deep fried frog skin – “ Da ếch chiên”
Frog meat is totally a norm in Vietnam and I believe it’s the same in parts of Southwestern Europe, Greece and the United States. But frog skin is a different story. Remember I told you Vietnamese would eat anything. Frog skin would be a big waste if thrown away. Put aside the frog meat that is not making your eye bows raise. They frog skin when deep fried with betel leaves can be a good snack for when drinking beer. It is salty, crispy and it goes well with cold beer. This Hanoi’s weird food won’t be giving you much of protein but can be fun trying among friends at a bar.
Deep fried frog skin
Where to try: Any of the Highway 4 restaurant chain in Hanoi or at any Hanoi Bia Hoi Restaurant
Weird scale: 3/5
As a food guide helping foreign friends sampling Hanoi food for years now, this list is far from comprehensive. Many of the weird food of Hanoi here are fairly common around Vietnam. Here are a few more for you to google (and ewww).
- Lòng lợn ( pig intestines)
- Tiết canh ( raw blood mixed with meat and herbs)
- Cháo lòng ( rice soup with pig organs and intestines)
- Nộm sứa ( jelly fish salads)
- Óc trần ( steamed brains, from any animals). Wanna be a zombie?
- Châu chấu rang (Fried grass hoppers)
- Dế rang/chiên (Fried crickets)
- And many more….
Hope I didn’t destroy your appetite!