Hai Phong is the third largest city of Vietnam and a major port city in northeastern of the country. It is also known as The City of Royal Poinciana (Thanh pho Hoa Phuong Do in Vietnamese), which blossom vividly in summer, like glorious flame.
Hai Phong people is famous for their personality: brave, frank, adventurous and hot-tempered, somewhat remind me about Vikings or Big Brothers! ┗(•̀へ •́ ╮) It’s not a secret that many gangsters and criminals were born in Hai Phong, and many Northern Vietnamese who live in overseas in early stage after the war, are from here as well.
Back to my usual concern, I randomly come to this city for business, and always try to sneak off for seeking food 😀 Some famous specialties in Hai Phong are seafood-related like “banh da cua” (brown noodle with crab paste soup), “nem cua” (crab square roll), “bun tom” (shrimp rice noodle), “lau cua dong” (crab hot pot). Another one is seashells and sea snails.
We visited Oc Thuy Duong, one of most famous places in Hai Phong. It located inside an alley on Lach Tray street, opposite Maritime University, and they didn’t have indoor seating. Like many street food places, customers here sit at low tables and on small plastic stools, which are arranged along one side of the alley. One good thing: the alley and eating area were pretty clean, which was much more than I expected 🙂
There were about 20 different types of sea snails and seashells, some of them I had never seen before! It was really difficult into choose /(@ﾟﾍﾟ@) I appreciated that the staff was patient in answering all of my questions about them.
My team finally ordered razor shells “oc mong tay”, blood cockles “so huyet”, legs of mangrove stone crabs “cang cu ky”, squids “muc” and a big garlic snail “oc toi”. I think legs of mangrove stone crabs “cang cu ky” is a must-try dish here. Mangrove stone crabs have powerful pincers which are used to crush shells of snails and clams. The meat in this part is really tasty due to heavy exercise 😉
There were two types of dipping sauces, one was spicy chilli, one was fish sauce. Each table had a divided plate with chilies, kumquat, ginger, shallots…so customers could adjust their dipping sauces to fit their taste. Side dish we chose was mix of “xoai dam” and “coc dam” sweet, sour, spicy mango and jew plum.
I’m huge anti-fan of crispy fried shallots, though it is a common garnish used in Vietnamese dishes. Unfortunately, this place seemed to be specialized in cooking seafood with my “enemy” (⚆ _ ⚆) even the grilled blood cockles also had a small bowl of fried shallots next to it! Normally, fried shallots are added at the end to add the richness and sometimes slight crunch if the dish isn’t saucy, however, they are also added in two saucy dishes here (razor shells n stone crabs’ legs) which made those dishes weirder =.=
On the other hand, food was fresh and quite tasty! (*^▽^*) I love most of them except the squid one. Squids were over-fried so they lost freshness and became tough, chewy, and dry. Next time I would order steamed squids.
Overall, food was good, price was okay (some kinds were not cheap), large variety to choose, slow service in busy time, staff was attentive.
Address: Oc Thuy Duong, no. 30, alley 263, Lach Tray street, Hai Phong city.
Bun cha is one of significant dishes in Northern Vietnamese cuisine, and it has become more famous worldwide after it was featured on Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown with Mr. Barack Obama 😀 Although I tried bun cha a lot in Hanoi and had my own favorite place, I still want to share my experience about this bun cha place near our hotel in Hai Phong, because it has differences with Hanoi version!
Pork in here was sliced thin like bacon and, then grilled with a layer of sesame on it. Together with well-seasoned meat, sesame added mild nutty taste to the meat. I appreciated that there wasn’t any bitterness because of over-grilling. Grilled pork was stronger and deeper in flavor than ordinary one.
However, the sauce was too strong (salty and a bit sweet as well). I needed to ask them to add water to have milder flavor. One difference with Hanoi version was vegetables. Some types of veggies were rarely seen, or only used in Southern rolls. I usually skip eating veggies in bun cha but this time was exceptional, because of its freshness.
Price was 20.000 VND per portion. A person could eat at least 2 portion to be full I think. I will definitely come back to try bun cha here 😀
Address: No. 53, Chua Hang street, Hai Phong city.
Opening time: 10am till 2pm
My last attempt in this trip was “Banh da cua” (brown noodle with crab paste soup). It is absolutely one of most famous food here, a must-try one! We headed to a place near our hotel after asking the receptionist. It was not the best choice in Hai Phong but we didn’t have time to travel far, so this one was our best choice. It was an portable street vendor, located near the bun cha place above, where we had lunch the day before.
“Banh da do” (red rice noodle) actually has brown color, which is “dyed” by a secret type of syrup, or other alternatives such as powder of ripe gac fruit, cane sugar. Fresh “banh da do” is best: soft, still chewy a bit, full of rice flavor. I don’t like the dried one because it often lose its fresh “soul”.
Back to our banh da cua, the lady lived in the alley opposite and opened from 1pm till 3-4pm only. Her banh da cua had rice noodle, crab paste, meatball, minced pork wrapped in lolot leaves, fried shallots, scallions, fried tofu. The broth was poured over, then, ta da! We have a bowl of “banh da cua” (*´ڡ`●) Everything was yummy except the broth. It was okay only, a bit fatty for my taste, lacking the pleasant savory taste I expected. Price was 20,000VND/bowl
From the lady, we know that the surrounding area, called Du Hang Kenh, is famous for making this rice noodle, not only for city market, but also for other provinces, even exporting. I guess we hit the right spot, at least for the rice noodle! 😉
Address: No. 63, Chua Hang street, Hai Phong city.
Opening time: 1pm till 4pm