Referring to Quy Nhon, people think of the blue sea and white sand, but Quy Nhon’s cuisine is also the highlight to attract those who have come here. These are unique delicacies that you should try when visiting this city.
1. Giant Isopod or Sea Bug (Bọ biển)
Giant Isopod is rated by fishermen as one of the rarest seafood species, lives hundreds to thousands of meters deep on the seabed. It is in the same family as shrimp, and completely wild-caught in the seas of Khanh Hoa, Phu Yen, Quang Ngai provinces. Giant Isopod has a fat and round body, similar to an enlarged terrestrial bug so the local people name it “Bọ biển”, meaning sea bug.
Most types of seafood are caught all year round, but Giant Isopod is only seasonal from March to May. The average one weighs about 1kg, the big one even weighs over 2kg. Previously, it was sold at a very cheap price, only a few dollars per kg. But since there were rumors of its nourishment and ability to cure many diseases, along with the small catch, the price has increased dramatically, averaging about VND 2,000,000 per kg ($90).
To keep the fresh and sweet taste, Giant Isopod is often cooked by steaming or grilling. The dipping sauce is made from a simple mixture of salt, pepper and lemon juice, or a special spicy seafood sauce, depending on the restaurant, and served with laksa leaves. Giant Isopod has very little meat under its shell. With a weight of about 1 kg, after removing the shell, there are only 300-400 grams of meat remaining.
You can try once if you have the opportunity to travel to Quy Nhon in the right season. It’s delicious but quite expensive, mainly because it is rare and only wild-caught but not farm-raised.
2. Huynh De crab (Cua Huỳnh Đế)
Huynh De crab is frog crab or spanner crab, with the scientific name Ranina Ranina. In Vietnamese, Huynh De is meaning King, so many people call it King crab. But actually, it is different from the famous King Crab, which has the same shape as the normal crab but much larger size.
According to legend, when the king traveled along the Central Vietnam coast and saw the fishermen catching the strange reddish pink crab. He tasted and found it very delicious, so he ordered the locals to pay tribute Huynh De crab to the imperial court every year, and considered it as a symbol of luck and prosperity. Firstly, it was called Hoang De crab, but it is similar to the name of Lord Nguyen Hoang, so to avoid profaning tabooed name, its name was changed to Huynh De crab (both names are meaning king crab).
Huynh De crab is only seasonal from January to May. It is only found in clean sea with golden sand bottom and clear blue water such as Quy Nhon (Binh Dinh province), Phu Yen (Tuy Hoa province), Tuy Phong (Binh Thuan province), Sa Huynh (Quang Ngai province), Cam Ranh (Khanh Hoa province). It lives in deep water areas from 100 to 300m, so hunting this species is quite difficult and dangerous.
If you want to feel the whole flavor, this dish should be cooked with very little seasoning. The most delicious and simple dish is steamed crab, then the meat is dipped into a sauce of salt, pepper, green chili, lemon juice. Another dish you can try is crab porridge with a very fragrant smell and sweet taste.
Huynh De crab meat is delicious, but the price is quite high, about VND 600,000/kg ($26) sold at the fishing village or local market, and up to VND 800,000 – 900,000/kg ($35 – $39) at the restaurant. By the way, if you want to save some bucks, you totally can order normal crab. For my taste, they are not that much different but Huynh De crab is twice as expensive as normal crab.
3. Slipper Lobster (Tôm Mũ Ni)
The special feature of Slipper Lobster is that they live in shallow, warm sea waters, where there are many coral reefs. This kind of Lobster does not usually appear during the day but hides under the caves of coral reefs. At night, they start to swim out to hunt food. Knowing that, at night, people often go diving to catch, or set up nets for them to fall in.
There are 2 types of Slipper Lobster: red Slipper Lobster and black Slipper Lobster. It has an unstable selling price and size often varies with the season, however, it is still quite expensive.
