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  • Writer's pictureTravel Vietnam Local Guide

Top 10 must-try food in your Mekong Delta journey

Updated: May 11

The fertile silt deposits along the Hau River contribute to the abundance of beautiful produce in the Mekong Delta. The cuisine here is renowned for its natural sweetness, a characteristic that defines Mekong Delta cuisine. Here are a few dishes you should definitely try:

01 Hu tieu (Rice noodle soup) – a popular noodle dish in Mekong Delta

Hu tieu (Rice noodle soup) – a popular noodle dish in Mekong Delta
Hu tieu (Rice noodle soup) – a popular noodle dish in Mekong Delta (Source: Internet)

Hu tieu is a delectable dish featuring thin rice noodles bathed in a savory broth and adorned with a medley of ingredients like pork, shrimp, quail eggs, and bean sprouts. To elevate the flavors, it's typically garnished with fresh herbs, lime, and chili, offering you the flexibility to tailor the taste to your liking.

02 Bun nuoc leo Soc Trang

Bun nuoc leo Soc Trang
Bun nuoc leo Soc Trang (Source: Internet)

The soup base of this dish is crafted by simmering fish stock slowly. While the original recipe features Khmer prohok, the Vietnamese version substitutes it with pickled river fish, readily available in local markets. This flavorful broth is poured over noodles, accompanied by whole shrimp, roasted pork, pork crackling, and fish balls. Topped with a generous serving of fresh herbs, crunchy soybeans, and shredded banana blossom, it's a delightful medley of textures and flavors.

Try it: Bun Nuoc Leo Soc Trang Phi Long - 12 De Tham, Can Tho

03 Canh chua ca (Sour fish soup)

Canh chua ca is a delightful seafood soup that brings together an array of flavors and ingredients. It features a mix of catfish, snakehead fish, eel, and shrimp, along with tamarind, pineapple, tomatoes, okra, bean sprouts, and a variety of herbs. The soup strikes a perfect balance between sourness and sweetness, creating a refreshing taste experience. Enjoy it with steamed rice or vermicelli for a satisfying meal.

04 Lau mam (Fermented fish hotpot) – a special hotpot in Mekong Delta

Lau mam (Fermented fish hotpot) – a special hotpot in Mekong Delta
Lau mam (Fermented fish hotpot) – a special hotpot in Mekong Delta (Source: Internet)

Lau mam is a flavorful hotpot that combines seafood, vegetables, and a unique fermented fish sauce. The broth is crafted from pork bones, fermented fish, coconut water, and aromatic spices, resulting in a rich and savory base. Dropwort, straw mushrooms, bean sprouts, and spinach are among the ingredients that complement this delectable dish, adding layers of texture and flavor to the hotpot experience.

05 Banh xeo (Sizzling pancake)

While Banh xeo can be found throughout Vietnam, the Mekong Delta version stands out with its generous filling of pork, bean sprouts, and shrimp. This dish tantalizes all five senses: from the sizzling sound (xeo) as the batter hits the wok, to the vibrant yellow hue of the turmeric powder pleasing to the eyes. Enjoy it the traditional way – with your hands. Roll a small portion inside a lettuce leaf along with some herbs, then dip it into nuoc cham for a delightful mix of textures and flavors.

06 Ca loc nuong (Grilled snakehead fish)

Ca loc nuong (Grilled snakehead fish)
Ca loc nuong (Grilled snakehead fish) (Source: Internet)

Fresh snakehead fish is expertly skewered on bamboo sticks and grilled to perfection, resulting in juicy, fragrant fillets with a delightful smoky aroma from the charcoal. This mouthwatering dish is typically served alongside an assortment of raw vegetables, rice paper, and a tangy dipping sauce. You have the option to wrap the grilled fish in rice paper for a refreshing crunch or enjoy it with fresh noodles for a satisfying meal.

07 Ca tai tuong chien xu (Elephant ear fish)

You won't want to miss out on Elephant Ear Fish, a quintessential delicacy of the Mekong Delta. Widely served to travelers exploring the region, this dish features a whole fish fried to perfection and presented upright. Its succulent flesh is easily scraped off and rolled with pickles, cucumber, and herbs in rice paper, offering a delightful blend of flavors and textures. It's a prime example of simple yet exquisite Mekong cooking at its finest.

08 Nem nuong Cai Rang (Cai Rang baked rolls)

Nem nuong Cai Rang (Cai Rang baked rolls) in Can Tho
Nem nuong Cai Rang (Cai Rang baked rolls) in Can Tho (Source: Internet)

These delectable pork meatballs start with minced pork, which is kneaded until it reaches a chewy texture and then seasoned to perfection. Chargrilled on the sidewalk, they emit a mouthwatering smoky scent that beckons passersby to stop and indulge. The assembly of nem nướng resembles a burrito, with fresh herbs, rice noodles, pickles, cucumbers, and grilled pork rolled tightly inside a whole rice paper, creating a harmonious blend of flavors and textures.

09 Banh cong (Fried prawn cake)

Banh cong is a savory treat crafted from mung beans, taro, and rice flour, reminiscent of a doughnut. The batter is poured into a special ladle resembling a muffin tin, topped with a whole shrimp, and then deep-fried to achieve a delightful melt-in-your-mouth texture. Particularly beloved in Can Tho and Soc Trang, enjoying two or three of these makes for an ideal afternoon snack. For an extra burst of flavor, pair them with some fresh herbs – it's a combination that adds depth to every bite.

10 Fruit and rice cakes

Get ready to indulge in some of the sweetest and most delectable tropical fruits you've ever tasted. Wander through the bustling markets or browse the offerings from the floating vendors, and let your senses guide you to whatever catches your eye. If you've never tried rambutan, jackfruit, or mangosteen before, now's your chance to experience their unique flavors. Don't miss out on the delightful small rice cakes wrapped neatly in banana leaves. Fragrant and enticing, these treats are sometimes infused with the aroma of pandan leaves and sweetened with coconut or mung beans. And when you're in Ben Tre, be sure to sample the town's #1 specialty: coconut candy. It's a mouthwatering delight you won't want to miss!

Ben Tre Coconut Candy
Ben Tre Coconut Candy (Source: Internet)

The Mekong Delta is also known for many other delicious dishes such as Vietnamese duck with fermented bean curd hotpot (vit nau chao), coconut worm (duong dua), sesarmid with tamarind sauce (ba khia rang me), fine rice vermicelli (banh hoi), macapuno (dua sap), etc.

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