Northern Vietnam is a region known for its rich culinary heritage, and one of the highlights of its gastronomic offerings is the wide array of flavorful and hearty soup-based dishes. From Hanoi’s iconic snail vermicelli to Sa Pa’s exquisite salmon and sturgeon hotpots, the northern provinces of Vietnam boast an impressive repertoire of soupy delights that delight both locals and tourists alike. In this article, we will take a gastronomic journey through the top eight soup-based dishes that capture the essence of northern Vietnamese cuisine.
Hanoi Snail Noodle Soup
Let’s kick off our culinary journey with a visit to Hanoi, the vibrant capital city of Vietnam. Hanoi Snail Noodle Soup, known locally as “Bún Ốc,” is a delectable dish that boasts a flavorful broth prepared using snail stock and tomatoes. The vermicelli is cooked to perfection and served alongside an assortment of fresh vegetables, fish cakes, fried tofu, finely chopped scallions, and snails. Diners can customize their bowl with a squeeze of lime, shrimp paste, or chili sauce, adding an extra layer of deliciousness to this beloved street food.
Crab Noodle Soup from Hai Phong
Next on our list is Hai Phong’s Crab Noodle Soup, a specialty that showcases the region’s love for seafood. The broth, simmered from pork bones, serves as the flavorful foundation for this dish. The crab meat, paired with an array of herbs, grilled meatballs, pork rolls, and pork wrapped in betel leaves, creates a harmonious symphony of taste. While the toppings may vary from eatery to eatery, the soup’s distinct light red hue remains consistent. Diners can elevate the experience by savoring it with laksa leaves, perilla leaves, or sliced chili.
Lang Son’s Sour Pho
In Lang Son Province, we find a unique twist to the beloved Vietnamese classic, Pho. Sour Pho, often served as an appetizer during Tet holidays and special occasions, stands out with its presentation and taste. Instead of hot broth, it comes with a chilled sweet and sour sauce, elevating the flavor profile to new heights. The dish is a medley of textures and flavors, featuring char siu meat, pork intestine, fried pork liver, roasted duck meat, thinly sliced Chinese sausage, roasted peanuts, fried shallots, and herbs.
Pork and Mushroom Meatball Noodle Soup (Bun Moc)
Venturing back to Hanoi, we discover the delightful Pork and Mushroom Meatball Noodle Soup, lovingly known as “Bún Mọc.” This popular dish hails from Moc Village in Nhan Chinh Ward, Thanh Xuan District. The hearty bowl comprises vermicelli, pork and mushroom meatballs, pork rolls or ribs, pork leg, and shredded bamboo shoots. The clear and flavorful broth, simmered with shiitake mushrooms and pork bones, is a testament to the meticulous cooking process.
Eye-Round Steak Noodle Soup
Another beloved variant of the famous beef noodle soup in northern Vietnam is the Eye-Round Steak Noodle Soup. This rendition features tender pieces of beef, thinly sliced and boiled to perfection. The broth, crafted from beef and pork bones, ginger, onions, fish sauce, sugar, star anise, cloves, cinnamon, and cardamom, infuses the dish with layers of flavor. Green onions add a pop of freshness, and lime is provided on the side for those who enjoy a tangy kick.
Salmon and Sturgeon Hotpots from Sa Pa
Moving northwards to the enchanting town of Sa Pa, we encounter the delightful Salmon and Sturgeon Hotpots. This dish is a celebration of thinly sliced fish, accompanied by a hotpot sauce and local vegetables like squash buds and watercress. The key to this hotpot’s success lies in its broth, which should be clear, sweet, sour, and fragrant, with hints of pineapple and other spices. This culinary masterpiece beautifully reflects the charm of Sa Pa’s culinary traditions.
Black Chicken Hotpot
As we explore the mountainous regions of Lao Cai and Ha Giang, we are introduced to the beloved Black Chicken Hotpot. This heartwarming dish consists of black chicken cooked in a broth featuring mushrooms, ginger, red apples, and an assortment of vegetables like wood ear mushrooms, shiitake mushrooms, cabbage, beef, and corn. The star of the show, the black chicken, is renowned for its sweetness, aroma, and crunchy texture.
8. Black Chicken Stewed with Traditional Chinese Medicine
Last but certainly not least, we find a culinary gem that beautifully blends Vietnamese and Chinese influences—Black Chicken Stewed with Traditional Chinese Medicine. Though it originates from Jiangxi Province, its popularity has spread to Sa Pa in northern Vietnam. The small black chicken is known for its slightly tough yet sweet and aromatic meat. The herbal soup, created through double boiling with a variety of medicinal herbs, delivers a rich and satisfying experience that showcases the region’s unique culinary heritage.
Northern Vietnam’s soup-based dishes offer a tantalizing glimpse into the region’s rich culinary tapestry. From the bustling streets of Hanoi to the serene landscapes of Sa Pa, each dish captures the essence of local flavors and traditions. These eight gastronomic delights present an unforgettable culinary journey that showcases the best of northern Vietnamese cuisine, tantalizing taste buds and leaving diners with unforgettable memories of their culinary adventure.
FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
1. What is Hanoi Snail Noodle Soup?
Hanoi Snail Noodle Soup, locally known as “Bún Ốc,” is a delicious dish with a flavorful broth made using snail stock and tomatoes. It features vermicelli, fresh vegetables, fish cakes, fried tofu, finely chopped scallions, and snails, which can be customized with lime, shrimp paste, or chili sauce.
2. What is the signature ingredient in Crab Noodle Soup from Hai Phong?
The signature ingredient in Crab Noodle Soup from Hai Phong is crab meat, which is paired with herbs, grilled meatballs, pork rolls, and pork wrapped in betel leaves. The light red color of the soup remains consistent across different eateries.
3. What makes Sour Pho unique?
Sour Pho, a specialty from Lang Son Province, stands out for its presentation and chilled sweet and sour sauce. It features char siu meat, pork intestine, fried pork liver, roasted duck meat, Chinese sausage, roasted peanuts, fried shallots, and herbs.
4. How is the Salmon and Sturgeon Hotpot from Sa Pa prepared?
The Salmon and Sturgeon Hotpot from Sa Pa includes thinly sliced fish accompanied by a hotpot sauce and local vegetables like squash buds and watercress. The broth plays a crucial role, characterized by a clear, sweet, sour, and fragrant taste with hints of pineapple and other spices.
5. What is the key feature of Black Chicken Hotpot?
The key feature of Black Chicken Hotpot, beloved in northern mountainous regions, is the use of black chicken cooked in a broth with mushrooms, ginger, red apples, and various vegetables, offering a delightful blend of sweetness, aroma, and crunchiness.