Located in the Gulf of Tonkin, Cat Ba Island is an attractive but serene destination unlike its neighbor Halong Bay. In terms of cuisine, it is guaranteed that this island provides one of the most diverse foods in Vietnam. Here is a list of the best food in Cat Ba Island that visitors should not miss.
1. Geoduck clam (Tu hai)
It will be a big mistake to not try this famous food in Cat Ba. In fact, geoduck is popular seafood in Northern Vietnam, however, Cat Ba is the place where best geoducks are raised. In the past, only kings could have a taste of this seafood. Thanks to the developed aquaculture of Vietnam, we can now have the chance to try what was served to kings only.
Geoduck clam is truly a specialty of Cat Ba Island. Clams are rich in flavors, and they are undoubtedly juicy and crunchy at the same time. Popular dishes are grilled geoduck with onions, fried geoduck, geoduck soup and steamed geoduck.
2. Horseshoe crab (Sam bien)
It is always a pair of male and female horseshoe crabs clinging to each other. Describing this interesting habit, there is a Vietnamese saying that reads “sticking to each other like horseshoe crabs” (dinh nhu sam). The weight of a female is about 1 kg, and a male is only half the weight.
People only use the meat of the female when cooking horseshoe crabs as the male are often too small. There are a variety of dishes cooking from horseshoe crabs. Some of the popular ones are salads, soup, grilled, fried and some even eat horseshoe crabs raw. Ingredients used to cook this seafood are galangal, lemongrass, chili, vinegar or guise leaves, onions, laksa. Sweet and sour horseshoe crab is a must-try food in Cat Ba Island.
3. Garrupa (Ca song)
Garrupa belongs to the fish group that inhabits the warm water and the Pacific. There are 37 different species of garrupa. 30 of them inhabit Vietnam, in which Cat Ba is home to 3. Garrupa is a predator that hunts other fish. As a result, they have high nutrient value.
Popular garrupa dishes in Cat Ba are raw, porridge, grilled, hotpot and steamed. In addition to the savoury taste of garrupa, tourists also find fun going fishing to catch this type of fish at night.
4. Sea serpent (Ran bien)
Sea serpents are not too big. They are only 1-2 meters long with slender and flatten bodies. There are 2 little venomous teeth in the upper jaw. Sea serpents have very strong and hard bones, which makes cooking them become difficult.
When cooking, people will get rid of the organs and only use the bile and fat layer. Then, blood will be rinsed off their bodies with 90-degree alcohol and let dry in the sun. Later, that blood will be mixed with wine or substances. Sea serpent might seem like a scary food in Cat Ba Island but it actually is a folk remedy to treat dizziness, back pain and bone pain.
It isn’t necessary to praise this king of seafood. The firm, chewy and sweet meat of lobsters is what makes people fall in love with this food. Not to mention the two admirably giant and meaty crab legs that easily makes anyone’s mouth water.
But the best part of lobster lies in the crab roe. There is no such food in Cat Ba. Crab roe will be mixed with brandy and eaten fresh before the lobster is cooked. The roe has high-nutrient value, especially antiseptic value to the digestive tract. Eating roe also helps to prevent intestinal infections.
6. Mantis shrimp (Be be)
Mantis shrimp has many Vietnamese names that might confuse travellers. If you come into a restaurant and see “bề bề”, “tôm tít”, “bọ ngựa biển” on the menu, they all mean mantis shrimp. This food in Cat Ba is actually popular in many other places in Northern Vietnam. But only in Cat Ba can you find such meaty and firm mantis shrimps.
There are many dishes cooked with this shrimp: roasted with salt, steamed, fried with tamarind and hotpot. Mantis shrimps are easy to find in any Cat Ba restaurants – all fresh and tasty.
7. Red snapper and cobia
The 2 fish species are the precious gift from nature to Cat Ba Island. Thanks to cobia farming, fishermen in Cat Ba have the opportunity to change their lives and have a stable income source. Before that, their lives completely depended on offshore fishing. Fishermen used to put their lives at risk every time they sailed off to the great sea. Now, the locals have learned to raise red snapper and cobia to improve life quality.
The best cobia are farmed in Cai Beo village of Lan Ha Bay. Raised by experienced fishermen, cobia in Cat Ba has the signature taste of salty sea with high quality and food safety. It will be a big mistake if visitors don’t try this local food in Cat Ba.
8. Mountain goats
As an island, Cat Ba is lucky as it is given both mountains and sea. Thanks to the diverse nature, the food in Cat Ba Island is very special in its own way. Mountain goats are one of them. They have been inhabiting Cat Ba for quite a long time, and are native to this island. They live on precarious limestone cliffs.
Because of its location, Cat Ba Island has always been isolated from the mainland. As a result, the native mountain goats here are rarely crossbred with the goats in mainland. That’s why there is such unique taste of Cat Ba mountain goats. Besides, these goats have a diet of medicinal plant leaves on mountains. This helps their meat to have high-nutrient value.
9. Chicken Lien Minh
Similar to Cat Ba mountain goats, chicken Lien Minh is a native chicken breed in Lien Minh commune, Cat Ba district, Hai Phong. They live near the mountains and often eat around the limestone cliffs. Chicken Lien Minh is quite rare so it is hard to raise them with large quantities. They are free-range chickens so their thighs are firm and their meat is more solid with low fat.
In fact, chicken Lien Minh can grow into really big ones. The average rooster weighs up to 3 kg, some even weighs up to 4.5 kg. If you get fed up with seafood, chicken Lien Minh is a great choice of food in Cat Ba.
10. Orange Gia Luan
The flora and fauna biosystem of Cat Ba is incredibly diverse and special in its own way without being crossbred. Orange Gia Luan is a standard example of this. This orange species is slightly sour but mostly sweet. The skin is thin and is attractively eye-catching when ripened. Orange Gia Luan has a special aroma that can make people’s mouth water.
Every year, Cat Ba harvests and offers 100 tons of orange Gia Luan to the market. Don’t miss your chance of tasting this specialty food of Cat Ba at a cheap price while visiting this island.