What to Eat in Phan Thiet: An Unbiased Foodie Tour

food - Phan Thiet: Sept. 22, 2017

There are hundreds of different dishes, both from Vietnamese and international cuisines, that are available in Phan Thiet’s restaurants. In addition to a large variety of international establishments that are mostly located on the tourist strip in Ham Tien Ward, Phan Thiet has its own unique cuisine that is available at restaurants and food stalls all over the city.

Bánh mì xíu mại trứng luộc

A type of bread that is wrapped around a filling made up of minced pork meatballs and boiled eggs and is very popular in Phan Thiet. It is the fish sauce with chilli that makes this bánh mì xíu mại unique.

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Instead of salt with pepper or soya sauce, which is a favorite condiment in other parts of Vietnam, fish sauce, lime and sugar are added. It has become so familiar to the locals that it is considered ‘de rigueur’ for people from all walks of life, regardless of age to wait in queues at the Bánh mì xíu mại trứng luộc food stalls to buy this sandwich.

Bánh quai vạc

These pork and shrimp dumplings with a distinct taste have been a speciality for a long time. Its unforgettable flavour attracts many of the local tourists who come to Phan Thiet. It is easy to make and is sold at many food stalls in the city.

Bánh rế

A sweet cake that is made from ripe sweet potatoes or cassavas and melted granulated sugar. The cake looks like a bamboo basket, and may be used as a hot pot holder, and is one of the most famous specialities of Phan Thiet. It is best to eat the crispy bánh rế in cool weather with hot tea. Both children and adults enjoy this tasty treat and people from other cities often come to Phan Thiet to buy them as gifts.

Bánh canh chả cá

This thick noodle soup with fried minced fish is a speciality of Trang Bang, Nha Trang, and Binh Dinh, as well as Phan Thiet. However, the flavor of the soup made in Phan Thiet is slightly different than the rest. The noodles are not sticky, but rather opaque like the rice noodles in bún bò.

In almost all the stalls that bánh canh is sold, you can also find bread with minced pork meatballs and boiled eggs that complement the dish. The reason that the broth in the bánh canh is different from that of the other areas is that fresh fish like mackerel, flathead, cobia and greater amberjack are added to the ingredients.

Bánh canh is often served with chả hấp (steamed minced fish) and chả chiên (fried minced fish). Customers choose chả chiên if they like its chewy texture, or chả hấp if they prefer spiciness. A bowl of this hot thick noodle soup is more delicious when a little pepper, cilantro, and fish sauce are added. Bánh canh chả cá is considered a very affordable dish and it can be easily found at restaurants and food stalls all over Phan Thiet in the morning and in the evening.

Bánh hỏi lòng heo Phú Long

Any ‘foodie’ tour of Phan Thiet would not be complete without including bánh hỏi lòng heo. This speciality includes bánh hỏi (Steamed rice vermicelli), cooked pig’s chitterlings, rice paper, vegetables, and dipping sauce.

In the centre of Phan Thiet, there are many food stalls that serve bánh hỏi in the early morning. However, people who want the best bánh hỏi don’t hesitate to go to Phu Long, six kilometers north of Phan Thiet where there is a food court filled with bánh hỏi food stalls..

Bánh tráng nướng mắm ruốc

A favorite dish of many students. It is best to eat this speciality in Mui Ne as the sun sets and the wind starts to die down. It looks like the spring rolls in the south of Vietnam. However, the rice paper is gradually rolled up when it is grilled over a stove.

When eating this dish, you can taste the combination of the warm baked rolls, the crispy crackers, the soft fermented pork roll, the Vietnamese pork rolls, the salty, sweet shrimp sauce, the fat fried green onions and the hot chilli sauce that all complement each other, giving it a wonderful flavor.

This dish is normally sold in the afternoon as a snack before dinner, especially near the Bo ke (Seawall) in Mui Ne. However, you can easily find stalls selling it on many sidewalks around Phan Thiet from 4 pm.

