What are Deep Fried Ragworm Cakes and What They Mean to Vietnamese Cuisine

Unlike what we have in North America, the street food culture in Vietnam has always been something close to its heart. It is a tradition that has carried on decade after decade, with businesses making everything from pho to spring rolls from whatever ingredients they could procure. These days, it’s not uncommon to see customers outside drinking Vietnamese coffee or tea, or enjoying a bowl of beef or chicken pho, or eating everything from barbecued frog legs to yes, ragworm cakes. So what is the story behind ragworm cakes – well, for the Vietnamese, it’s one dish among many that is unique to the region.

Ragworms plucked from the ocean can either be deep-fried or pan-fried. Because they’re retrieved same-day, they are always fresh – something which is key in Vietnamese culture. They are then turned into patties, somewhat the size of a fast food burger. They are shredded and oftentimes mixed together with ingredients which might include mandarin peel, some dill, and wide arrays of spices. They’re generally cheap to make, cheap to buy, and very tasty. Biting into one, you get something very flavorful and tasty. In North American terms, it would be compared perhaps to a minced meat pie rather than the taste of a worm.

We admit, the thought of eating worms – especially ones that were alive earlier in the day and are now deceased on the plate – can be off-putting. It’s not really done in Canada. That said, Vietnamese cuisine makes all sorts of dishes using worms or worm larvae, and when fried, they arguably are as tasty as anything else you could toss into oil. Needless to say, the deep-fried ragworm cakes that are unlikely to adapt to North American culture and North American consumers. For better or for worse, there’s chicken, beef, pork, shrimp, and all sorts of meats already available here in Canada. There’s no reason to make something from ragworm or anything similar.

One Vietnamese dish which has a deep Vietnamese cultural meaning and which has adapted to the Canadian marketplace is pho. Sort of like a Vietnamese soup, pho is served at dozens of restaurants across Canada and can be customized with beef, chicken, shrimp, pork, or tofu. Ingredients are fresh, the spices and herbs used are done so in creative combinations always eliciting the most balanced meal possible, and its health benefits are well publicized. If you’re looking for some Vietnamese food that’s not going to turn you off or challenge your food philosophy, pho is the most delicious dish Vietnamese cuisine has perhaps ever produced.

Enjoy authentically prepared Vietnamese pho at the top pho restaurant in the GTA and that’s Toronto Pho.