7 things to eat on a culinary adventure in Ha Giang

It’s time to move over the popular Vietnamese Pho and Banh Mi, and make way for Ha Giang’s unique culinary treats. Vietnam has given the world some of the most delicious street food but we wouldn’t be surprised if you didn’t know about the quirky dishes from Ha Giang. 

Apart from being known as the gateway to Vietnam’s rugged northern territory, Ha Giang still remains fairly unexplored. While many travel aficionados may have heard about the raw beauty this tiny province offers, not many know about its exciting cuisine that’s bound to leave foodies salivating for more! In case you’re wondering how different Ha Giang’s food could possibly be, here’s a quick guide to some of the top dishes you must add to your culinary adventure plan to experience the local cuisine and culture.

Steamed rice rolls

Delicate, melt-in-the-mouth rolls made from rice flour are Ha Giang’s favorite breakfast. Steamed fresh every morning on a flat plate, rolled up and served warm with a side of hot bone broth or soup, this the best way to beat the early morning chill in Ha Giang.

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Known as banh cuon, the rolls are typically filled either with eggs or pork, depending on which vendor you purchase from, and they make a filling, delicious breakfast to kickstart your day.

Buckwheat cake

Buckwheat may be a newly discovered grain in many parts of the world, but in Ha Giang, it has been harvested and consumed for ages! Locals harvest and dry buckwheat seeds which are then pounded to make a nutritious flour.

The flour is then used to prepare a cake that resembles thick, flattened discs, which steamed and then grilled on fire before being served. A unique dish from this part of Vietnam, these buckwheat cakes are great for a filling midday snack on the go.

Au tau porridge

Named after the Au Tau tree which typically grows on Ha Giang’s highest mountain peak, Tay Con Linh, the star ingredient of this porridge is the root of the tree. Strangely enough, the root can be extremely poisonous if not harvested and cooked in the right manner.

Your best bet for safely enjoying this delicious porridge is in Ha Giang, where the locals are familiar with the right technique of preparing this. While it may seem like too much of an effort to find the right place to have this porridge, we assure you the end result is delicious – a hot, steaming bowl of pork-based soup, topped with fresh herbs and an egg.

Sticky rice (in bamboo)

A simple dish with complex flavors and aroma, this dish is unique to Ha Giang because it is prepared from rice grown in the region. Glutinous rice is cooked with salt and water in small bamboo pipes and grilled over fire.

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The final dish takes on a distinct flavor from being grilled in bamboo, wrapped in banana leaf. It takes almost an hour to cook, but it is well worth the wait, and makes for the perfect accompaniment to almost all main dishes.

Five-colored glutinous rice

Another rice dish on this list, but when you’re in Ha Giang, you can never have too much of the delicious, locally-grown rice! As the name suggests, this is an elaborate and visually-appealing dish comprising of five varieties of glutinous rice, all in different colors.

©Kent MacElwee/Flickr

The colors of this traditional dish represent the five elements and are entirely derived from natural sources – for example, the yellow rice is created by adding turmeric. 

Thang den

Perfect as a dessert or even a snack, Thang Den is essentially a sweet soup made with sugar, coconut milk and ginger. The highlight of the dish are the soft, chewy, rice flour balls which are boiled in the sweet liquid to prepare the soup.

Depending on where you’re purchasing your Thang Den from, your soup may come topped with sesame or crunchy peanuts. A filling and refreshing soup, it’s our favorite thing to slurp on while exploring Ha Giang.

Sour pho

Did you think we could go through a list of Vietnamese food without talking about a noodle dish of some kind? A twist on the traditional Vietnamese Pho, this version of the dish available in Ha Giang has a sweet and sour soup base made from sour vinegar, sugar and spices.

Fresh noodles and pork or duck meat dunked in this broth and topped with a variety of condiments such as, fried garlic, raw papaya, and peanuts. 

Getting to Ha Giang

Accessibility to this remote part of Vietnam has improved greatly in the past few years so it is actually possible to get to Ha Giang from quite a few different cities in Vietnam. Travel from Hanoi to Ha Giang by taking one of the following transportation options on this route – minivan, limo bus, sleeping bus, or a luxury bus.

Sapa to Ha Giang is another popular route that takes approximately 6 hours to cover by either renting a private car or by bus. Ninh Binh and Cat Ba Island are two other locations in Vietnam that have a direct connection to Ha Giang. While the travel from Ninh Binh to Ha Giang takes at least 8.5 hours, Cat Ba Island to Ha Giang can take up to 16 hours, partly travelled by bus and partly by ferry. 

If you were looking for more reasons to plan a trip to Ha Giang, we hope its exciting culinary landscape inspires you to take a deeper diver into Vietnam’s beautiful, rugged north!

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