VIETNAM

Best Fish to Eat in Vietnam: 8 Most Popular Fish Dishes from North to South

Jun 18, 2024

Vietnam is a country blessed with an incredibly diverse and delicious culinary tradition, in which Vietnamese fish dishes are an unmissable part. Thanks to its lengthy coastline along the East Sea and a multitude of rivers and waterways, fish is an integral part of the Vietnamese diet, with countless incredible preparations found across the length of the country. From the bountiful seafood of the northern Gulf of Tonkin to the vibrant fishing villages of the Mekong Delta in the far south, Vietnam offers a dizzying array of fish dishes to tantalize the taste buds. Here are 8 of the most popular and best fish to eat in Vietnam that you would seek out on your Vietnamese culinary journey.

best fish to eat in vietnam vietnamese fish dish

Top 8 best fish to eat in Vietnam

La Vong grilled fish – Cha ca La Vong

Cha ca La Vong or La Vong grilled fish is a traditional Vietnamese fish dish that originated in Hanoi. Established in 1871, it is a famous specialty of Hanoi, known as one of the best fish to eat in Vietnam, and praised by both locals and international visitors.

The distinct charm of Cha ca La Vong is rooted in its use of snakehead fish. Cut into bite-sized pieces, the fish is marinated with a blend of finely ground turmeric, fermented rice water, shrimp paste, sugar, turmeric powder, and a hint of Vietnamese fish sauce. Grilled to perfection with dill and spring onions, it is served alongside vermicelli noodles, roasted peanuts, aromatic herbs, and tangy shrimp paste. This beloved dish has delighted Vietnamese palates for generations, showcasing a unique fusion of flavors and textures.

best fish to eat in vietnam La Vong grilled fish

Vu Dai braised fish – Ca kho lang Vu Dai

Originating from Ha Nam, a province in Northern Vietnam, Vu Dai braised fish is a culinary gem and a best fish to eat in Vietnam. This renowned dish is celebrated for its meticulous preparation, from the selection of ingredients to the cooking method. The fish chosen for braising is large black carp, weighing around 3 kg or more. This type of fish has fewer small bones and plenty of lean meat. The fish is marinated in a unique blend of many spices, including ginger, galangal, dried shallots, chili, coconut water, crab broth, fish sauce, monosodium glutamate, lime, and pepper. The spices are added both at the beginning and throughout the cooking process, requiring great skill and attention to detail.

Furthermore, for the fish to achieve its best flavor, it must be braised in clay pots from Tru Son (Do Luong, Nghe An). Clay pots from other regions do not yield the same quality. The braising process takes 16 hours of continuous cooking, with constant monitoring of the fire to ensure the proper heat.

best fish to eat in vietnam Vu Dai braised fish

This meticulous and detailed preparation results in Vu Dai village’s braised fish being incredibly flavorful and firm, making it the most expensive yet the most delicious braised fish in Vietnam. The fish is moist and rich, with evenly absorbed spices and a fragrance that tantalizes the taste buds of any diner.

Quynh Coi fish noodle soup – Canh ca Quynh Coi

Quynh Coi fish noodle soup is a beloved specialty from Thai Binh Province, Vietnam. This dish features rice noodles paired with fish slices marinated in fish sauce and fresh turmeric, then grilled or fried to a golden hue. The heart of its distinctive flavor is the rich, sweet broth made from fish bones and heads, enhanced with scallions and cilantro. Served with blanched greens, fish balls, fresh crucian carp, and hot broth, this flavorful and satisfying meal is a local favorite.

Pa pinh top

Pa pinh top, a traditional dish from Vietnam’s Thai ethnic minority in the northwest, showcases the region’s culinary artistry. This dish features freshwater mountain fish, known for their lean flesh and distinct flavor due to their diet of leaves, crustaceans, and moss.

The magic of Pa pinh top lies in its spice blend, combining ginger, lemongrass, chili, garlic, and the unique wild “mac khen” seeds, akin to Sichuan pepper. These spices are finely chopped and mixed, with some stuffed inside the fish’s belly and the rest spread over its body. After marinating for 30-40 minutes, the fish is folded, secured with bamboo sticks, and grilled over charcoal until it turns golden and emits a tantalizing aroma.

best fish to eat in vietnam Pa pinh top

Vietnamese sour fish soup – Canh chua ca

Vietnamese sweet and sour soup is a common fish to eat in Vietnam and a beloved staple in Vietnamese cuisine, treasured by locals for its comforting and familiar flavors. Recognized by online travel guide Taste Atlas as the top 13 best fish dishes in the world, this dish masterfully blends sweet, spicy, and sour notes, creating a delightful harmony. The soup is crafted with tamarind and includes a medley of ingredients like pineapples, tomatoes, bean sprouts, and herbs. Typically made with smooth-skinned or snakehead fish, this dish truly captures the essence of Vietnamese home cooking.

