Exotic Foods You Should Try in Vietnam

Exotic Foods to try in Vietnam

While we traveled throughout Vietnam we inevitably came in contact with some exotic Vietnamese foods. Vietnam and Asia has an infamous reputation for eating dog. Western observers view this traditional food with disdain due to their love of Christmas puppies and all cute furry creatures. 

Exotic food in Vietnam Snake and Scorpion Rice Wine

The cobra and scorpion in the bottle are genuine. This is readily apparent in the taste, see my comments on this below.

Although in our defense I must explain that we also tried some less politically condemned food and drink such as barbecued crocodile and snake and scorpion rice wine.

Also of note is that we had dinner at the home of a local government official while touring the mountains in NW Vietnam. Indeed, they were kind enough to indulge my girlfriend by serving dog meat for our dinner. 

Why do people eat dog meat?

Eating dog meat is taboo in the west. However, dog meat is still widely consumed in the Americas, Africa, Asia and even Switzerland. For example, it it estimated that worldwide 25,000,000 dogs are consumed annually by humans.

One of the main reasons is of course economical and people will consume dogs if there is no alternative. However, in Vietnam there are also some intangible or mythical qualities behind the consumption of dog meat.

Good Fortune and Libido

In Vietnam, eating dog is thought to bring good fortune and increase the libido. In Hanoi, there are a lot of restaurants specializing only in serving dog meat. However, many restaurants are only open in the 2nd half of the lunar month for reasons related to astrology and luck.

Eating Dog Exotic Food in Vietnam

This is a dog we encountered on our NW mountain tour. In Vietnam, wise dogs don’t bark much during times of economic prosperity.

Unfortunately, a strong economy does not bring much good luck to dogs in Vietnam! Indeed, when people have more money, the consumption of dog meat increases.

Additionally, instances of dog theft increase. A 45 kilogram dog can sell for $100 USD equivalent which is one month salary for the average worker in Vietnam.

Eating Dog for Dinner in NW Vietnam

Sympathy for dogs did not hinder my girlfriend from wanting to try it. The opportunity arose when we were visiting Son La in the NW mountain region. Our driver arranged for us to have dinner with some relatives of his and they knew how to make dog.

Also, an added disclaimer is that I was not aware we would be served dog. It was not the main course and my epicurean girlfriend had made this special request without my prior acknowledgment.

Clockwise from the left is my curious female friend, our guide, our driver, our host, his wife has her back to me and then their 2 children.

Exotic Food In Vietnam, Eating dog in Son La

We followed the Asian custom of sitting on the floor. The dining room was the kitchen floor of the modest apartment which our host family lived in.

Exotic Food In Vietnam, Eating dog in Son La

The moment of truth arrives and my girlfriend is going to eat some dog.

If you observe the apprehension on the Vietnamese girls face you could deduce that her generation had not really caught on to this yet. Nonetheless, everyone thought it was pretty amusing.

What does dog meat taste like?

Exotic Food In Vietnam, Eating dog in Son La

What does god meat taste like? It is the million dollar question and the answer is written all over her face.

Modern Vietnamese Cultural Trends

I think she may have been feeling a bit of remorse. Fortunately for dog lovers that seems to be the prevailing trend in Vietnam. Due to rising income levels, more and more Vietnamese are keeping designer dogs as pets.

A purebred dog can be very expensive, costing hundreds of millions of Dong or thousands of USD equivalent. Expensive Christmas puppies don’t taste as good and it has helped induce cultural moderation.   

Dinner Conversation While Eating Dog

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During dinner I was trying to stay under the radar so nobody would notice that I had not eaten any dog. Although I was not forced to eat dog, I would not escape unscathed.

Being from the US, our guide interpreting for our host asked me the inevitable question “What do you think of Obama?”

It is a common question which was more interesting because our host was the police chief and also a local communist party official. I replied in all honesty when I said that “It doesn’t matter who the president of the United States is because the result will be the same”.

My answer was converted to Vietnamese and passed over to our host who said something in reply. I did not need any translation because I know what “I told you so” sounds like in any language. Unfortunately, it seems socialists don’t sympathize with Obama any more than I do.

Snake and Scorpion Rice Wine

We tried this snake and scorpion rice wine on a different night. I was grateful, because I would not be able to handle both this and dog at the same time. We purchased a bottle of snake and scorpion rice wine a few weeks later while we were staying in Binh Thuan province in SE Vietnam.

Exotic Food In Vietnam, Snake and Scorpion Rice Wine SE Vietnam

We purchased this bottle of snake and scorpion rice wine while traveling through SE Vietnam.

Healthy Aspects of Snake and Scorpion Rice Wine

First of all, if you doubt the cobra and black scorpion are real, think again because they are 100% authentic. The reputed health benefits are of course increased sexual stamina and also relief from back pain or muscle aches.

Both the scorpion and the cobra are poisonous however, the poison is neutralized by the alcohol content of the rice wine. Note that the rice wine is very strong similar to vodka, not like the grape variety of white wine.

Exotic Food In Vietnam, Snake and Scorpion Rice Wine SE Vietnam

Obviously, the cobra and scorpion had certainly been sitting in the bottle for a long time. This is good because it neutralizes the poison content, but it does not improve the taste much

What does Snake and Scorpion Rice Wine Taste Like?

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I will never drink this stuff again. The taste of decomposing life stuck in my mouth for way to long. However, to be fair I should admit that I put the bottle in the fridge to chill it before we drank some. It is possible this may have adversely affected the taste. Maybe it is better to drink it at room temperature?

Also, the health benefits would be nominal because I don’t suffer from very many ailments that the wine is supposed to cure. As a result, I am unaware if there was any alleviation that resulted.  

Eating Crocodile in SE Vietnam

One evening we were returning from our visit to Bao Trang Sand Dunes. While driving through the beach community of Mui Ne, I spotted what was unmistakably a large crocodile on a barbecue spit in front of a local restaurant. Therefore, we pulled over to investigate.

Exotic Vietnamese Foods, roasted crocodile in mui ne

While we were returning from the Bao Trang Sand Dunes one evening we passed by what was unmistakably a crocodile on a barbecue spit. I pulled over to investigate.

eating crocodile mui ne vietnam

What does Crocodile Taste like?

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In my opinion, when compared to the former, eating crocodile is pretty normal. I only had a little bit, however it is a lean white meat with a slightly gamy flavor.

Additionally, just in case you have not already guessed – it does taste a something like rubbery chicken.

However, seeing a large crocodile being roasted on a barbecue is certainly eye catching. Therefore, of all the exotic Vietnamese foods it was certainly the most visually striking.

Conclusion

There are many varieties of strange food and drink to try in Vietnam. Wild and exotic food such as coffee made from cat dung, snake meat, duck embryo, raw blood soup and mice meat would be included on the list of strange food in Vietnam. Also, I read somewhere that goat testicles in Vietnamese rice wine is another way to increase sexual stamina?

However, exotic options such as snake and scorpion rice wine are as far as I choose to go down the dark and winding path of exotic strange food to try in Vietnam.

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Visit the Cu Chi Tunnels in Ho Chi Minh City
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Additional resources:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dog_meat
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1348906/Vietnamese-snake-scorpion-rice-wines-leave-biting-headache.html
http://www.vietnamcharms.com/weird-vietnamese-foods.html