According to scientific research, there are 95 calories, 121mg cholesterol, 0.8 g total fat, 39mg omega-3, 49mg EPA, 45mg omega-6 for every 100 grams of Slipper Lobster. Because it contains many nutrients and is delicious, despite its expensive price, Slipper Lobster is still loved by many people.
In addition, you also can try normal lobster in Quy Nhon. I highly recommend steamed, charcoal-grilled and cheese grilled lobster, or lobster porridge.
All above seafood dishes you can enjoy at seafood restaurants I have introduced in my complete guide to Quy Nhon. Next, you can explore famous local dishes and places you should enjoy them.
4. Fish cake rice noodle soup (Bún chả cá)
The first secret to having a superb bowl of fish cake rice noodle soup is fresh fish. The thick-meat fish are filtered and soaked in ice for 1 day and crushed with a little dried onion, spicy pepper. Then it is tightly pressed so when fried, the fish cake is firm and not cracked inside. Sea fish is fresh and delicious, so the processing is not meticulous but still creates chewy pieces of fish cake, with the aroma of pepper and the sweetness of fresh sea fish.
Another secret is the broth. Instead of using pork bones, the broth of this dish is just fish bones stewed with grilled eggplant and fresh pineapple to create a bowl of sweet broth.
You can visit the following places to enjoy:
- Ngoc Lien restaurant: 379 Nguyen Hue street, Quy Nhon
This is the oldest and most famous place for this dish in Quy Nhon. It’s crowded but clean and delicious. The menu has rice noodle soup with jellyfish, fish cake or crab, and all have price at VND 30,000 each bowl.
- Phuong Teo restaurant: 209 – 211 Nguyen Hue street, Quy Nhon
This place has been in operation for more than 30 years. It used to be a small fish cake production facility. But over the years, it has developed into a well-known delicious fish cake noodle shop. They also serve jelly-fish rice noodle dish which also chosen by many diners.
- Thuy restaurant: 261 Tang Bat Ho street, Quy Nhon
Located in the city center, this restaurant is quite large and clean. You can try here a variety of dishes include fish cake, jellyfish, beef or shellfish rice noodle soup with sweet broth and fresh seafood ingredients.
5. Jumping shrimp pancake (Bánh xèo tôm nhảy)
According to the owner of Gia Vi restaurant, how to make pancakes with shrimp dancing is not fastidiously, but the most important step is the selection of fresh ingredients and cake casting skills.
Shrimps must be as large as the thumb. After removed from the net, they are washed, cut off the beard and head, then put in a pan small enough for one serving. They are stir-fried until red, then covered by a mixture of rice flour and water, with bean sprouts and chopped onions.
Just cover the pan for a while and then place it on a plate, together with seasonal raw vegetables, you have a delicious dish with golden pancake wrapper and sweet shrimp.
A special feature of this dish is the dipping sauce. Each person has a secret to making their own dipping sauce with different ratios of fish sauce, sugar, and water, and different cooking time. Some people mix dipping sauce with pineapple, others choose green mangoes. Therefore, this dish has a very differently specific taste in different shops.
- Gia Vy restaurant: 19 Dien Hong street, Quy Nhon
Gia Vy is the first shrimp pancake restaurant in Quy Nhon. The name of this dish is also invented by Gia Vy’s owner. He said that, at first, he intended to name it as Fresh Shrimp Pancake, but later changed it to Jumping Shrimp Pancake. It sounded more special and he wanted to emphasize that the shrimp used to cook the dish was still very fresh and was jumping around when bought. Gia Vy is the name of his son.
Beef pancake and Central-style spring roll (Chả Ram) are also delicious. Compared to the northern spring roll wrapper, the one Quy Nhon people use is thicker.
- Mr. Hung restaurant (Ông Hùng): 24 Dien Hong street, Quy Nhon
This place is nice, clean, quite spacious designed in a modern style, especially with air-conditioning rooms, polite and less smoky than other restaurants. It is affordable and has many kinds of pancake but the jumping shrimp pancake is still the best.
