How to eat your way through Dalat?
People travel from all over the country to enjoy Da Lat’s golden flowers in October, and to experience the endless eats around the tasty streets. What will have you exclaiming “Troi oi, ngon qua!” from beginning to end as walking in Da Lat? There are avocado ice cream, fresh strawberry, Vietnam’s pizza, dried sweet potato, grilled corn, cheese yogurt or artichoke tea … Instead of embarking on these tantalizing food around Da Lat, this time, let’s discover little-known gems as we dig into the heart of a city’s culinary landscape.
Grilled crickets – the bizzare future food
Founded in 2013, the Next Millennium Farms (NMF) in Toronto, Canada, which is a more than 9,000-square-foot cricket farm, received $50,000 in exchange for a 5 percent share in the company a few years ago. Exo, one of their partners, gets big profit by manufacturing protein bars from NMF’s cricket flour and sells approximately 50,000 bars a month in 2014. In Cambodia, you find people standing around nibbling from the bags of deep-fried crickets they've promised to bring home to their wives and children. In Thailand, eating fried insects in Bangkok appears on the priority list of most daring travelers. A bag of crispy fried crickets definitely has an edge over crisps, both in terms of nutritious value and the exotic element. Little would many tourists traveling to Da Lat know the city is also a land where you can sample this smoking hot new nutrition trend on over the world.
Rich in protein and less in cholesterol, you may be surprised to know that crickets have about three times as much of muscle-aiding mineral as beef does, and provide more iron than spinach, and nearly five times as much magnesium as beef. Let alone tons of calcium, amino acids, omega 3, and vitamins. Furthermore, crickets are ‘clean’ insects since they eat mostly corns, leaves or cereals in nature. As visiting the farm in Da Lat, you see people feed them with fresh grains and corn leaves, which clean out anything unsavory.
It is the strange, sometimes, to many foreign tourists, the terrible – appeal of the cricket. If you haven’t been fooled by what people usually talk about it, try it. You may happen to like its sweet, greasy, meaty and crunchy flavor. A true delicacy, to me, the grilled crickets melt right in the mouth. Grilled, or prepared as cricket powder, crickets make the ideal accompaniment for appetizers. The tour guide revealed “You should have the rice alcohol before tasting the crickets, it creates stronger taste.” Sip some rice wine, and dip your grilled crickets in ketchup, you are ready to have a healthy snack at mid-day. There are also crickets stuffed peanuts, or fried crickets with herbs and noodles to offer… “Never judge a book by its cover!” You will never understand how impressive its taste once you make biased at its look.
Homemade baguette with Da Lat meatballs
Nicknamed “Le Petit Paris,” (Little Paris) Da Lat of course offers her guests with hot and ‘chameleon’ baguettes. Yes, Vietnamese baguettes, or Bánh mì, would remind you of a captivating ‘chameleon’ which goes well with everything around. It can go with butter, cheese, herbs, veggies, grilled pork, chickens, beefs, even condensed milk…. Should you travel to Da Lat recently, you would find the new flavor: grilled baguette with chilly and shredded pork. There is nothing better than waking up in a cold morning and welcome the day with a Bánh Mì filled with so much boldly flavor.
Unlike Vietnamese baguette in other regions, where everything is put inside the baguette for you to easily grab and go, Da Lat meatball baguette requires you to sit down and appreciate every sip of meatballs soup. A ‘full-course’ will include a bowl of juicy meatball, meat paste, green onion, cilantro and a homemade baguette. Baguette is kept warm in a red hot coal brazier, or inside a bamboo basket, which remains its crispy on the outer and cloudy in the inner. For locals in “the city of eternal spring”, a hot cup of soy milk or hot peanut milk is a perfect mate for the breakfast.
One interesting fact about Vietnamese food is that the most significant flavors are often founded on street vendors. Therefore, don’t doubt your local friends if they take you to some place which looks shabby on the pavement and tell you this place is one of the best in town. When I was taken to the Hoang Dieu-Tran Nhat Duat corner, I had no idea that the place was one of best meatball baguette stalls in town. Home-made, pointed-ends, and golden brown crust, meatball Bánh Mì here is probably the most significant street food in my ‘must-have’ list.
You can enjoy these dishes at
Cricket farm Thien An, Me Linh, Lam Ha, Lam Dong
(trại dế Thiện An, thôn 2, xã Mê Linh, huyện Lâm Hà, tỉnh Lâm Đồng.)
Vietnamese bánh mì with meatball soup around street stalls such as:
26 Hoang Dieu, Da Lat, Lam Dong
231 & 235 Phan Dinh Phung, Da Lat, Lam Dong