Top 6 Exotic Foods in Northwest Vietnam You Must Try Once in Your Life

After the memorable Northwest Vietnam tours, our team had precious chances to not only experience the thrilling feelings when riding through the stunning landscapes of this land but also enjoy the most exotic foods in Vietnam that you can hardly find anywhere in the world.

Are you ready to explore the world of tasty and strange foods that promise to make your trip more pleasant and fantastic? If YES, keep scrolling down to deeply explore exotic delicacies in Vietnam, particularly Northwest Vietnam cuisine that surely brings the most unique and mouth-watering flavors in your lifetime!

The Northwest region is home to various ethnic minorities, each with its traditional dishes imbued with unique nuances. If the “men men” of the H’mong people deserve to be included on the culinary tourist trail, the “Thang co” of Tay people shines a spotlight on the rich mountainous cuisine here. Meanwhile, Thai people are well-known for flavorful and yummy grilling dishes such as fish, chicken, pork, etc. But after all, the most popular dishes of the ethnic people here are “Thang co” and some tasty foods from buffalo or fish.

Uniquely regional food ingredients used for cooking Vietnam exotic foods

Surrounded by mountainous terrain, Northwest Vietnam has a lot of unique spices and ingredients for food processing. Some notable names that can be mentioned here are Mắc Kén, Hạt Dồi, bamboo shoots, wild honey, Dien Bien rice, and so on.

Mắc Khén

Mắc Khén

“Mac khen” is one of the unique spices the Creator has bestowed on the people here, contributing to the enrichment of Vietnamese cuisine. Anyone who has enjoyed the dishes made from this spice will certainly not forget its unique flavor that you can only find in Northwest Vietnam food.

Hạt dổi

Hạt dổi

“Hat doi” is an indispensable condiment for marinating grilled dishes such as chicken, bacon, ribs, etc. Normally, “hat doi” are crushed and mixed with lemon salt and chili to create a spicy, sour, and aromatic sauce, often served with boiled chicken meat as a flavorful spice. Or just simply, salt with “hat doi” is a perfect combination if you choose this tasty sauce to enjoy with white sticky rice.

Wild bamboo shoots

Wild bamboo shoots

The list of the most typical Northwest Vietnam foods will be a great shortage if

Vietnam Motorbike Tours Club don’t mention the food made from different types of wild bamboo shoots in natural forests, including Vau, Nua, Truc, and Sat.

Wild Honey

Wild Honey

Mu Cang Chai forest honey is harvested manually, keeping the fragrance, natural sweetness, and complete pureness. This is the most valuable specialty of Northwestern mountains, trusted and preferred by numerous consumers.


The Northwest rice also brings distinctive tastes. Quite a few tourists are excited about Bac Huong rice, sticky rice, broken rice (Dien Bien), Seng Cu rice (Bat Xat, Lao Cai), Ta Cu rice (a unique product of Muong Te Lai Chau), Tu Le sticky rice, and so on. Of these well-known lands, Dien Bien still shines a spotlight. This land is not only well-known for the fierce battle of Dien Bien Phu during the First Indochina War but is also regarded as the specialty rice bowl of the Northwest land.

Top exotic foods in Vietnam you must try in Northwest Vietnam

On special occasions such as Lunar New Year, Xuong Dong Festival, and the harvest season, Northwestern people often have very typical and traditional Vietnamese food. Although Hanoi is also a food paradise with countless mouthwatering dishes, we still love the local food here. If you have Northwest Vietnam tours on these occasions, do not skip the precious chance to try them!

1. Thit Trau Gac Bep (Dried Buffalo Meat)

 Thit Trau Gac Bep (Dried Buffalo Meat)

The locals often call this dish “forest squid” because it also needs baking and beating before you use your hands to tear it into small pieces that are then eaten with chili sauce.

Thit Trau Gac Bep or smoked buffalo meat, is originally a specialty of the Black Thai. In the past, they thought of a way to marinate buffalo and cow meat, then hanging in the kitchen for longer preservation. The ethnic people will enjoy this unique dish on holidays, special events, or important occasions. Thit Trau Gac Bep has become a popular specialty and is welcomed warmly in many other countries.

Cooking Thit Trau Gac Bep is not difficult but requires time and effort. The locals use hot red pepper, chopped lemongrass, grain salt, and wine to mix with the meat. Besides, “mac khen” is considered the essential factor in creating the distinct taste of this dish.

Buffalo meat must be dried by smoldering kitchen smoke day by day. The buffalo meat pieces are hung up on the stove for about two months until they turn to the color of smoky black and get dry completely, while forest pepper, chili pieces, and ginger pieces remain intact on the meat’s surface. Then, it is time for you to take this delicious meat!

2. Lon Cap Nach (Under-the-armpits Pigs)

Lon Cap Nach (Under-the-armpits Pigs)

Lon Cap Nach is a specialty of Northwestern highland and Vietnam’s exotic food. These pigs live freely in the vast forests and feed themselves, weighing only about 10-15 kg. Because their main food usually includes leaves and vegetables in nature, their flesh is firm and delicious.

Lon Cap Nach can be cooked into countless flavorful dishes such as steaming, baking, false dog-meat dish, stew, cooking soup, etc. Every dish is marinated with leaves and seeds, bringing fresh and unique green mountain flavors. If it is the first time you have enjoyed Lon Cap Nach, it will be an unforgettable experience during your trip!

