For each region there are specialties with their own recipe. This is also the case of Hai Phong, a port city located about one hundred kilometers from Hanoi. Yet the street food in Hai Phong is far from identical to that of Hanoi, Saigon or other areas. Together, let’s discover what makes it so special by citing its most famous dishes. #MustSeeInVietnam Editor
In the northern city of Hai Phong, from the early morning to late at night, visitors can enjoy a variety of food and drinks.
In recent years, food tours have played a major role in Hai Phong tourism. The Hai Phong Department of Tourism has released a Hai Phong food tour map, so that tourists and residents can easily find and enjoy local food. In the photo is Cat Bi market, one of the destinations on the Hai Phong food tour map.
Duy Tung, 28, born and raised in Hai Phong, is passionate about the cuisine in this port city. Tung often explores famous eateries in the city to introduce them to other people.
“Coming to Hai Phong, even in a small alley or a roadside market, visitors can still find small vendors selling foods and drinks. Besides the three main meals, the locals have the habit of having snacks,” Tung said.
According to Tung, when you start a food tour in the morning, you can choose a true Hai Phong-style breakfast with a bowl of crab noodle soup. They are sold all over the city, at the beginning of any alley, or in restaurants such as Bao Yen restaurant at 29/31 Nguyen Binh Khiem street, or Lach Tray Crab Noodle Soup at 48 Lach Tray street, lane 195 Cau Dat.
Tung said that the crab noodle soup sold at the beginning of the small alley had the most Hai Phong characteristics, as they were sold for locals. The red rice noodles are cooked in sweet crab broth, served with shrimp, thin slices of meat, pork rolls in wild betel leaves, and crispy fried pork fat. Restaurants usually cater to more tourists. “Even if you are a tourist, you should try a bowl of crab noodle soup sold in small alleys. It has the traditional taste with a cheap price, only about VND25,000 to 30,000 (US$1.06-1.27),” Tung said.
If you don’t like soup, you can have bread sticks with fatty pate filled with chi chuong – a special kind of Hai Phong chili sauce, and a cup of coconut coffee to cool your mouth down after eating the spicy bread sticks.
Places where you can enjoy such bread sticks include Old Lady at 57A Le Loi street or Spicy Bread and Thai Tea at 37 Dinh Tien Hoang street. However, visitors need to queue and buy before 8 in the morning because these shops are quite famous, and only sell a limited amount of bread per day. “If you want to buy a huge number of bread sticks as a gift, you have to order 1 to 2 hours in advance because the bread is only made per order,” Tung noted.
Other dishes sold in the afternoon are usually considered snacks, so people can still have dinner afterwards. You can choose a plate of banh beo – steamed rice cakes – with minced meat mixed with pepper, onions and sweet and sour fish sauce.
Visitors can go to Cat Bi market, Dong Quoc Binh market or Luong Van Can market to enjoy these dishes. These are the famous markets of Hai Phong. They’re known for offering a variety of cuisines and reasonable prices. These markets have separate areas for diners, allowing visitors to enjoy many dishes without having to move much. Even when you wander in off the street, you can still find and enjoy these snacks.
Sui din is a dish suitable for cold weather. This is a glutinous rice dumpling filled with green bean or black sesame, eaten with hot ginger water, and a pinch of shredded coconut sprinkled on top. Famous shops that sell this dish are Co Ut at 163 Cau Dat street, shop at 49 Dinh Tien Hoang street, and shop at 34 Ky Dong street. “Even though they are only street food vendors, they are always full of customers, especially on cold days,” Tung said.
In the evening, there are many delicious dishes, the most outstanding of which are snail dishes. This is a great choice for travelers who’d like to take their time enjoying their food. There are many types of snails in Hai Phong, such as sea snail, nail snail or wool snail. They are cooked similarly with Saigonese style, but less sweet to suit the northern taste.
Some famous snail restaurants are Tuyet snail in the alley next to 27 Le Loi Street, Online Snail at 52 Dan Lap Street, and Huong snail at 274 Hang Kenh Street. “These snail restaurants are always my group’s favorite place to gather on the weekend because there are all kinds of fresh snails that are cooked into many dishes with strong seasoning and spices, just like the character of Hai Phong people,” Tung commented.
There are other cuisines that can be enjoyed at any time of the day, such as chrysanthemum tea. The tea has a bit of a bitter taste on the tip of the tongue, but then soon will become sweet when coming down to the throat, due to the mixture of licorice and fresh kumquat. Chrysanthemum tea vendors are concentrated on Phan Boi Chau and Minh Khai streets.
This is stir-fried gia be – a species of mollusk, which is cooked with vinegar, fish sauce, turmeric powder and arrowroot powder. Gia be has a flattened oval shape with two thin shells. The meat in the middle is similar to clams and mussels.
“Enjoying this dish requires patience. If you want to eat the meat part, you need to separate the shell of each one. You can eat the meat part along with the separate leg part. This is just a fun snack dish, you won’t be full eating this,” Tung said.
Coconut milk coffee is made from coffee powder mixed with coconut milk and condensed milk, then whisked to form a paste. Depending on the preferences of the customer, a variety of toppings can be added such as glass jelly, tapioca pearls, fresh shredded coconut, and dried coconut chips.
As Tung said, this drink has a slightly bitter taste of coffee combined with the sweetness of coconut milk and the aroma of condensed milk, which makes it easy to drink as it is not bitter nor too sweet. In Hai Phong, the most famous coffee shops that sell this drink is Co Hanh Coconut Coffee at 148 Luong Khanh Thien street, Ms Hang at 124a Lam Son street, Le Chan district, and many other coffee shops across the city.
The fermented pork roll sold at the Ba Cu vendor is firm and crunchy. Each bowl usually has two spring rolls and is eaten with vinegar fish sauce. A special feature of the dish is a large basket of fresh herbs. You can find this cuisine at the intersection of Ton That Thuyet and Phan Boi Chau Streets.
Banh duc tau, or steamed rice cake, is a dish originating from China, and is now a popular snack in Hai Phong. The steamed rice cake is cut into small pieces, adding toppings such as papaya or kohlrabi, shrimp and pork belly.
Sharing more about Hai Phong cuisine, Tung said: “Hai Phong cuisine is so diverse that it is rare to find somewhere else with a similar cuisine culture. Hai Phong has strong ethnic dishes. Also, the city is adjacent to the sea, so there is an abundant source of seafood. Thanks to Hai Phong port, the locals have the opportunity to try many new dishes from other places, and through the process of changing and renovating the flavors to suit its local tastes, the food has become a specialty of Hai Phong.”
By Sang Sang, Duy Tung for E.VnExpress.net
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