The beautiful Ninh Binh is a favorite destination for tourists to discover spots recognized as the World Heritage Sites, as well as learn more about its long history. Mentioned to Ninh Binh, beside wonderful landmarks, visitors often think about tasty Ninh Binh specialties. If you have a chance to go there, let’s try out these following specialties!
1. Rice crust (com chay)
The very first dish is rice crust – the most renowned food in Ninh Binh. Totally made from white rice, the crust has a unique flavor that cannot be mistaken to any crust made in other areas. The crust has the light yellow of crunchy fried rice with the savor of rice and fat of salted shredded pork.
It is available for sale all around the province, from crowded streets to tourism destinations such as Bai Dinh temple, Trang An, Tam Coc, and even on the highway; therefore, it is easy to buy the delicious dish.
2. Kim Son raw Nhech fish salad
Being one of the most famous Ninh Binh specialties, the raw Nhech fish salad makes tourists ‘fall in love at first try’. The fish must be fresh, about 400g with fat white belly along with dark green back. Through meticulous process to make the salad not sickly, thus diners can feel the flavor of fried sticky rice, sour vinegar, cozy spice of ginger, pepper, chilli and lemongrass. To enjoy the best taste, visitors must eat the salad made in Ninh Binh.
3. Mountainous edible snails
The mountainous edible snails have become popular recently. This kind of snails is quite rare since they live in rocky holes and only go out for food in rainy season from April to August. They can be found in almost all mountains in Ninh Binh, but most of them live in limestone mountains in Tam Diep, Yen Mo and Nho Quan.
It is hard to catch them when they are still in the holes, so, catchers need to wait for them to crawl out of the holes in the early morning. Due to the tender, crunchy, sweet taste and herbal smell, they can be cooked with different ingredients to form various dishes.
4. Raw goat meat with lemon
The ancient Hoa Lu – the abundant land with numerous limestone mountains is an ideal place to grow goat for meat to make food, among of which, raw goat with lemon is the top highlight. Through a lot of stages to remove rancidity, the dish is served with edible leaves and fruits, especially ‘tuong ban’ (Vietnamese sauce made from soybean, rice, and salt). Not only is it delicious, the food is also nutritious and good for health.
5. Yen Mac fermented pork roll
Yen Mac is well-known for the traditional roll made from pork. The ingredients are simple but the making progress is not simple at all. By the skillful hands of the local, the roll remaining the pink color of raw pork combining with the white of sliced skin with both lightly sour and spicy flavor.
Diners should eat with guava leaves or fig leaves and fish sauce mixed with garlic and chili so as to enjoy the entire special flavor.
6. Sweet and sour soup of perch
This is a popular dish in the sunken fields of Ninh Binh. Every Vietnamese housewife knows how to make this soup, but the perchs in Tong Truong – a place with many caves, are different. Made from carefully chosen fish, the soup is a combination of sour pickles and fresh tomatoes and tofu.
7. Cellophane noodles with eel
Beside rice crust, raw goat with lemon, glass noodles with eel is also famous. Unlike eel in other areas, in Ninh Binh, the eels have pink brown back and golden belly while the meat is savory and firm. The food is served with banana flower to increase the savor and remove the sickly smell.
8. Fried crab with piper lolot
A rustic dish with country flavor that tourists should not miss is fried crab with lolot. Fat crab caught in fields cooked with shredded lolots will surprise diners from the first bite. In the past, this dish was only served in poor family, but these days, it has become a specialty attracting a lot of tourists.
9. Stew fish with Leichhardt pine
This dish is quite unique and unusual. Leichhardt trees are often found in streams or the footage of hills. Leichhardt pines are sour, fresh and savory, so they are used in sour soup along with tamarind and dracontomelon. However, the fruit is best cooked with fish.
10. Stuffed sticky rice balls
The list of Ninh Binh specialties is not complete if it does not have stuffed sticky rice balls. Typically, this dish is made from rustic ingredients, but in Ninh Binh, inside the balls, there are brown sugar, ground peanuts and chopped crossostephium chinensis leaves, which make it specific. Freshness and light sweetness, as well as flavor of the crossostephium chinensis leaves and grapefruit flower will become an unforgettable experience for tourists.
11. To Nhu rice noodles with soup and meatballs
Another special food of Ninh Binh is To Nhu rice noodles with soup and meatballs. As the name, the dish includes rice noodles, meatballs, veggies and soup. However, if other regions place all the ingredients into a big bowl, chefs in To Nhu put each ingredient into different plates for customers to eat until they are full. If you have a chance to visit Phat Diem church, don’t forget to try this dish.
12. Nho Quan sticky rice with ant egg
Nho Quan has craggy limestone mountains which are home of red wood ants whose eggs are used to eat with sticky rice. In every lunar February, the local begin to collect the eggs. To find the nest with most eggs, catchers have to observe carefully. After gathering the eggs, they wash them with warm water, let dry for a while, then mix with spices and cook. To the local citizens, the dish is a precious gift from the nature.
13. Gia Vien shrimp paste
Coming to Ninh Binh, tourists should try shrimp paste as a way to enjoy the unique Ninh Binh cuisine. The paste is made from fresh small shrimp, mixed with roasted rice flour, salt and water. After processed, the paste needs to rest for at least one month before cooked.
14. Lai Thanh wine
Being a specialty of Kim Son, Lai Thanh wine is named after Lai Thanh commune – the first place created this wine. From the best glutinous rice, clean water, good ferment and strict progress, the people here has made a kind of wine that the longer the wine is, the tastier it is.
15. Nho Quan wine drunk out of a jar through pipes (Ruou can Nho Quan)
Nho Quan wine drunk out of a jar through pipes is one of the special cuisines in Ninh Binh. Vacationers can come there to try or also buy for their friends, family as a gift. Ruou Can is poured into a jar, the size of the jar will depend on cutomers’ choice. Making wine is uneasy since it must undergo several stages: from selecting ingredient to processing and calculating the appropriate time – the most important step.
The main ingredient depends on the region, it may be corn, rice or cassava, but the best is sticky rice. If the sticky rice is newly-harvested, the wine will be good. In addition, alcohol yeast is also crucial. It is made from the peel of trees mixed with chili powder, ginger powder, rice powder and water, then cut into smaller pieces and dried in 10-15 days, crushed and mixed with the dried mixture of cooked rice and rice hulls, which is kept in the vase in 1-2 days, then dried banana tree’s leaves are covered on the surface of the mixture in one month before the wine is ready to drink.
The longer the wine is kept, the better taste it has; each material has its own taste. Drinking ruou can while having a piece of com chay Ninh Binh (Rice Crust) is the best.