best fish to eat in vietnam Vietnamese sour fish soup

Fried Elephant Ear Fish – Ca Tai Tuong chien xu

Hailing from the vibrant Mekong Delta, deep-fried elephant ear fish is a beloved best fish to eat in Vietnam cherished for its simplicity and exceptional taste. The preparation involves thoroughly cleaning the fish, ensuring its scales remain intact, and then deep-frying it to perfection, resulting in a crispy golden crust that encases tender, flavorful meat. This dish is traditionally enjoyed by wrapping the fish in rice paper along with vermicelli and fresh herbs, accompanied by a selection of dipping sauces, such as tamarind, sweet, or fish sauce, enhancing its delightful flavors.

Grilled Snakehead Fish – Ca loc nuong trui

Grilled snakehead fish stands as a rustic emblem of Southern Vietnamese cuisine and is often regarded as one of the best fish to eat in Vietnam. This traditional dish is prepared with simplicity, bypassing the need for scaling, gutting, or seasoning. When grilled, the fish develops a smoky, charred exterior, enveloping the tender and juicy flesh inside. Typically served with fresh lotus or banana leaves, this delicacy is often paired with a tangy, spicy, and mildly sweet fish sauce. The combination of spiciness, saltiness, and sweetness perfectly complements the unique flavors of this regional favorite.

best fish to eat in vietnam Grilled Snakehead Fish

Herring Salad – Goi ca trich

Goi ca trích or herring salad is a renowned delicacy in Phu Quoc, celebrated by food enthusiasts as a must-try local specialty. Herring, characterized by its slender body, slight greenish hue, and delicate round scales, offers essential nutrients and a nutritious addition to the palate. For this exquisite Vietnamese fish dish, chefs meticulously select fresh herring with fragrant, tender meat, ensuring minimal fishiness. The filleted fish is skillfully combined with onions, carrots, grated coconut, sautéed garlic, and other seasonings. Diners typically enjoy it by placing a thin rice paper on their palm, adding fresh herbs, rolling it tightly, and savoring each bite dipped in tangy Vietnamese fish sauce.

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Where is the best place to enjoy fish dishes in Vietnam?

Hanoi – The capital’s Old Quarter is a mecca for seafood lovers seeking the iconic dishes of northern Vietnam. Try local institutions like Chả Cá Lã Vọng for the turmeric-marinated fish sizzled tableside.

Hai Phong – This major port city on the Gulf of Tonkin is renowned for its incredible fresh seafood. The city’s Hang Kenh Market has countless stalls selling whole fish straight off the boat. Nearby places like Cat Ba Island offer atmospheric seafood village vibes.

Mekong Delta – The Delta’s vast network of rivers, cantons, and islands are home to abundant fish farms and fishing villages. Places like Can Tho, Soc Trang, and Vinh Long offer ultra-fresh fish dishes like bun mam, ca kho to and grilled whole fish.

Beach Cities – Coastal cities like Nha Trang, Mui Ne, Quy Nhon and Phu Quoc are famous for their incredibly fresh seafood prepared beachside at casual eateries and resorts. Grilled and steamed whole fish are local specialties.

FAQs

Is it safe to eat fish in Vietnam?

Yes, it is generally safe to eat fish in Vietnam as long as you take normal precautions and eat at reputable, hygienic establishments. Avoid any fish that doesn’t smell completely fresh. Restaurants and street food stalls have high turnover, ensuring very fresh seafood.

What is the common fish to eat in Vietnam?

Some of the most common fish to eat in Vietnam include snakehead (ca loc), catfish (ca tre), mackerel (ca nuc), tuna (ca ngu), sea bass (ca vong), and various white fish like cod. Freshwater fish are particularly popular in inland regions.

From the fragrant dill-accented turmeric fish of the north to the sublime sweet-and-sour soups of the south, Vietnam’s incredible array of fish dishes showcases the country’s rich culinary traditions and bountiful seafood resources. While this article covers 8 of the best fish to eat in Vietnam, it merely scratches the surface of the incredible diversity Vietnamese cuisine has to offer. To truly immerse yourself in the vibrant sights, sounds, and flavors of this captivating culinary nation, an expertly-planned culinary tour is an absolute must.

Asia Encounter is ready to become your companion on the journey to discover Vietnamese cuisine. With Asia Encounter’s expert gourmand guides, you’ll go far beyond just scratching the surface. You’ll gain a true understanding and appreciation for the incredible flavors that make Vietnamese cuisine so special. Visit our website at asiaencounter.com to start planning your delicious adventure today!

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