Any foodie will tell you that you can’t say you’ve truly experienced any place you’ve visited without tasting the local delicacies. This is especially true in a country with as unique a culinary identity as Vietnam. Adding to this, specific regions even have their own twist on dishes that may have originated elsewhere in the country. The Vietnamese food in Da Lat is no different.
If you’re in Da Lat, you’ll find that locals have created their own variants of well-known Vietnamese delicacies that effectively complement and take advantage of the city’s cool climate. And with many food stalls throughout the city, you won’t have a hard time trying out authentic Vietnamese food without breaking the bank. What’s more, booking a room in affordable places like My House might even let you save money on accommodations and help you try out more of the food. But even then, you might still have a difficult time trying everything out during your stay. To help you out, here are four of the most unique dishes and snacks in Da Lat alone that you should try before you leave.
“Shaken” Strawberry (Dau Lac)
Da Lat’s cool elevation and resulting cool climate aren’t just great for attracting tourists and growing fresh vegetables. It also provides locals with easy access to fruits that can’t grow in warmer areas. This includes sweet and succulent strawberries. As a result, one of the many popular snacks you’ll encounter in the city is dau lac, which can be understood as “shaken strawberries.” Creating it involves mixing some strawberries in a jar with shrimp salt, fish sauce, and sugar, which are then shaken for about a minute or two. Usually served in a cup, this snack has a unique taste that’s sweet, sour, salty and savory—all at the same time.
Central-Style Pancake (Banh Xeo Da Lat)
For most people, your typical banh xeo is best described as a folded pancake with vegetable fillings. Despite being more closely associated with Saigon (now known as Ho Chi Minh City), Da Lat cooks and food vendors have added some unique changes, creating a unique banh xeo Da Lat. Up here, a smaller partition of the batter is used while maintaining the same consistency for each serving. They are then pan-fried a bit longer, resulting in a crust that’s both thicker and crispier.
Meanwhile, the fresh vegetables also succeed in neutralizing the added oiliness from the extra frying, creating a variant of banh xeo that can definitely be described as specific to Da Lat.
Crispy Baguette with Meatballs (Banh Mi Xiu Mai)
If it’s especially cold while you’re visiting Da Lat, you might want to have a taste of the local banh mi xiu mai before anything else. This dish simply adds a bowl of meatball soup to your average Vietnamese banh mi—a crispy local form of baguette that’s usually served warm. Despite the simple twist, this dish goes really well with Da Lat’s colder climate. As a bonus tip, you might want to pair this dish up with a cup of hot soy milk, which you can also easily find throughout town.
Steamed Rice Paper with Chicken Intestine (Banh Uot Long Ga)
Throughout Vietnam, you’ll find plenty of hawkers and food stalls selling banh uot long ga, which can be loosely translated as, “steamed rice paper.” Similar to banh xeo, this dish simply combines vegetable fillings with a pancake base. But in Da Lat, the pancake is made to be thinner and softer. Additionally, you’ll find that the local variant the added twist of including bits of stir-fried chicken intestine into the mix.
Despite being a simple addition to a popular Vietnamese staple, this gives the local version of this quick bite some added savory quality. Indeed, this greatly contributes to banh out long ga’s reputation as one of Da Lat’s most popular street foods.
Bonus Suggestion: Salad Da Lat
Da Lat’s cool and temperate climate make it ideal for farming crops and vegetables that won’t grow anywhere else in Vietnam. This gives salads served in the city a unique freshness that’s hard to beat elsewhere in the country. Unofficially called, “Salad Da Lat,” these are usually served as free side dishes to any rice-based dish.
Commonly they include some lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber slices, onion slices, and even boiled egg halves. They are also usually seasoned with vinegar, and some restaurants even serve them with ground beef. Though you’ll definitely find salad almost anywhere on the planet, don’t miss out on Da Lat’s uniquely fresh version.
Even with established Vietnamese dishes, locals from Da Lat have added their own twists to make them their own. This has created a truly unique culinary landscape that separates the city and the region from everywhere else in Vietnam. Make sure you try out as much of them as you can while you’re there.