3. Pa Pinh Top (Grilled Stream Fish)

Pa Pinh Top (Grilled Stream Fish)

Pa Pinh Top means grilled stream fish, a famous dish of the Thai group in the Northwest region. This appealing dish not only has a culinary value but also is a measure of the skillful hands of the chefs.

They choose a whole fresh carp to grill. People rub salt and chili powder into the fish to remove the fishy smell, then stuff some herbs, “mac khen”, ginger, garlic, lemongrass, onions, etc., into the belly. Then fold the fish horizontally and use sticks of fresh bamboo to hold and bake evenly on the hot charcoal. Grilled stream fish is still hot and aromatic, served with glutinous rice, bringing the crunchy and juicy tastes to your mouth. You can find this yummy flavor in almost all Northwest Vietnam restaurants.

4. Stay aloof from these dishes when coming to Northwest Vietnam

Thanks to its unique cuisine, The Northwest region of the S-shaped country has long drawn a lot of attraction from visitors around the globe. However, in addition to the delicious dishes, some others are frightened by foreign visitors and Vietnamese urban people because of its horror.

Nam Pia

Nam Pia

The first name that cannot be missed is Nam Pia. In Thai, “Nam” means “soup” and “Pia” is the gelatinous fluid in the small intestine of the herbivores such as buffaloes, cows, and goats. It also has another less inferior name, young manure. Despite its horrible composition, Nam Pia has a tremendous effect on improving your health and detoxifying from alcohol. The main ingredients to make this dish include blood, stringy meat, cartilage, tail, meat, and the internal organs of buffaloes, cows, and goats; however, cows and goats are often used.

But Pia is the most important ingredient of the dish. Initially, the local people choose the small intestine with the best Pia, then take Pia into a bowl before seasoning it with typical spices such as lemongrass, chili, and other organs such as the heart, stomach, liver, and lung. Nam Pia is served in a bowl with raw vegetables. This is not an easy dish to eat because of its bitter taste and unpleasant aroma.

5. Thắng Cố (Horse Meat)

Thắng Cố (Horse Meat)

Thang Co is a familiar name that many people refer to when visiting Northwest Vietnam. This dish is often cooked and processed by the villagers at local festivals and crowded markets. The main ingredient of this “hard to swallow” dish is horse organs, including heart, liver, blood, heart, meat … and many typical spices such as cinnamon, lemongrass, cardamom, lemon leaf, ginger, and Thang co tree.

When it is well cooked, Thang Co has a distinct fragrance and thick color that is not easy to eat for the first time. You can use it directly on the pan or split it into pieces and serve it with peppermint, herbs, and corn wine.

Some Northwestern tourists come nearby the Thang Co pot, and they have to run away due to its smell.

6. Da Trâu Thối (Rotten Buffalo Skin)

Da Trâu Thối (Rotten Buffalo Skin)

This dish is also known as “nang min”, a specialty of the Thai people. The buffalo’s skin is cut and filtered, and its hair remains intact. After that, people will put it in a banana leaf, roll out and keep it for about two days. In summer, the hot weather is the most favorable condition to prepare this dish because the high temperature will make buffalo skin quickly “rot”. When winter comes, people have to keep more days to be able to process.

After the incubation, the hair will shed, and the skin will be cooked for dishes such as buffalo skin soup or baked buffalo skin. Just hearing the “horror” name and the smell of this dish, you will have to rethink instead of eating it.

Best Northwestern restaurants to eat exotic foods in Vietnam

To enjoy the real taste of these exotic foods, you need to select the right Vietnamese restaurants. On the trip to the Northwest region, you should consider having meals in the restaurants below:

Yen Ninh Vegetarian restaurant

Yen Ninh Vegetarian restaurant is an unanticipated domestic valley on which you can set foot when visiting the North West region. Located in the commercial town, this restaurant looks like a bookshop that has acquired a reputation for vegan food.

Quang Dung restaurant

Located at the center of the town and opposite the old market plaza, this restaurant catches visitors’ eyes at first sight. Quang Dung has long been well-known for its unique cuisine. The balcony in front is an ideal place to chill out with juice.

Best Northwestern restaurants to eat exotic foods in Vietnam

May Co Quan

Highly recommended by residents, this restaurant serves the usual point-and-choose dishes and a few noodle dishes. The location around the corner of Hoa Cuong hotel also draws much attention from visitors.

Sapa’ O Chau

This is another destination that cannot be skipped. Warming up with a cup of ginger tea and immersing in a musical tone ensure to blow out all your worries and exhaustion. You will also be served a good breakfast and other light meals.

Toi Ben

Located south of Muong Te bus station, this restaurant is famous for bun dau mam tom. Don’t forget to visit Toi Ben to experience such a “crazy” dish of the North West region.

In conclusion,

The discovery of the Northwestern culture and cuisine left us with an unforgettable experience. Suppose you also love mountainous cuisine and want to enjoy numerous exotic foods in Vietnam. In that case, you can take part in Northwest Vietnam tours offered by BM Travel Adventure to immerse yourself in the culinary world of the Northwest region.


Contact us for more interesting information​

  • Address: 3/7/36 Duy Tan Street, Cau Giay District, Ha Noi City
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