What Are Some of Vietnamese Cuisine’s Strangest, Most Exotic Foods According to Canadians?
Paddy crab and snails are used in a variety of noodle dishes and soups. Fish and seafood are common in Vietnamese cuisine, with fish sauce and shrimp being popular among Canadian eaters. This is a tradition we maintain at our restaurant. Dozens of paddy crab species are employed in dishes like Bun Rieu Oc, a popular Vietnamese noodle dish.
Ragworms are a seasonal favourite. They can be made into various dishes, including fried into an omelet, fermented into a delicious sauce, steamed with rice, or added to a stir-fry with radish and/or bamboo shoot.
Paddy Mouse Meat
One of the more luxurious and rare Vietnamese foods on this list is paddy mouse meat. After caught, paddy mice are barbecued, braised, added to stir fry, or deep-fried. They are often served in high-end city restaurants. Although a rare food, you will also find paddy mice consumed in some rural areas of northern Vietnam as well.
“Everything Used… Nothing Wasted.” – Anthony Bourdain
This was the quote used by the late Anthony Bourdain when describing Vietnamese cuisine. Discussing some of the more exotic foods in Vietnam, this applies to a lot of the country’s meats.
Normally, in Canada, we dispose of a lot of the parts of the animal we still eat in Vietnam. For example, organs like the lungs, liver, heart, intestines, and bladders of chicken, cattle, and pigs are eaten. They are in fact sold at sometimes higher prices than their meat counterparts. Traditional vegetable stir fry is a common place to put these.
Pha Lau is a popular type of organ stew, using intestines, heart, stomach, kidney, and lungs of cows or pigs. All parts of cleaned, then boiled, and then seasoned with spices, soy sauce, and more.
Vietnamese cuisine has a strong coffee culture. Coconut coffee was recently voted as 2019’s trendiest food among young Vietnamese locals. Consider it a mix of coconut and black coffee. Coconut coffee makes use of the usual condensed milk, coconut milk, and ice cubes. After blended, coffee beans are added and everything is shaken until bubbly. Once there’s a foam atop, the beverage is put into a glass. The bitterness of the coffee and the sweetness of the coconut are, as it turns out, a lovely pair.
Frog is a simple, affordable, and accessible protein. They don’t have a lot of meat to them and so it really comes down to the seasoning. Lemongrass, chili, and ginger are popular. Some fry or steam frog. Others prefer grilling. You will notice, biting into a piece, it takes like a combined chicken-and-fish. They are also surprisingly nutritious!
In Canada, we get bacon, pork, sausage, and ham from pigs. In Vietnamese eating, we go further. Pig tongues, throats, and feet are often consumed usually for major celebrations. A steamed pig brain is also a very popular street food, served on many streets to this day. Even a pig’s skin can be baked and included in some older-style soups.
Tiet Canh is a type of blood soup, a traditional dish in North Vietnam. Animal blood is used alongside peanuts and herbs to eventually create an almost jello-like consistency. Tiet Canh tastes sweet. Many consider this to be the strangest old-style food tradition carried forward into the millennium.
Coconut worms come from trees. They are harmful to them, often digging holes into trunks and killing leaves. Over time, what farmers have come to do is to simply cut down the coconut tree and collect the worms once they are fully grown. Of everything on this list, we admit, this is probably the toughest to think about. The worms are so damaging to the coconut crop that Vietnam has gone to great lengths to eradicate them. Even so, they are still a common street food there.
Exotic Protein Sources
As with a lot of indigenous food cultures, Vietnamese uses a lot of different protein sources. Throughout history, we’ve often had to make food from whatever we could find. Traditional recipes sometimes include things like silkworms, sparrows, doves, alongside fish and shrimp.
Northern Vietnam is where you see a lot of experimentation with meats like deer, domestic goat, rat meat, snakes, and soft-shell turtles. These meats are often fried and sold with an alcoholic beverage by street vendors – to this day.
The more bizarre protein sources eaten to this day by some families include cobra snake hearts and porcupine. These are not typical Vietnamese meals and are a little sensational, even for home culture.
Ca Phe Chon
Ca Phe Chon is also known as weasel coffee. Farmers feed coffee cherries to civets. After the civets digest and poop them out, the farmers return to collect them. They are cleaned and roasted. Believe it or not, this type of civet coffee is one of the most expensive coffees internationally. If you’re ever offered a cup, absolutely give it a try and let us know what you think!
What a journey! These foods may appear strange, bizarre, and off-putting to most Canadians. That’s quite alright. Even to us, some of these seem a little ‘out there’. TorontoPHO offers more accessible Vietnamese cuisine, in the form of Canadian-friendly soups, stir-fries, desserts, beverages, and even some vegetarian options. It’s healthy, balanced eating done right. Prepared authentically with fresh, local ingredients. Visit TorontoPHO for some Vietnamese you will love.