The Strangest Foods In Vietnam

Strangest Foods In Vietnam - Student Exchange Vietnam

Vietnam is famous for its delicious and sophisticated cuisines. Pho and Banh Mi are probably two of Vietnam’s most popular food exports overseas that you may have been well familiar with back in your home country. But that’s certainly not all that Vietnamese food is about. If you want to unlock the extreme diversity and complexity of Vietnamese cuisine, take a look at the strangest foods in Vietnam.

Balut

Balut Vietnam - Student Exchange Vietnam

A balut is a developing bird embryo, usually a duck or chicken, that is boiled and eaten from the shell. As a healthy and common snack food for locals, it is supposedly very rich in nutrition and addictive in taste. Baluts are sold at informal street stalls. Or, as you will sometimes hear once you stay in Vietnam, in the evening, vendors carry lidded baskets and belts out “hột vịt lộn đây…” (a Vietnamese term for balut)

Strangest Foods In Vietnam - Student Exchange Vietnam

If you can’t bear to try this dish on its own, it is sometimes served in different styles. You can find its variants, such as fried into omelets, sautéed with tamarind sauce, or hidden as a pastry filling.

Moreover, eating baluts the right way is an art. Therefore, eating with a fork in a bowl is a mistake you will regret forever. Real alchemy occurs when you eat the egg in its shell with a spoon or with your bare hands.

Here’s our instruction on how to eat baluts like a pro: As the baluts often come on top of a small cup and some salt, you can start by tapping lightly to break the top of the egg shelf and remove the shell to reveal the magnificent sight of the egg white, yolk, and embryo. Later, sprinkle a pinch of salt on the inside. Then, you should lift the egg to taste the water inside it. After that, you can go ahead and slowly scoop the egg parts and enjoy.

Fetus Eggs Vietnam - Student Exchange Vietnam

If you want to enjoy these special dishes, we recommend local travel agencies like Culture Pham Travel, Vietnam Vacation Travel, and Hue Private Taxi. They provide customized food tours according to your requests, which can take you to the “nativest” eateries.

Coconut Worm… Eaten Alive

Coconut worms Vietnam - Student Exchange Vietnam

For many, it is a horrifying experience to see a wiggling worm in front of them, not to mention eat it. Thus, the coconut worm dishes become the strangest foods in Vietnam. However, for people in the southwestern region of Vietnam, they are the gift of nature, a specialty that is not always available.

In Vietnam, especially in the southwest area, coconut worms are considered a very healthy side dish and a traditional medicine for minor diseases. This bizarre food is supposedly high in protein and nutrition. Vietnamese people believe that, since the worms live inside the coconut tree and feed off of the most delicious parts of the tree, they would be delicious in taste and rich in nutrition.

Coconut worms are abundant in Ben Tre, home to the biggest number of coconut trees in Vietnam. Although the worms harm the coconut trees, they make a delicious specialty for the region.

Coconut trees in Ben Tre Vietnam - Student Exchange Vietnam
Coconut trees in Ben Tre Vietnam – Student Exchange Vietnam

During the rainy season, may-bugs begin hollowing out the coconut trees to lay eggs inside. When the eggs are hatched into larvae, the larvae begin to eat the coconut trees. While coconut trees are waning, people will cut them down to collect worms.

The easiest and also the most popular (for some, frightening) way is to serve the fresh worms alive with chili fish sauce. For cleaning, people drop the living worms into a bowl of alcohol. After the worms emit contaminants, they are washed and put into a bowl of chili fish sauce.

Deep-fried coconut worms - Student Exchange Vietnam
Deep-fried coconut worms – Student Exchange Vietnam

There are also different, less scary ways to have this delicacy. People often deep-fry, grill, sauté with lemon leaves, or steam the worms in a sticky rice pot. The combination of flavors between the sticky rice and coconut worms makes for a very unique flavor.

Glutinous Rice With Ant Eggs

Rice with ant eggs - Student Exchange Vietnam

Ants are such tiny little creatures that one wouldn’t necessarily think that they are even edible. Therefore, many list glutinous rice with ant eggs, or xôi trứng kiến, as one of the strangest foods in Vietnam.

However, for one particular type of ant, their eggs are a delicacy in the northwestern region of Vietnam. It is worth noting that not all kinds of ant eggs are edible. The only edible eggs are from one type of black forest ant that builds its nests on the tree.

Collecting and processing these ant eggs is very sophisticated. These tiny eggs are gently cleaned with warm water, mixed with seasonings and dried onions, and fried with fat until the eggs spread a nice aroma. After that, they put the eggs on a banana leaf so that their nice smell and the leaf’s fragrance mix together. Lastly, this dish goes with steamed sticky rice.

Weasel Coffee

Weasel Coffee Vietnam - Student Exchange Vietnam

You can find the official name for this type of coffee in almost any raw coffee shop in Vietnam: weasel coffee, or cà phê chồn. However, the real unique point of this coffee is that it originates from the poo of the weasel after they eat the fresh coffee.

The history of this strange way of collecting coffee goes back to when Vietnam was under French control. Since the French had just introduced coffee trees to Vietnam, this drink was a luxury that only the rich French farm owners could afford.

Therefore, poor Vietnamese workers at the coffee farms found a genius but not very appetizing way to make coffee on their own: to collect the coffee beans from the poo of weasels. Since the coffee beans are tough to digest, when weasels eat the fresh coffee, they will have to let out the hard coffee bean inside.

Weasel coffee - Student Exchange Vietnam

Knowing where the main ingredient of this drink comes from, you might understand why it’s among the strangest foods in Vietnam. However, to our surprise, the weasel coffee had an even better smell and taste than the normal coffee. Today, weasel coffee has become a specialty and a luxury with its mesmerizing aroma and taste. Therefore, it is relatively hard to get.

Snake Wine

Cobra Wine - Student Exchange Vietnam

Having a drink in Vietnam isn’t just about the taste. It is also about the experience. One of the strangest and probably most scary drinks in Vietnam is the snake and scorpion wine. The Vietnamese use venomous cobras to make snake wine. Of course, the alcohol content neutralizes the poison in the drink.

This means you’ll avoid a pounding hangover. Similarly, months of fermenting mean the dead scorpion encased in the yellow bottles doesn’t have the same sting in the tail as when it was alive. The cobras and black scorpions are preserved in the liquid to have their poison dissolve in the rice wine.

Scopion wine - Student Exchange Vietnam

Because snake venoms are protein-based, the denaturing effects of ethanol can inactivate them. Therefore, it’s no longer dangerous. Instead, they consider the liquor as healthy, with many health benefits. Thus, it has become a traditional natural medicine to treat different health problems, such as back pain, rheumatism, lumbago, and other health conditions.

Reptile Wine Vietnam - Student Exchange Vietnam

However, snake and scorpion wine has become popular among men in rural areas of Vietnam, not only for health benefits. It’s because it is praised as “the most manly” drink ever, known to increase stamina and male virility.

To Wrap Up

Vietnam has a rich culinary culture that reflects the locals’ eating habits, cooking skills, and viewpoints on food. While Pho, Banh Mi, Bun Bo Hue, etc. are sweet, familiar names, duck embryos or ant eggs are more extreme. Indeed, the bizarre foods we introduce above show you the tough side of Vietnamese cuisine.

Via this blog, Student Exchange Vietnam hopes that you’ve learned something about the strangest foods in Vietnam. Thanks for reading.