Only In Vietnam: Would You Try This Really Exotic Food?

We describe the many exotic food Vietnamese eat that most foreigners won’t: blood pudding, balut, crickets, rats, worms and dogs.

You know the old saying… Everything visually off-putting invariably tastes like chicken! Christopher Columbus is said to be one of the first to use the comparison about exotic food in his log, after arriving in the New World, when he and his crew killed some iguanas: “The people eat them and the meat is white and tastes like chicken.”

Are you brave enough to try some bizarre food in Vietnam and see if the old adage is true? Forget about Pho, Bun Thit Nuong or Banh Cuon. The following is a list of really strange and perhaps unappetizing dishes for Westerners that the Vietnamese indulge in. Just to warn you, if you are prone to feel queasy just by looking at the images, we suggest you to check our list of more traditional Vietnamese dishes.

Tiet Canh (Blood Pudding)

A traditional dish from the North of Vietnam, the blood pudding is exactly what its name implies: it’s made with the blood of an animal, usually a duck or a pig, but also goose, goat, and even snake. The blood is mixed with fish sauce and salt water to prevent coagulation. Chopped innards of the animal and some of its meat will then be roasted with peanuts and herbs like lemon, mint, coriander, and pepper, along with spicy chili. This mix is added to the blood, forming a layer on top. When it is served, the blood feels just like jello, but the dish looks like a pizza, with toppings on top. The pudding will taste a little sweet, and you should swallow directly instead of chewing it.

Tiet canh is made with the blood of an animal, usually a duck or a pig, but also goose, goat, and even snake.
Tiet canh

Where to try this exotic food?

Pho Hoa Pasteur (260C Pasteur Street, Ward 8, District 3)
Price: 15,000 VND for a bowl

Hot Vit Lon (Balut)

The balut is a simple duck egg, served in a small cup and eaten with a spoon. You might think “well I eat eggs for breakfast all the time.” Yes, of course, but… The balut is a fertilized egg with a gestation period of 20 days. That means the bird’s embryo is almost nearly formed inside. Yes, you will find sometimes little feathers, legs, brain, and the beak too. The locals eat this Vietnamese dish as a midnight snack, usually after an evening of drinking. The egg is boiled for about 5 minutes and served with laksa leaves and a little dip consisting of salt mixed with black pepper in lime juice. It is strangely delicious once you get past the “I’m eating a little bird” mind block.

The balut is a simple duck egg, served in a small cup and eaten with a spoon
Hot Vit Lon (Balut)

Where to try it?

You can easily find balut in little street food stands in many places around Ho Chi Minh City. Look for the hột vịt lộn signs or the food cart screaming from a loudspeaker around the city.
Price: around 7,000 or 9,000 VND / egg

De Chien (Fried White Cricket)

Of course, we have to talk about eating insects when we talk about strange food. You will find restaurants in Saigon that sells all kinds of insects to eat, from scorpions to grasshoppers. But the favorite exotic food of the Vietnamese people is the fried white cricket. The insects are roasted in hot oil, along with chopped pork and lemon leaves. The taste of the cricket is similar to prawns or crab, but crunchier. It’s a great source of protein, fat, and vitamins. It is also believed that eating crickets can cure rheumatism and obesity.

De Chien (Fried White Cricket) in Vietnam
De Chien (Fried White Cricket)

Where to try it?

De Sua Rec Rec (47 Đường số 7, Khu đô thị An Phú An Khánh, Quận 2, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam)
Bo Cap Lua Restaurant (998 Dong Van Cong, District 2)
Price: around 60,000 VND a plate

Chuot Dong (Rat Meat)

Yes, rats. Not cute little white mice, but at least we don’t talk about those running rampant on the cities. These rats are those that run around the rice paddies in the countryside. Farmers trap them, marinate the meat and barbecue it. Rat meat is an ingredient used in more than 30 different dishes. Vietnamese grill it, steam it, serve it with lemon leaves or stir-fry it with garlic and onions. Rat has its own particular flavor, more akin to game meat, like rabbit or venison. The meat is white, dense, almost sweet, but you have to chew around many small bones, similar to eating frog.

Rat has its own particular flavor, more akin to game meat, like rabbit or venison
Chuot dong (Rat Meat)

Where to try it?

Huong Rung 2 (146 Hai Ba Trung Street, District 1)
Price: VND 12,000 / rat

Duong Dua (Coconut Worms)

This exotic food will take your culinary experiences to the next level! In the Mekong Delta, eating live coconut worms is a delicacy. Oh, you can have fried, dried or boiled worms, served with glutinous rice. But if you are feeling adventurous, do like the Vietnamese and eat them alive and raw.

The worms are as big as an adult thumb, and yes, they will wiggle around when you pick them up with your chopsticks or fingers. You should avoid biting the head and just eat the body of the worm, after having dipped it in the classic Vietnamese nuoc mam, the chili fish sauce. If you do not like fish sauce, you are still not getting out of that easily. Connoisseurs dip the worm in beer instead. Now the worm itself is fat and juicy and its texture is similar to raw salmon. It is very flavorful and as far from chicken as anything can be!

The worm itself is fat and juicy and its texture is similar to raw salmon
Duong Dua (Coconut Worms)

Where to try it?

Luong Son Quan – Bo Tung Xeo (31 Ly Tu Trong Street, District 1)
Price: between 20,000 to 30,000 VND / worm

Thit Cho (Dog Meat)

This is the ultimate challenge. Can you eat man’s best friend? Vietnamese have no qualms about this meat. They argue that they only eat the ugly and stupid dogs, the ones that do not know how to guard the house, the ones that never obey orders or the ones that bark all night long. Dog meat is a little tough, dry and the taste is similar to hare, not poultry.

Dog meat is a little tough, dry and the taste is similar to hare, not poultry
Thit Cho (Dog Meat)

Where to try it?

At the same place than the worms.
Luong Son Quan – Bo Tung Xeo (31 Ly Tu Trong Street, District 1)

If you are in Hanoi, several restaurants along Phung Hung Street.
Price: 60,000 VND per plate.

A doggy bag, anyone?

Any final thoughts about this exotic food?

This list is the tip of the iceberg for amazing dishes in Vietnam. Remember to stay open minded about these unusual Vietnamese dishes, always pay attention to the preparation and place where you order. Your best option is to order where the locals are eating. And remember, you will never know if something is actually delicious until you try it.