Above restaurants are located in the city center, but the below one is about 20km from city center:
- Mrs. Nam restaurant (Bà Năm):
This is a very famous jumping shrimp pancake restaurant in Quy Nhon, located at the foot of My Cang bridge (cầu Mỹ Cang). However, it is far from the city and very crowded, you have to reserve a table in advance, sometimes it takes 2 or 3 times visiting to eat. You have to go a long way, then wait for your turn but it’s really delicious.
6. Jellyfish hot pot (Sứa nước lèo)
Jellyfish hot pot must be heated while eating, similar to hot pot dishes. When quickly dipped the jellyfish pieces into boiling broth, they are ripe but still crispy.
This dish is elaborately processed in the preparation stage. Fresh jellyfish must be scrubbed off, soaked with guava leaves juice for a day to be firm and eliminate the fishy smell, then washed, squeezed the water out and sliced into bite-sized pieces.
The broth is simmered with pork bones and shrimp heads within several hours. Next, stir-fry the garlic, minced onions, crushed shrimp, chopped tomatoes, and pour the broth to boil together.
Next to the hot broth pot, the side dishes are jellyfish, roasted peanuts, shredded mango, thinly sliced banana stem, banana flower, herbs, central green peppers, and a plate of rice noodles.
The best way to enjoy this dish is to put a little of each above ingredient in your bowl, then pour the boiling broth and taste this super delicious flavor. Please take note that if you are not familiar with raw food, you can dip jellyfish into the hot pot but do not wait for too long, it will be stiff and chewy.
Many seafood restaurants serve this dish, you can try at some places like Bich My (156 Xuan Dieu street), Bo Bien (10 Xuan Dieu street), Tau Hoa Hoa (3/8 Phan Chu Trinh street).
7. Vietnamese family meal
A typical Vietnamese family meal normally includes steamed rice, several dishes of cooked meat, chicken or seafood, dipping sauce, soup, and vegetables or pickles.
If you want to try a local meal, you can stop by the following restaurants:
- Com Nha 1989 Restaurant: 43 Mai Xuan Thuong street, Quy Nhon
The name of this restaurant “Com Nha” means Family Meal. I vote 9 points for this restaurant. The design of the space and all decorations are very unique, bearing the imprint of ancient Vietnamese space. From wooden tables and chairs to chopsticks, saucers, dishes, bowls, spoons, cups, glass bottles, all of them have characteristics of Vietnam in the past.
In addition to the sophistication in design, the restaurant is also famous for its specialties such as crispy fish, braised pork with eggs, snakehead fish soup… More specifically, the restaurant does not have a fixed menu but changes daily. This makes diners feel nostalgia like a meal of mommy. What you eat today depends on which your mom can buy at the market early this morning.
- Com Mau Restaurant: 179A Phan Boi Chau street, Quy Nhon
The first impression when coming to Mau is the retro style design, Vietnamese immortal music, using “stamps” to order food like in the period of “Subsidy Economy” (1975 – 1986) in Vietnam.
With bold Vietnamese menu in the hard old days such as rice mixed with potatoes or cassava, Pho without meat… Com Mau not only sells food but also gives diners a nostalgic feeling of a difficult time of Vietnam in the past. The food here is delicious and reasonably priced, with free iced tea.
- Que Huong Restaurant: 185 Le Hong Phong street, Quy Nhon
If you want to try a delicious dish of Quy Nhon chicken rice, do not hesitate to visit this restaurant. Rice is cooked with chicken fat so has a beautiful yellow color and good smell. The menu of the restaurant is also diversified with many dishes such as stewed pork, braised fish… for customers to have more choices. However, this restaurant does not have an eye-catching interior design at Com Nha 1989 and Com Mau restaurants.
Let’s visit Quy Nhon and enjoy all these delicious dishes. You can find more details at my complete guide for your trip to Quy Nhon.
If you have any questions, please leave your comment. I will try to reply as soon as possible. Thank you for spending time to read this blog.