Northwestern Vietnam — Enjoy a warm breakfast in the cold plateau of Ha Giang
In May, Ha Giang, Vietnam is in the midst of its “flooding season.” The area is beautiful and charming at this time, full of winding terraced fields welcoming water from the mountain peaks. People are also starting to prepare for the new planting season. Visitors to Ha Giang will find themselves intermingled with the bustling atmosphere of farmers working in the fields, and will have the opportunity to enjoy specialties specific to the stone plateau.
Banh cuon Ha Giang
A mountainous province topped by imposing stone plateaus, Ha Giang stays cool, even in summer. Early in the morning, Ha Giang is still cloaked in a thick layer of mist, making a hot bowl of pho (noodles) or a plate of banh cuon (steamed rice pancake rolls) a wonderful beginning to a new day. Dong Van is famous for steamed rice pancake rolls with egg or with broth, and in Meo Vac you can enjoy pho made from banh cuon. This dish is regarded as one of “the best Vietnamese foods” by Ngoc Tran, author of “40 Delicious Vietnamese Dishes as Listed by CNN.”
The restaurants serving these delicacies are small, sparsely furnished houses on roadsides or simple kitchens set deep in alleys. Steamed rice pancake rolls with egg are made by pouring a mixture of rice starch, tapioca starch and cold water into pan; spreading the mixture around the pan to make it thin; adding egg yolk and egg white; and then covering the pan until the cake is well done. Soft-boiled egg yolk and soft, silky steamed rice pancake rolls are especially popular. Banh cuon is rich and flavorful. If you do not like egg, you can eat banh cuon stuffed with pork and mushroom. The people of Ha Giang use broth instead of fish sauce to make dipping sauce. Banh cuon is often served with spring onion, coriander, some slices of pork pies, and pepper and chili. Although banh cuon in Ha Giang sounds similar to that in other places, it is a specialty of this province. Banh cuon in Ha Giang often costs around VND 10,000.
Sour pho is also a Ha Giang specialty, often eaten on summer mornings. The people of Ha Giang cut banh cuon into small, long pieces and use them as noodles in sour pho. A bowl of sour pho is rich with fried pork, roast duck, peanuts, Chinese sausage, greens, spring onion, papaya, garlic and chili. The dish is topped with a sauce made from a mixture of vinegar, sugar, tapioca and spices.
Thang co (Horse organ stew)
Pho ga (Chicken noodles soup)
Visitors to Ha Giang—especially first time visitors—should order a bowl of sour pho in the morning and observe how the cooking smoke resembles the region’s layer of mountain mist. It is a relaxing and contemplative experience.
Breakfast in the early market