The Mekong Delta is abundant, so is its palate. If you are on a Mekong Delta tour, there would be endless things to explore, especially food. Being famous for mouth-watering cuisine, the Mekong Delta offers a wide range of tastes for foodies, including some local-typical but foreigner-surprise. Bet that you don’t normally eat those foods at home, but if you dare, try them at least once so you can text your friends that you have experienced the weirdest dish while touring the Mekong Delta. Here are a few of the stranger menus that may scare you, intrigue you, or possibly impress you with local’s creativity to find food in the most unlikely places.
- Sam Bien – Tri-spine Horseshoe Crab (Go Cong, Tien Giang)
This dish has a scary look but is considered a must-try on a Mekong Delta tour. These horseshoe crabs are living fossils with blue blood, literally. Although these creatures are “crabs”, they are most closely related to modern-day spiders, scorpions, and the extinct trilobites. This creature might seem weird for consumption but underneath the crab’s military-like shell is where tasty meat and buttery roe can be enjoyed.
Like a jewel hidden inside a stone, their silky meat and golden roe taste amazing. It is a combination of ancient essences, conserved throughout millions of years, without deformation and evolution. The sam’s meat has a fibrous texture combined with a deep savory-sweet flavor and a bit of saltiness from the nutrients of the ocean, that leaves a mouthful of subtle yet lingering taste.
The roe is even more delicate. Upon cracking open its belly, a grilled female sam lets out an overwhelming, mouth-watering fragrance, all coming from the roe. This complex buttery taste resembles that of other luxurious hard-shell creatures like lobsters and big crabs. In addition, sam’s roe is packed with even more protein and nutrients compared to its meat.
- Duong Dua – Coconut worm (Ben Tre)
You might have had your fair share of raw food (like the fascinating raw salmon or prawn…sushi) in the past but the coconut worm takes the game to the next level. Do you dare to pick the live fat coconut worm swimming in a bowl of fish sauce and put it in your mouth? Coconut worm is a yellow larva with a brown head. It usually lives inside the coconut stem and eats coconut tubers. In the Mekong Delta, live coconut worm is a specialty dish.
Duong Dua is a form of beetle larvae. After the breeding season the beetle usually chooses the healthy coconut, pierces a hole on top and lays the eggs in it. After the eggs hatch, the larvae grow by eating the young shoots of the coconut tree until the tree is pierced through.
Duong Dua are most yummy when they are still alive. It will surely be a little scary at first glance because the worm will still be moving in between your chopsticks. But if you can get over your fear and try it, you will love the flavor as some say it has a fatty texture and tastes like the combination of cheese and egg yolk.
In case you don’t prefer a live larva but are still curious about the taste then go for cooked worms. Some popular dishes you can find are grilled worm, butter fried worm, worm steamed with coconut juice, or coconut worm porridge. A terrifying but worth-trying dish on your Mekong Delta tour.
- Banh Canh Hen Nuoc Cot Dua – Rice Udon with Baby Clams in Coconut Milk Broth (Ben Tre)
Among 10 different types of Banh Canh dishes in the Mekong Delta, the title of most unique would no doubt go to Banh Canh Hen Nuoc Cot Dua. Despite being a folksy noodle soup, this specialty will rival any other soup in terms of flavors. This dish is like Japanese udon in terms of shape and technique, but the taste is very different because the Vietnamese use rice and tapioca starch as ingredients.
To make the broth, the vendor chooses the sweetest coconut with the thickest meat. The juice is used together with the boiled baby clam water to make the broth, and the coconut meat is ground to extract the milk. When the broth is almost done and seasoned, the Banh Canh noodles are mixed in, then the heat is lowered to add the coconut milk.
To serve, the mixture is poured into a bowl, the stir-fried baby clams are added along with salt, pepper, and some local herbs. The chewiness of the Banh Canh noodles, covered by thick soup with many layers of taste will surely satisfy any picky tastes. This buttery, fragrant, savory and sweet dish is going to leave an unforgettable memory, reminding you of a lovely land on your Mekong Delta tour.
- Chuot Dong Quay Lu – Roasted Rice Field Rate (Dong Thap)
Dong Thap is one of the most-visited places on the Mekong Delta tour. If you have a chance to get here, don’t miss the thrilling dish of rats cooked in various ways. There are many kinds of rats in Dong Thap, but only those living in the rice field, feasting on rice and fresh water, are safe and tasty to consume. The rats roasted in a vase are the fattest and meatiest ones because they have been eating the best rice grains all day. While having their meat smoked, the fragrance is said to be sweet, milky like toast and butter.
Noteworthily, edible mice or rats in Vietnam are only available from October to March of the lunar calendar, when it is the season field and they go out searching for food so all of them become fat and ‘clean’. Besides, cooking this dish in Vietnam is a time consuming process. The rat is cleaned from its head to internal organs except the liver, skin, excretory organs and glands in its rear legs. They are soaked in BBQ marinade for 15-20 minutes before being put in the roasting vases. It is essential to continuously spread fat and sauce on the rat and spin them periodically while roasting. This process takes around one hour for a vase of 10-20 rats. Open the lid, and these delicacies will make your mouth water immediately. Their skin is caramelized and shiny, emanating an irresistible aroma. They look like roasted piglets.
Grilled BBQ or grilled rat in Vietnam tastes like pigeon but less smelly and more texture. Steamed or boiled mouse is more like ham. Gourmets would never forget this attractive “strange” dish in their Mekong Delta tour.
- Goi Nhong – Bee worm salad (Ca Mau)
As one of the less touristy destinations of the Mekong Delta tour, but Ca Mau has a favorable location that endowed with a plentiful source of food supply, ranging from the tropical forests to sea source. So, it is not hard to understand the cuisine here is more special and impressive. Once saying hello to this province, it seems a pity to ignore its delicacy, called bee worm salad. Taken from U Minh tropical forest, bee worm dazzles tourists with buttery, greasy and even strange flavor.
After dipped in boiling water, bee worm will be then fried on the pan. Other ingredients, including fried onion, pepper, fish sauce, and a bit of sugar, will be also added. The next step is to soak sliced banana flowers in salty water. To tickle gourmets’ taste buds, fried bee will be mixed with fried groundnuts, sliced banana flower, some kinds of herbs, and finally seasoned with chili, vinegar, and fish sauce. You can sense all kinds of flavor from this bee worm salad, from sweet, salty, sour and spicy, to buttery and greasy. These are all flawlessly combined to leave an unforgettable impression on your mouth. Try it once, you will not regret it.
Though this list of the 5 weird dishes hardly cover the Mekong Delta cuisine, they are hearty, homey with subtle scents and lingering tastes that engrave an unforgettable experience in tourists’ memory when they are on the Mekong Delta tour. If you would love to try those dishes while taking a wonderful and hassle-free trip, please feel free to let us know. We always commit our best to make it your once-in-a-lifetime journey.