When I was asked to write an article about the top 10 most adventurous foods I have ever eaten in Vietnam, I thought to myself, “I’ve never eaten any adventurous foods before.” I started to reflect on my time in Vietnam and tried to have intentional flashbacks.
I am not an adventurous person by any means; however, living in a foreign country one must try local cuisine to fully understand and appreciate the place they are living. Not only is food essential for life, but food gives a traveller a chance to try what other inhabitants are eating.
Full disclaimer: my meaning of “adventurous” might not seem all that daring to you.
Súp Cua (Crab Soup)
The reason I put súp cua number one is that at every wedding or party that I have been to over the last decade in Vietnam there was and will always be súp cua at the table. I will be honest, it smells delicious, but just looking at it makes me gag. It really looks like thick snot and whenever I eat it I have to hold my nostrils together. It does taste good though.
Chân Gà (Chicken Feet)
There is just something strange and odd about eating chicken feet. Even though locals love chicken feet, I can’t even dare to try them. However, if you are mood for good value, I am told you can get a kilo of chicken feet for about VND60,000.
Lưỡi Lợn (Pig’s Tongue)
This is an obvious choice. No way will I ever try this again. I remember going to the countryside in the Mekong Delta (Long An) and being served some local tongue. Needlessly to say I wasn’t having it.
Côn Trùng (Bugs)
Cockroaches, crickets, larvae and so on—pique your attention yet? This number should probably be number one. There’s really nothing worse than seeing a bowl of worms or larvae swimming around and then being asked to devour them without hesitation. Obviously I am not going down that road again.
Phá Lấu (Meat Offal)
Have you ever driven down the street and looked at all the street vendors and stalls and seen piles and piles of meat hanging and dripping all over the stalls? Well, that is phá lấu, basically all the leftover meat. If you are into intestines, lungs, kidneys and whatever else there is, this is something you must try—just kidding. Seriously, I remember trying one piece of meat from a stall one time and told myself that is not happening again.
Con Ếch (Frogs)
There is just something creepy and wrong about eating frogs. People religiously eat them here and they actually do taste like chicken. I remember venturing into an alleyway and eating frog porridge. There was something strange about eating frogs in a liquid substance. I prefer my frogs dry and crispy.
Bánh Bao (Steamed Buns)
Locals love them, as do some expats and foreigners. Me? Nope. I honestly don’t eat much meat in general and when I do I need it to be cooked and grilled properly. I just can’t open up some bread and demolish a local meat-stuffed pie—actually I can, but that is usually in Australia or the UK.
Bánh Mì Muối Ớt (Chilli Banh Mi)
Imagine biting into the world famous bánh mì only to discover your mouth burning, snot coming from your nose and burning sensation in your lips and fingers from touching the chilli. Yes, that happens. The problem will eating bánh mì is that you can’t really see if or how much chilli they actually put into it. It is really audacious, to say the least. These were a big trend a few years ago, but it’s hard to find one in HCMC now.
Hột Vịt Lộn (Fetal Duck Eggs)
This should also be number one—it has to be number one! I wanted to put fetal duck eggs number one, but that would have been too obvious, so I decided to put it here instead to catch your attention. I remember using a spoon one day on the street to crack open one of them and I opened up the shell and I just felt like I was looking at a baby duck. I was really expecting and hoping it would move so I did not actually have to try to eat it. I masked it with salt and pepper and slowly put it close to my mouth. I was just about it try it and bam! I vomited. Thank God for that because I would never have been able to forget that taste and memory if I actually had tried it.