Bún Thịt Xào

Although bún thịt xào is popular all over Vietnam, Phan Thiet’s version is unique and has a taste that differs from the others. Besides Phan Thiet bún thịt xào, bún thịt nướng (Vietnamese grilled pork with vermicelli) also has a unique taste and flavor. The most popular restaurant selling bún thịt xào is on Tuyen Quang Street near the billiards hall.

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Boxfish

One of the most famous types of fish in Binh Thuan Province, It is sold at food stalls and restaurants all around Phan Thiet, especially on Doi Duong beach, Rang beach in Ham Tien ward, and at the Hang pagoda.

It is also available in food stalls along the unspoiled beaches of Phu Quy Island. The name of the fish comes from its shape. Its head looks like the head of a cow and its body is in the shape of a box. The boxfish belongs to the pufferfish family and has white flesh with the texture of chicken, without a ‘fishy’ smell. Boxfish is normally cooked on a coal burning stove. Sometimes the stoves are placed on the tables in front of the patrons so that they can grill it themselves.

Seafood salad

Phan Thiet is one of the largest seaports in Vietnam, so it is rich in fresh seafood. It’s also famous for its seafood salad, made using regional fish, such as the White Sardine, the Smelt, and the Smelt-Whiting. It is easy to make and all of the fresh ingredients are available at the markets in Phan Thiet. Rice paper and vermicelli are served with the salad. Take a piece of rice paper and then put a little of the seafood, some slices of star fruit, raw banana and a little vermicelli onto it. Then roll them all together and dip the roll into the special fish sauce.

Deep Fried Mudskipper

Served in pork grease with rice paper and is usually only available during the mudskipper season between July and October. The biggest mudskippers can weigh from 3 to 5 kilograms. Generally big mudskippers are chosen for the dish because they have lots of delicious flesh. The fish are served on a plate, covered with green onions and greaves and a sauce made from fish sauce, garlic, chilli, sugar and tamarind. When eaten with the fish, this sauce creates a taste that combines sour, hot, spicy, and sweet. The sauce is even better when milled liver is added. Rice papers, fresh lettuce, basil, shiso, raw bananas. cucumbers, vermicelli, chilli sauce and lemon or tamarind are served with the fish and diners make their own rolls using these ingredients. Most restaurants allow patrons to choose the fish before they prepare it. Keep in mind that mudskippers don’t have a fishy odor like most other big fish. This is a famous seafood speciality that visitors should not miss. Deep fried mudskipper is served in many restaurants on Pham Van Dong street along the Ca Ty river embankment.

Cốm sấy

It is said that grilled milk rice cakes (cốm sấy) are good for older people. The rice cake is really a nice addition to the speciality cuisine of Phan Thiet. Formerly, these cakes were only sold during tet, but now they are sold in the city at different times of the year. The residents are very proud of their cốm sấy because it is a traditional cuisine that is always put on the ancestral altar during Tet. Although cốm sấy in Phan Thiet is not as famous as Cốm Làng Vòng in the north of Vietnam, cốm sấy is finely made and its taste is quite good. It has been passed down from generation to generation and is considered part of the local culture. It is available at Phan Thiet market and in stores that sell local specialities on Trung Trac street in the city centre.

Chicken Rice

Everywhere in Vietnam you will find chicken rice. But in Phan Thiet, it has a specific taste. The stock that is used to cook the rice is different than that used elsewhere in Vietnam. Fish sauce, laksa leaves and sugar are added to this soup, creating the unique flavor. The dish is sold in stores in the morning and can be found in restaurants at lunch and dinner time in all the areas of Phan Thiet

Melo Melo

Also known as baler snail, it can be found along the entire coast of Central Vietnam. Locals use the meat to make a number of dishes such as melo melo salad with sweet and sour fish sauce. It’s best to eat the salad in rolls of rice paper that you dip either in either fish sauce or lemon sauce. Melo melo salad also goes well with prawn crackers or roast sesame rice paper.

