In the previous article, I have introduced you about the “Agri-and-Culture” aspects of Bạc Liêu – The Wealthy Wild Child of Mekong Delta. You have visited must-visit and must-check-in destinations in Bạc Liêu, but your journey would be not complete if you miss the featured cuisines of Bạc Liêu. Below are what you should check out when visiting Bạc Liêu.
*Bánh xèo (Bahn-xeo – Sizzling crêpes)
Bánh xèo is a typical dish in Southern Vietnam. But each place holds their own Bánh xèo recipe. You may have known Saigon and Cần Thơ bánh xèo, but how about Bạc Liêu? Let’s try it and compare the difference.
**Try and prove! Here’s a tip to determine the bánh xèo of your life. First, when it is served, immediately pinch a crisp on the outer side of the crêpe and put it right into your mouth. Now, it should crumble and start releasing coconut fragrance in your mouth, and you should feel almost like tasting a piece of creamy crystal. That’s how you know that bánh xèo is ‘the one’. If the crust is too thick and leaks too much grease, I’m sorry, the search for your right crêpes still continues.
Bánh xèo in Bạc Liêu follows the basic ingredients: rice batter, mung beans, slices of pork, fresh shrimps, onion and bean sprouts. But the secret that makes it unforgettable is the crispness on the crust. Many tourists keep coming back to Bạc Liêu to retrieve the authentic taste of this mouthwatering crêpes. Try it for once, the ‘bánh xèo’ of your life awaits you there!
Address: Bánh xèo A Mật – 61/2 Tỉnh Lộ 31, Ấp Giồng Nhãn, X. Hiệp Thành, Thị Xã Bạc Liêu, Bạc Liêu.
Price range: 50,000 – 60,000 VND.
*Bún bò cay (boon-ba-cay – Spicy beef noodles soup)
Vietnamese cuisine has more Bún*-based dishes than Phở*-based ones. So, next time if a Vietnamese describe you a “noodles” dish, think wider than Phở Bò. Ask them which type of noodles it is because the textures of the noodles are different.
*Bún: think of rice noodles in the spaghetti shape. *Phở: think of rice noodles in tagliatelle shape.
Bạc Liêu has a signature Bún dish called Bún Bò Cay (spicy beef Bún). If you’re a fan of spicy food, do not miss it. Non-spicy eaters can also try the milder version. Just ask for no chilli, and the chef won’t make you suffer.
The broth is the star of the dish. It’s a mixture of aromas (cinnamon, turmeric, lemongrass, ginger, etc.) which pairs perfectly with the tender beef loin. A spoonful of soup brings you pleasure. But hang on, your inner beast is about to release itself. Red chilli oil, (contains garlic and red peppers tossed in oil) floats on the surface is the reason to name the dish bún bò cay (cay means spicy). It is what we call “satay” and is the highlight of the dish.
Because of its heat, herby smell and vibrant spice, Bún bò cay is approved to be the best hangover cure for those who happened to “have too much fun” last night but want to come back to earth early morning.
Address: Quán Ánh Nguyệt – 119 Cao Văn Lầu, Thị Xã Bạc Liêu, Bạc Liêu.
Price range: 25,000 – 35,000 VND.
*Bún nước lèo (boon-nuoc-leo – Broth noodles)
There are fresh fish and shrimp with slices of pork. The bún noodles dive in the clear amber colour broth. Wow, it looks as if the chef has scooped a tiny bit of Mekong river to the bowl. Speaking of the broth, I’ll explain why it is so special that they wouldn’t give this dish another name.
Have you heard of the Vietnamese fermented fish (or shellfish)? We call them ‘mắm’, they’re the key ingredients for many dishes in the Mekong Delta. In Broth Noodles, they cook ‘mắm cá sặc’ (fermented snakeskin gourami) with lemongrass and a special root vegetable called ‘ngải bún’ in seafood stock up to 8 hours to develop all sorts of sweetness and umami taste in the soup. The last attempt to ‘sweeten’ the broth, even more, is adding coconut water.
Scoop in a spoonful of the crystal clear broth and feel the love between mắm and fresh seafood. Now, you owe the chef a thumbs up and a compliment.
Address: Quán Út Mén – Quốc Lộ 1A, Vĩnh Lợi, Bạc Liêu.
Price range: 30,000 – 35,000 VND.
*Bánh tằm Ngan Dừa (Bahn-tam-Ngan-Zua – Silkworm rice cake salad with coconut sauce)
Bánh tằm (silkworm rice cake) is named after its shape. The little “worms” are hand-rolled out of rice starch dough. Bánh tằm salad includes rice cakes, pork skin strings, meatballs cooked in tomato sauce, carrot pickles and spring onion oil. The sauce is very unique because it is the combination of coconut cream and sweet fish sauce. Of course, there is some fresh chilli to balance the ‘dessert’ feeling of this savoury dish.
I had the first bánh tằm bite when I was six years old, but honestly, I found it a little odd. However, from the second bite, the oddity started playing catch with my taste buds and kept fooling around in my mouth until I finished the plate clean and clear. Do I recommend trying bánh tằm? Yes, a hundred times yes! Try it for once to experience going through from one surprise to another, but in a good way. Overall it’s a delightful tasting experience.
Address: Ngan Dừa market – 34 Nguyễn Thị Minh Khai, Ngan Dừa, Hồng Dân, Bạc Liêu.
Price range: 15,000 – 30,000 VND.
*Hủ Tíu Bò Kho – (Hu-tieow-ba-kha – Beef Stew with Flat Rice Noodles).
This noodles dish doesn’t relate with the Spicy Beef Noodles I’ve mentioned above. Bò Kho (Vietnamese Style Beef Stew), is very much alike Beef Ragu; however, it has a distinct fragrance of lemongrass, star anise and garlic. Hủ tiếu bò kho literally means noodles and beef stew. A bowl of this soup includes tender beef, softened carrots, noodles, crunchy bean sprouts, fresh herbs and smokey hot soup. These elements complement each other so well that they bring the dish to cross the deliciousness standard.
Hủ tíu bò kho is preferably a breakfast dish. There’s also another way you can enjoy it, which is Bánh mì bò kho (Beef stew with bread). In this version, you will enjoy only beef stew, and a loaf of bread served alongside. For me, both versions are equally tasty. There’s one more tip I recommend: you should dip the beef in a small bowl of salt, pepper and lime which comes with the bò kho bowl.
Address: Quán Cari Vịt Linh, Cao Văn Lầu, Thị Xã Bạc Liêu, Tỉnh Bạc Liêu
Price range: 35,000 – 50,000 VND
In the last article, I mentioned that Bạc Liêu has a famous ancient longan garden. Yes, I would be very happy to recommend the place to you. They grow many tropical fruits there, especially longan fruits (meaning dragon eyes).
Under the rough and brown skin lying the transparent flesh wrapping around a black seed, looking like an eyeball. The flesh gives you a juicy and candy-like taste. I’m pretty sure you might have to keep eating more and more of them because you won’t be able to resist yourself from its sweetness, which works like a refreshing treat below the heat of sunlight.
Besides longan, there are more fruits such as tropical tangerine, mangosteens, mangoes, and so on. Basically, it depends on which period of the year you visit Bạc Liêu because fruits are grown in crops. Longan fruits are available from June to September annually.
Address: Vườn Nhãn Cổ Bạc Liêu ( Bac Lieu’s Ancient Longan Garden) 2, Hiệp Thành – Vĩnh Trạch Đông, Bạc Liêu city.
I hope you will have a great cuisine experience in Bac Lieu. Bon appétit everyone!