Since early 2015, Noey and Peter of Instagram’s Vietnomnom have explored the very best of Vietnam’s food, and wandered to neighboring countries for tasty fare further afield. In a series documenting the very best eats in the region, we teamed up with them for Asian Food Adventures to discover the top dishes and treats in our destinations – all with the help of their yummy Instagram food feed!
Anyone who has ever spent more than five minutes with me knows that one of my true great loves in this world is food. Eating food, talking about food, learning about food and food systems, discovering new food, rediscovering old food, eating food… I could go on. I came to Vietnam (among other reasons) to explore the food. So, when I planned a trip to Nha Trang a few weeks back, I had food on my mind.
Nha Trang, nestled on Vietnam’s South Central Coast, is known for its long beaches, thriving nightlife and remarkable snorkeling – all with great reason. But given its prime seaside real estate and key location east of Ho Chi Minh City and south of Danang, Hoi An and Hue, Nha Trang’s food deserves proper credit, too (…and that’s why I’m here. Did I mention I love food?). Not only does Nha Trang boast incredible fresh seafood – as it should, seeing that many of its restaurants are within walking distance of the sea – its food scene also represents the converging forces of some of South and Central Vietnam’s major food players.
If we’re talking about food, Nha Trang’s beach does not disappoint. In an average hour on Nha Trang beach, lounging on one of the comfortable beach chairs which will set you back around $2/day, you’ll encounter at least five (but probably more like 25 vendors) of various beach eats. You can stay on the beach all day and get your fill of every major food group. Laziness prevails!
One of my favorite indulgences, a popular find in Nha Trang, was the steamed corn. It comes piping hot, fresh from a pot of boiling water, and is doused in butter and salt immediately before consumption (Note: bring your own dental floss!). I munched gleefully on the corn, wiping butter off my bulging cheeks after every few bites, relieved to be eating this messy snack a mere 10 steps from the seaside. Nothing better than getting covered in butter and salt and then running and jumping into the turquoise waves, am I right?
Corn was only a snack, obviously, and seconds after finishing I was well on the way to plotting my next meal. I deemed seafood the only reasonable way to go, and quickly found a pair of Vietnamese ladies peddling an array of fresh seafood—beach chair-side grilling included. I pointed to a selection of lobster, crab and shrimp, which was promptly sauced and charred and boxed up for my enjoyment. It came with limes and a pile of salt and pepper for dipping.
I absolutely love seafood. I like it raw, I like it fried (duh), I like it grilled and chargrilled and sautéed and boiled. But grilled fresh right in front of me just inches above the white sand while gazing off at Nha Trang’s glistening waters and tall mountains in the distance? That takes the (crab) cake.
I want to take a second to express my utter amazement at the strong women who carry food up and down the beach all day. Whether it’s the seafood ladies, who travel with a proper grill, coals, a pot full of seafood and boiling water, and all the accoutrements; the corn sellers who lug the corn in pots of water over hot coals atop one shoulder; the fruit vendors who can chop an entire pineapple faster than you can say “I love Nha Trang”… I have incredible respect and awe for them, and they truly make magic happen on the beautiful beaches of Nha Trang. So, let’s just say that the beach left me properly satiated.
Com Ga (Chicken Rice)
However, Nha Trang does exist beyond its beautiful beaches, and I wanted to see what the rest of the city had to offer – food-wise, for now, but I’ll be back. My desire to explore prompted me to rent a motorbike and drive a few kilometers west. I wanted to experience Nha Trang’s street food beyond the busy spots that line the beachfront. And experience Nha Trang’s street food I did!
On a friend’s recommendation, I drove to the Nha Trang Cathedral and explored the streets and alleyways in its perimeter. The first highlight was certainly com ga, which is literally chicken and rice. The Nha Trang variation, found on a corner in a busy intersection, takes this inherently simple dish to the next level with delicate rice that’s almost couscous-like, incredibly tender chicken and flavorful herbs and vegetables.
Banh Beo originated in Hue, the ancient Vietnamese capital, but its magical dollops of rice pancake have spread to all regions of Vietnam. I decided it’d make for a perfect snack during my Nha Trang restaurant hopping, and ended up at a jam-packed place on one of the offshoot streets from the cathedral. This delicate bite is also surprisingly refreshing, thanks to the light texture, fish sauce tang and crunch of fried onions – ideal for a hot and food-filled Nha Trang adventure!
Lastly but certainly not least, I summed things up in Nha Trang with a sweeter variety fare – off of the most quintessentially Vietnamese versions of food trucks you’ll ever see. If you see street peddlers peddling green buns while in Nha Trang, do yourself a favor and get one. They are filled with sweet coconut, and they do not disappoint.
When I travel, I am always on the hunt for the best local food. Anyone who travels with me knows this, and anyone who plans to travel with me in the future should be prepared. Food is one of the most important parts of culture, representing history and tradition and bringing people together. As I travel around Vietnam – and soon around the rest Southeast Asia! – I plan to continue eating as much as I can along the way, exploring different regions’ food customs and traditions, discovering how dishes transform as you move down or inland from the coast, and getting my fill of rice, rice noodles, meat, fish sauce, and so much more.
Explore the seaside treats for yourself in Nha Trang and beyond on a Buffalo Tours Vietnam beach break getaway!