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Mực Một Nắng

Phan Thiet has one seafood speciality that seemingly every Vietnamese tourist wants to try. It is called mực một nắng or sun dried squid. So many tour buses returning from resorts in Phu Hai, Ham Tien or Mui Ne wards stop at the mực một nắng stores on the top of the hill in Phu Hai that the traffic on the street in front of these stores comes to a standstill every Sunday afternoon. The big, fresh squid is dried under the sun for one day. When the dried squid is then grilled on hot coals, it turns yellow and exudes a wonderful aroma. The dried grilled squid is then eaten after dipping it into fish sauce with chili.

Quảng Noodles

Vietnamese always think of quang noodles as a speciality of Quang Nam – Da Nang area. But not many people know that a variation of the dish is a speciality of Phan Thiet. Vietnamese who have tasted both Phan Thiet and Quang Nam noodles are surprised at the difference in taste. To Phan Thiet locals, spicy quảng noodles taste better when cooked with duck meat. The duck meat defines the significant difference between the Phan Thiet quảng noodles and those from the Quang Nam and Danang areas that are cooked with pork.

Phan Thiet quảng noodles dishes include spices, herbs, blanched sprouts, peanuts, hot sauce, and possibly egg noodles, which may be added to make the dish more colorful and flavorful. The perfect hot noodle bowl with soft duck meat, spicy chilis, peanuts, herbs and noodles offers a great combination of flavors. One of the best restaurants to try this noodle dish is the restaurant that has been at 129 Tran Phu Street for over 20 years. Patrons may choose the cut of the duck from the legs, the breast, the feet, the wings, the neck, or the offal. The restaurant prepares the dish differently on the weekends, when most of its patrons are tourists. During the week, when the clientele are mostly locals, the restaurant uses more sugar. People from other areas prefer a more salty taste.

Nem Nướng

A popular dish that all Phan Thiet locals know and love. Nem is a type of pickled pork made up of a type of pork meatloaf, pork bologna and smoked pork. It is then grilled and served hot with pickles, herbs and ground peanuts. Put all the ingredients into rice paper, then roll it up and dip it in fish sauce.

Fruit Salad

Of course fruit salad is available everywhere, but in Phan Thiet, a slight twist is added to make it unique to this city. Being in the tropics, we are lucky to have a huge variety of fresh fruit available to us. If you are near the centre of Phan Thiet in the evening, go to Nguyen Tat Thanh Street in front of Coop Mart. The food stalls that are set up here offer a fruit salad made from many of the types of fruit that grow in the area, mixed with ice, milk, fried peanuts and the one ingredient that makes this fruit salad unique to Phan Thiet: tapioca.

Bánh Căn

Phan Thiet’s version of the rice cake looks like bánh khọt from the southern part of Vietnam but it is very different. Both bánh căn and bánh khọt are made by pouring rice paste into molds. However, bánh căn is roasted in clay stoves while bánh khọt is fried in the molds. The rice paste is made from soaking grains of rice and then crushing them into a moist powder. Before pouring the paste into the molds, chopped green onions or chive leaves are added. The best way to eat the rice cakes is while they are still hot. The taste depends on the sauce. The sauce is created by boiling a mixture of a local fish with fish sauce, spices and sugar, and then tomatoes in peanut oil, chilli and fresh lemon are added. The rice cake is then served with herbs, star fruit, green bananas, cucumbers, laksa, basil leaves, sprouts and lettuce. Sometimes locals will add a braised pot of pompano to eat with this dish. Bánh căn is becoming increasingly popular with tourists staying at resorts in Phan Thiet.

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Balut

A developing bird embryo served while still in the shell, can be found everywhere in Vietnam, but in Phan Thiet, pickles are added to the other condiments of garlic, pepper, salt, chillies and laksa leaves, giving it a slightly different taste. Balut is available in most street food courts.

Chả Lụi Hàm Tân

A speciality of Ham Tan, which is south of Phan Thiet and is the district of Binh Thuan Province in which Lagi is located. However, chả lụi is also sold at many street stalls and street food courts in Phan Thiet, but not usually in restaurants. It is a popular snack that is rolled in rice paper, like so many other local dishes and eaten by hand. Chả lụi includes grilled pork rolls, boiled chicken or duck eggs and nem. The nem is grilled on a stove and is then served on a plate with herbs, sour mango and rice paper.

