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Haiphong food tour - a guide for the port city's delights
Jenna Duong 09:50, 2023/03/04
With inexpensive and tasty menus, Haiphong has a host of dishes peculiar to a port city that make any discerning diner drool.

Haiphong cuisine is an exciting and flavorsome combination of Chinese and French cuisine with fresh seafood. The unique gastronomy of the port city has aroused the curiosity of people, who organize their own “food tours” to the city to enjoy its delicacies.

A funky tour just for food

A group of youth from Hanoi join the Haiphong Food Tour by train. Photo: Pham Duc Hung

Taking a day tour to Haiphong by train to enjoy food is becoming a trend among young people in Hanoi. This trend is going viral as more and more photos and videos reviewing delicious Haiphong dishes have been uploaded on TikTok, Instagram, or Facebook recently.

Seeing friends taking a train to Haiphong for food, Bich Phuong, 24, from Hanoi cherished the idea of making a similar trip next May Day.

According to Phuong, it’s easy to travel to Haiphong from Hanoi. “Having street food on Haiphong sidewalks would bring the feeling of yesteryear as if we were somewhere in Hanoi's Old Quarter,” she told The Hanoi Times. “A day tour to the city would be interesting and inexpensive gathering with friends,” she added.

The girl confesses that the eye-catching pics, beautiful colors, and candid references of travel bloggers fueled her desire to come to Haiphong.

“It can be slow and more inconvenient than other means of transportation, but traveling by train promises to be an enjoyable experience,” she added.

Tu Quynh from Hanoi agreed with Phuong that traveling by train is a safe and convenient way chosen by many tourists from Hanoi.

“Just get off the train and there are countless delicious eateries around the station awaiting you,” she said. Haiphong Railway Station is conveniently located in the heart of the city, making it easy for visitors to travel to access the city’s nice restaurants.

Banh cuon Hai Phong or rice crepe with Vietnam-style ham and grilled pork. dish. Photo: Hai Phong Ngon

Quynh and her friends just did the Haiphong food tour last weekend.

Quynh’s group tried spicy vermicelli soup with fish’s inners, red rice noodles with crab, Khoai porridge, steamed buns, spicy banh mi, chrysanthemum tea, coconut sweet soup, coconut coffee, among other delicious dishes that only the port city has.

As she said, most of the dishes she tried are very tasty, but what impressed Quynh the most is spicy banh mi with distinctive fillings with chi truong (a type of home-made chili sauce).

In total, they tried 19 dishes but still regretted not having enough time to try steamed snails or vermicelli with crab spring rolls and other specialties.

Quynh told The Hanoi Times that her friends and her wish to travel to Haiphong more in the future for food, because “the food is better than one could imagine while the price is too affordable”. 

The dish of Banh mi cay is served with chi chuong or Haiphong-style chili sauce. Photo: Hai Phong Ngon

The variety of Haiphong cuisine attracts not only Vietnamese but also foreign travelers.

Thanh Tung, a Hanoi tour guide, once led a group of foreigners on this unique food tour before the Covid-19 pandemic. It was a group of young tourists from Australia who want to explore the indigenous culture of Vietnam. They had visited Hanoi’s Old Quarter Area, spent the night-cruise on Ha Long Bay and traveled to the rock plateau in Ha Giang Province.

On the last day of the tour, Tung decided to lead these tourists on the Haiphong food tour, and the trip was a success beyond expectations. “They blamed me for not introducing this food tour sooner, and expressed their wish to return to Vietnam soon to do a new food tour for more delicious dishes,” he stated.

Secret of Haiphong culinary

The fact is that the first thing that comes to mind when people think of Haiphong is the bustling port city in northern Vietnam with a cultural mix of East and West.

That cultural intersection manifests itself, especially in the city's food. Its delicious dishes are strongly influenced by Chinese and French cuisines, prepared from or combined with local specialties to create special dishes not found elsewhere. 

Featuring a variety of delicious specialties, Haiphong cuisine has become a heavyweight in Vietnamese cuisine. Photo: Hai Phong Ngon

The origin of many famous Haiphong dishes is largely unknown, such as Banh da cua or red rice noodles with crab, Nem cua be or crab spring rolls, Lau cua dong or rice-field crab hotpot, Com chay hai san or rice with seafood, and Banh mi cay or spicy bread, among many others.

Such dishes, when ordered in Haiphong, are so delicious and popular that people crave to know where they actually came from.

According to Vietnamese culinary expert Nguyen Danh Hinh, nature has bestowed upon Haiphong a marine area with abundant fish and shrimp.

The city's dishes are usually a bit sweet and moderately salty, not too spicy like those of the central region, not too simple like the delicacies of the northern region, not comparable in sweetness with southern treats, and, of course, less sophisticated than the royal delicacies of Hue, the former Vietnamese imperial capital.

“They are popular, inexpensive, and suitable for the tastes of all, including foreign visitors,” he said.

Haiphong cuisine impresses with its simplicity, highlighting the naturally delicious taste of the ingredients.

The yummy dish of Banh da cua from Haiphong City. Photo: Hai Phong Ngon

In addition, a dipping sauce plays an important role in the city’s food. Vietnamese people often say “Whether the dish is delicious or not depends on the sauce”, and this is evident in Haiphong cuisine.

Local families often make their own fish sauce and chi truong, and ferment their own vinegar. Chi truong, as Haiphong culinary experts said, is a type of sauce originating from China made from freshly-chopped chili, tomatoes, and ground garlic, seasoned with a pinch of salt and fermented according to a traditional recipe. The delicious chi truong must be an eye-catching bright red and accompanies almost every dish of this portal city.

Another extremely important ingredient in the city’s cuisine is Banh da do or red rice noodles. Rice noodles appear in many Haiphong specialties, such as Banh da cua or red rice noodles with crab and Nem cua be or crab spring rolls.

Despite being made from whole grain (red rice) or finished rice (white rice), rice noodles in Haiphong are different from others found elsewhere - thicker yet fragile and with a specific flavor.

Thanks to the typical seafood and the meticulous and creative way of preparing dishes, Haiphong cuisine has become a heavyweight of Vietnamese cuisine.

TAG: Travel to Hai Phong; Hai Phong Cuisine
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