Phu Yen cuisine — 5 foods you must-try in Phu Yen Province, Vietnam
Ever since the success of the renowned film “Dear Brothers, I See Yellow Flowers on the Green Grass”, with its peaceful and picturesque scenes, Phu Yen Province has become a favorite place for nature-lovers. Moreover, the “Nau” land attracts visitors with its “culinary landscapes” redolent of the lines and colors of the nearby sea.
A jar of “sea light” please!
I freeze for a few seconds after hearing locals order the special at a restaurant near the Tuy Hoa City Square. The restaurant owner says that the dish called “sea light” consists of tuna eyeballs. CGetting curious about this strange new dish, my friend orders two jars. 5 minutes later, two steaming hot jars of “sea light” are sitting at our table.
If fish heads are not your cup of tea, I think you might be a bit intimidated upon noticing the big round eyes flickering among the medlar seeds, jujubes and scallions in the jar. With some guidance from the waiter, I add some greens, and chopped perilla into my jar and begin eating this bizarre cuisine. Taking my time I savor a few spoons of the broth, along with the jujubes, medlar seeds, and some greasy tuna eyes. The sweetness of broth blends beautifully with the savory flavors of the scallion, pepper, chili, and garlic. The pungency of herbs and red chili lingers pleasantly on your tongue.
+ You can enjoy this dish at restaurants on Le Duan, Le Loi and Tran Hung Dao Street. They almost always post “Ocean tuna specialty” on a big board in front of restaurants.
+ There are one or two tuna eyes on each jar, dependinged on the eye’s size. Price: about VND20,000/jar.
+ At some restaurants, they will serve the jar on a small dish with a lid. BesideOn a side of the dish is a small alcohol burner to keep the jar warm. With the fire from the burner, the jar shines like the light from the sea.
Although tuna season in Phu Yen Province is in April (according to lunar calendar), you can taste this cuisine at anytime when you visit.
Sashimi in Vietnamese style
Those madly in love with Japanese sashimi will be more than satisfied with the Vietnamese sashimi in Phu Yen Province. Here, the fresh ocean tuna is often enjoyed with mustard.
We order a plate of this fresh tuna to neutralize our palates of the greasy taste of the tuna eyeballs we’d just enjoyed. The tTunas is are treated and cryopreserved immediately after being caught. The bright red fish are cut into small pieces approximately 4cm long, 2.5cm wide, and 0.5 cm thick. When served, the chef garnishes the plate of spectacular pink fish with a saucer of soy sauce and mustard alongside broccoli, coriander, and basil.
All you need to do when enjoying this dish is dip the fresh tuna into the sauce, pour some roasted peanuts atop and eat along with the greens, garlic and chili. Diners can also decide whether they want to try the dish with colza leaves or not. The typical fishiness of the tuna is counterbalanced by the spicy mustard and aromatic herbs, giving its soft flesh a fresh and slightly sweet flavor, all coming together to create a water-mouthing dish and cheerful patron.
+ Ba Tam Restaurant – 289 Le Duan and other restaurants on Le Duan, Le Loi and Tran Hung Dao Street. Price: VND100,000/pax for two.
+ Apart from the tuna eyes and fresh tuna, you can try other tuna dishes such as: stir-fried and steamed tuna tripe, tuna tripe salad, tuna soup, and steamed tuna eggs.
Banh beo chen –the quintessence of rice
Banh beo chen (saucers of water fern cake) is a familiar snack dessert for a light meal. You can find this dish on almost every street in Phu Yen Province. After strolling down a street at the foot of Nhan Mountain, I stop at the restaurant of Ms. Mai. She quickly sets 10 saucers of the gelatinous steamed rice flour upon our tray, topping each one off with s fluffy pemmican, croutons, and sauteed onions before serving it to us with a sweet and sour sauce. Just pour a little sauce into your saucer and you will seefeel how delicious the dish is. The firm yet gooey flour with flavorsome pemmican and onion will bring you a memorable dining experience.
Recommended addresses: Restaurants right at the foot of Nhan Mountain such as Co Mai (Ms. Mai) Restaurant and Restaurant 92. Price: VND20,000/tray of 10 saucers
Single-sun dried beef with yellow ant salt
One of the most famous dishes in Phu Yen is the single-sun dried beef with yellow ant salt. Locals often enjoy it when drinking with friends while visitors usually buy it as a gift for their friends and family. The dish’s name originates from the way people prepare it. Beef thighs and beef loins are processed carefully before being sliced into thin strips. Then, it the beef is marinated with sugar, seasoning salt, sesame seeds, and crushed chili prior to being set in the sun for one day. The dried beef can be stored for a long time. When eating it, you can put it ion a pot over hot coals to dry until it is brown. Use a pestle to flatten the grilled beef, making it softer before tearing, and then tear it into small strips.
Single-sun dried beef is often served with cucumber, green bananas, greens and the special yellow ant salt (muoi kien vang), made from ants and ant eggs mixed with salt, lemongrass and chili. The aromatic jerky, together with the ant salt, will entice every diner.
Recommended addresses: Chuc Chuc Restaurant and some restaurants near the Bach Dang stone jetty. Price: VND90,000/ plate
The famed blood cockles in O Loan Lagoon
Of all the famous destinations in Phu Yen Province, don’t forget to visit O Loan Lagoon and try the blood cockles – the specialty here. Blood cockles have created their own culinary brand in this province. O Loan Lagoon is situated at the foot of the Quan Cau Pass near National Highway 1A, about 22km from Tuy Hoa City. The lagoon is a favorite place for those who love oysters and cockles. The blood cockles here are thick, sweet and delicious. They are prepared in many ways: grilled with onions, steamed with lemongrass, roasted with chili salt in a tamarind sauce, or made into a soup. Split open their hard sell, take out the pink and yellowy meat, and enjoy this yummy hot dish.
Recommend addresses: You can enjoy blood cockles in O Loan Lagoon, at the floating restaurants by the An Hai Bridge, and at Tuan Restaurant. Price: VND240,000/kg
During your journey to Phu Yen, you can customize your menu with chicken rice, bánh h?i with boiled pork trimmings, shallot bread soup (banh canh he), rice cooked in clay pots and a variety of seafood choices such as king crab, mollusks, and grouper. Each dish bears the stamp of Phu Yen – the South Central coastal land famous for its simplicity and hospitality.