Local Phu Quoc Food Guide
During your visit to Phu Quoc, you must try some of the local traditional food. The Vietnamese adore their food and their culinary skill is renowned across the world. Not surprisingly, seafood dishes make up the bulk of the hometown favorites due to the abundance of fresh catch brought in by the local fisherman each day. Below we present some of the traditional dishes that are native to the region and will be sure to delight your tastes buds.
Herring Salad (Goi Ca Mai)
While Japan has long been the purveyor off raw fish dishes, Phu Quoc has its own take on the idea. Herring salad is a raw seafood salad served with a platter of accompanying vegetable and sauce. The white meaty fish is meticulously prepared and marinated to perfection. In Phu Quoc, thin slices of herring are mixed with lime juice, chili sliced into strands, chopped onions, coconut and served with traditional rice paper rolls and fresh herbs to create the finishing touch, the rolls are filled with fresh lettuce, herbs, and cucumber slices. A selection of different dipping sauces are provided, adding a sweet or spicy flavor depending on your preference. It is a beautiful appetizer to start a meal.
Health benefits of herring
Herrings are very good for you as it provides high levels essential fats (omega 3) that play an important role in normal brain development and function. Another benefit is that because they’re relatively small fish and near the bottom of the food chain herring do not accumulate the contaminants that are so common in large, predatory fish.
Where to buy:
There are few restaurants in Duong Dong Town and near Long Beach Village that sell this dish, however the best place to try Herring Salad would be at one of the beach side restaurants at Kem Beach.
A plate of herring salad costs from 80,000VND to 100,000VND. You can also buy fresh herring at the the Duog Dong Market for 60,000VND per kg.
Herring salad is often paired with Sim Wine (also known as Ruou sim or myrtle fruit wine), a wine made from liquified sim fruit mixed in with rice wine. The fruit grows wild all over the island and the wine made with this fruit apparently has digestive properties. It tastes a bit like blackcurrant juice mixed with alcohol.
Where to buy
The wine, which is below 15% proof, is suitable for people of all ages and is widely available throughout the island. It costs about 120,000VND for a 750ml bottle.
Speaking of wine… did you know that in Phu Quoc they make a special wine using live seahorses? Seahorse wine is a unique drink found all over the island however the best place to sample or see the wine is at Ham Ninh Village. Seahorse wine is made with just two ingredients: rice wine and a seahorse and it is apparently used to treat male and female fertility/sexual prowess issues.
Where to buy
You can buy a branded or a homemade version of the seahorse wine in Duong Dong Town (at the market) and at Ham Ninh Village near the port. The branded version made by Simson costs 420,000VND per bottle and a homemade version will cost you about 80,000VND to 120,000VND. You can also just buy a dried seahorse for 40,000VND.
Tram Mushroom (also known as Five Hundred Mushroom or the Melaleuca Mushroom) is a seasonal mushroom found in the mangrove forests of Phu Quoc Island during the beginning of the rainy season. In Phu Quoc, this mushroom is cooked in a broth that contains either with shrimp, chicken, or squid.
The mushrooms have a slight better taste to them and also have some medicinal attributes. The local specialty is chicken soup with tram mushrooms.
Where to buy
You can buy dried Tram Mushrooms in Duong Dong Town Market and Ham Ninh Village. If you want to buy fresh mushrooms, then the best place to find them would be the Duong Dong Market. If you are interested in trying a soup made with this mushroom, then go to any of the Vietnamese restaurants found in 30/4 Street in Duong Dong Town. The price for a bowl of soup is 60,000VND.
Tet Cake, Phu Quoc Style
Tet cakes are popular all over Vietnam and are made with rice, sugar, and mung beans however in Phu Quoc, these cakes are unique because of the packaging material that is used – the La Non Palm, or Lanonia centralis.
Lanonia centralis is an evergreen, broad-leaved palm with stems as tall as five meters that grows all over the Ham Ninh mountain range. It is often used to make leaf conical hats. But in Phu Quoc, where banana leaves are rare, it is used to wrap the Tet Cakes.
Where to buy
The best place to buy this unique Tet Cake is at the Duong Dong Market and cost 10,000VND.
Sea Cucumber Soup
There are twenty five species of sea cucumbers in the waters off Phu Quoc and eleven of these species are edible. The most famous sea cucumber dish found in Phu Quoc Island is the sea cucumber soup.
Sea cucumbers have a distinct oceanic flavor that marries well with strong-tasting ingredients like chiles, fish sauce, and garlic.
How sea cucumbers are processed
Once the fishermen have caught sea cucumbers, they are immediately processed at sea or near the port. The sea cucumbers are squeezed to force the ejection of the guts and water, or a small cut is made. They then washed in seawater and either sold to restaurants immediately or boiled and left in the sun for some days to dry them out.
Where to buy
Due to the increase demand of sea cucumbers in China, majority of the sea cucumbers are exported and finding a restaurant that serves this soup is relatively difficult. It is considered a “luxury food” product that has high nutritional value and also medicinal value. If you want to try this soup, the best place to find it is in An Thoi Town. The cost for a bowl of soup is 70,000VND.
Besides the soup, there are a variety of other dishes made with sea cucumbers that you can try, such has baked sea Cucumber in aluminum foil, sea cucumber salad, sea cucumber braised with beef tendon, sea cucumber porridge, and braised Sea Cucumber with oyster sauce.
A special kind of sea cucumber – the ball sea cucumber
Ball Sea Cucumber (Banh Long or “fury ball”) is new in demand sea animal that is being much sought after here in Phu Quoc thanks to an increase in Chinese demand for this mysterious bottom dwelling creature. The Chinese claim that this species of sea cucumber has magical healing properties and are willing to offer top dollar for the creature. For you science enthusiasts, this species belongs to Dendrochirotida an order of sea cucumbers from the Holothuroidea class characterized by ten to thirty tentacles. The ball cucumber belongs to the Echinoderms phylum due to its radial symmetry.
How to prepare ball sea cucumber:
When the ball sea cucumber is caught, it is cleaned and then covered in salt, then boiled in water, and left to be dried. It is then sold in its dry state. To cook it, you soak it in water for 3 to 4 days, then boil it, slice it, and serve it with other ingredients like mushrooms and pork.