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 what Vietnamese food is about; if you want to unlock the extreme diversity and complexity of Vietnamese cuisine, take a look at these foods and drinks.
1. Duck Embryo
A balut is a developing bird embryo (usually a duck or chicken) that is boiled and eaten from the shell. A healthy and common snack food for locals, it is believed to be very rich in nutrition and addictive in taste. Baluts are sold in informal street stalls or you will often hear, in the evening, vendors carrying lidded baskets and belting out, ‘baluuuuut’. If you can’t bear to try this dish on its own, t is sometimes served in different styles, fried into omelets, sauté with tamarind sauce or hidden as pastry filling. Eating baluts the right way is an art and eating with a fork in a bowl is a mistake you will regret forever. The real alchemy occurs when you eat the egg in its shell, with a spoon or with your bare hands. Here’s our own 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 the embryo, then sprinkle a pinch of salt to the inside, you can lift the egg to taste the water inside the egg or you can go ahead and slowly scoop the egg parts and enjoy.
Fetus eggs, durian, weasel poo coffee, silkworms.
2. Coconut worm… eaten alive
For many, it is a horrifying experience to see a wiggling worm in front of them, not to mention, eat it. However, for people in the southwestern region of Vietnam, they are the gift of nature, a specialty that is not always available. In Vietnam, coconut worms are considered a very healthy side dish and a traditional medicine for minor diseases because it is 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 can be found most abundant in Ben Tre – home to the biggest number of coconut trees in Vietnam. Although the worms are harmful to the coconut trees, they sure make for a delicious special dish of the region.
On the rainy season yearly, 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. When coconut trees are waned, people have to cut down the coconut trees 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 the purpose of cleaning, the living worms are dropped into a bowl of alcohol. After the worms emit contaminants, they are washed and put into a bowl of chili fish sauce.
There are also different less scary way 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 make for a very unique flavor.
3. Steamed glutinous rice with ant eggs
Ants are tiny little creatures that one wouldn’t necessary think that they are even edible. For one particular type of ants however, 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 ants that build their nests on the tree.
Collecting these eggs is a Processing ant eggs is very sophisticated. These tiny eggs are cleaned gently with warm water and mixed with seasonings, dried onion and fried with fat until the eggs spread the nice aroma.
The eggs are then put on a banana leaf so the nice smell of eggs is mixed with the smell of the leaf. This dish goes with steamed sticky rice.
4. Weasel Coffee
The official name for this type of coffee that can be found in almost any raw coffee shop in Vietnam is weasel coffee or ‘cà phê chồn’. However, the real unique point of this coffee is that it is actually collected 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 the French control. Since the coffee tree had just been introduced to the country by the French, the drink was considered a luxury that only the rich French farm owners can have. Vietnamese workers who work 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 very hard to digest, when weasels eat the fresh coffee, they will have to let out the hard coffee bean inside. To their surprise, the weasel coffee had an even better smell and taste than normal coffee that they were occasionally given to by the farm owners. Today, weasel coffee turns a specialty and a luxury with its mesmerizing aroma and taste and is very hard to find.
5. Snake, Reptile Wine
Having a drink in Vietnam isn’t just simply 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 venomous cobra snake is used to make the snake wine but the poison is cancelled out by the alcoholic content of the drink, meaning you’ll avoid a pounding hangover. Similarly, months of fermenting means 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.
Because snake venoms are protein-based, they are inactivated by the denaturing effects of ethanol, and thus are no more dangerous. Instead, the liquor is considered healthy and believed to have many health benefits. The wine is are known as a traditional natural medicine used to treat different health problems such as back pain, rheumatism, lumbago and other health conditions. However, the one reason that makes snake and scorpion wine popular and desired among men in rural areas of Vietnam is because it is praised as the ‘most manly’ drink ever, known to increase stamina and male virility.
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SE Vietnam is an experienced internship provider with a network of over 500 partners companies and educational institution all over Vietnam and our extensive experience of catering internship services to students from over 15 countries in the world. Our goal is to help as many young people have as many deep, transformative, and profound educational experiences of an internship in Vietnam as possible. With our Individual or Group Internship Program, you won’t have to look for an internship or explore and navigate your internship in Vietnam alone, but rather, with us. You will be accompanied by our local buddies team to open up and let loose, to learn Vietnamese slangs, to spend more time out and about taking awesome pictures home. We want to help you be the hero in your story, and we’ll be here after it’s done to get you connected with our network of international students and share your new insights with future adventurers. Read more on our Short-term Internship and Group Internship Services.