Bánh bèo

Hue is famous for a steamed rice cake call bánh bèo, but the Phan Thiet version is quite different in taste and in shape. Bánh bèo is usually sold at the street food courts around Phan Thiet every morning. It is eaten with green peas, sesame salt and fish sauce.

Bánh Xèo

By far the most famous dish that is served to tourists at many Phan Thiet resorts and hotels as a speciality of this area, bánh xèo is available all over Vietnam.

Tuyen Quang Street in Phan Thiet is called the “foggy street” because so many of the restaurants cook this dish in the evening that the aromatic smoke creates a bit of a “fog” that drifts across the street. The oldest restaurant is Cay Phuong Restaurant, which has been making and selling bánh xèo for nearly a half century.

In Vietnam, bánh xèo varies from north to south. The residents of the Mekong delta make bánh xèo with điên điển flowers, in Ho Chi Minh City, bánh xèo is eaten with mustard, however, in Phan Thiet, the herbs and vegetables that are normally rolled into the cake are eaten separately. The way the paste is made is also an important difference.

The ‘secret sauce’ in Phan Thiet bánh xèo includes crushed peanuts, sugar, flour, chilli and tomatoes. Besides being cooked and served at barbecues and buffets in most of the resorts (Where it is often called Phan Thiet pancakes), bánh xèo may be found at many food courts and food stalls around Phan Thiet.

Sweet Potato Stew

A popular dish all around Binh Thuan Province and is a variation of xôi (a Vietnamese dish made from glutinous rice and other ingredients). The special thing about this dish is that it is normally wrapped in banana leaves and then eaten with a bamboo spoon.

Sweet potato stew is sold in the morning in food stalls at the junction of Le Hong Phong and Cao Thang streets and at Phuong Market in the alley that intersects with Thu Khoa Huan Street.

Xôi

Available all over Vietnam, but only in Phan Thiet is it eaten with bánh chiên (a type of fried cake). The cake is split and filled xôi and is then wrapped in green banana leaves. Squeeze the ingredients and either eat it by hand or use the coconut or bamboo spoon that the vendors give out. The xôi is sold at food stalls all over Binh Thuan.

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Chả Nướng

It may not be unique to Phan Thiet, but it has become quite popular here within the past four or five years, especially with children and students. It’s easy to make and eat, yet it has a sophisticated flavor. This dish is grilled and sold at the same food courts that bánh tráng mắm ruốt.

To eat it, take a piece of cha, dip it in the pepper salt and eat it with a pickle. The food courts that chả nướng usually sell nem nướng, bánh tráng mắm ruốt (grilled rice paper with shrimp sauce) and other snacks. These dishes are sold in the evenings at food stalls and courts around Phan Thiet.

Lẩu Thả

To complete the foodie tour of Phan Thiet, we would be remiss without add lẩu thả hot pot with fresh Phan Thiet seafood. This dish is particularly popular with tourists and is the speciality of the Seahorse Bistro Restaurant in Ham Tien.

The hot pot is made with sillago or silverside fish and herring and served with the fish in a broth that includes chilli, chopped garlic, ginger, duck eggs, star fruit, cucumbers and spinach. The hotpot always comes with rice paper and fish sauce.

Lẩu thả is a special dish in which people can enjoy not just the flavors but also the five elements of Buddhism. The Buddhist philosophy is that each meal is a balanced harmony combining the five elements: metal, wood, water, fire and earth, which bring health and energy. Equivalent to the five elements are five tastes: spicy, sour, bitter, salty and sweet. A meal must awake all five senses of sight, smell, sound, taste and touch. And finally, include the five colors: white, green, yellow, red and black. Yan of ‘Yan Can Cook’ came to Phan Thiet specifically to try this dish in the Seahorse Bistro Restaurant.

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