Discovering the strangeness of Dalat cuisine

“Xe Ao” sweet soup, “Nanh Bo” soy milk, “Gao Do” Can cake… you have eaten them yet? Da Lat cuisine is a strange thing. When traveling to Dalat, you should enjoy these dishes once to understand why we call these are strange dishes. The strange things are always attracting visitors to Dalat city. You’ve probably heard of Crazy House, Crazy Monk, Crazy Coffee Shop… and now you will hear about strange dishes in Da Lat.

“Strange” from the name

If you have the opportunity to go to the corner of Hung Vuong Street and Tran Quy Cap Street, you will be able to enjoy a kind of sweet soup named “tearing shirt”. Hey, do not think in negative way! It’s just a kind of ice sweet soup like Phuc Linh in Ho Chi Minh City.

The owner of the Xe Ao sweet soup shop

The owner of the Xe Ao sweet soup shop

This shop is located at the junction of Water Treatment Plant so students often gather very crowded every time they finish school. Each time coming to this shop, students often call: May I get a glass of “Xe Ao” (xe ao in English is tearing shirt)? At the final, we found out: “Xe Ao – tearing shirt” is read backwards into “Xao e” which is pronounced almost the same as  “Sao E – grass jelly and hairy basil seeds”, a very unique making a pun of students about the grass jelly and hairy basil seeds sweet soup.

When you go to the shop, you can also enjoy the familiar dried beef salad. Fun in this place, the people here called this is “xap xap”. Do you know why? The name come from the sound of the scissors “xap xap” when people is cutting.

crispy dry noodles

crispy dry noodles

This dish here can be felt different from Ho Chi Minh City. Maybe, the reasons are the name is strange and also the taste is strange as well. Taste is a bit like Saigon but there are differences when using. On the plate also covered with some crispy dry noodles to keep people from feeling bored when eating.

When you finish eating this plate, you can still call a plate of dry noodles – often sprinkled on xap xap salad to make better taste. When eating, you should put a little chili over to warm up your body because of the cold outside. Although it is a roadside small shop, but space is quite comfortable, you can sit here to chat with your friend as long as you like because the hostess here very friendly. Here, all dishes have the same price: 10,000 VND / item.

xap xap dish

xap xap dish

“Strange” in processing and cooking

Walk about 200 m along Tran Quy Cap street, look on the right hand side you will encounter Thanh Tri rolled rice pancake shop. This is a famous shop from the past, all local people know. If you go to Dalat without enjoying the rolled rice pancake here that is a pity.

Thanh Tri rolled rice pancake

Thanh Tri rolled rice pancake

Unlike the rolled rice pancake in Saigon (usually served with pork bologna + dried shrimp + Vietnamese fermented pork roll), the rolled rice pancake here are served with pork bologna and grilled meat, just like rice noodles with grilled meat. Fish sauce is also different. If the sauce in Ho Chi Minh City, the sour pickles is made of carrots and radishes, here they are replaced by papaya cut into fiber. At first it was a bit strange, but when we eat them with the rolled rice pancake, it was a strange taste. Especially the price is very cheap, only 15,000 VND / plate.

Can cake

Can cake

Da Lat at night is cold, so that I have the opportunity to enjoy can cake that my friend make at home. The can cakes look like khot cakes; they pour rice flour and eggs into the small molds in the oven and wait for them to ripen. Can cake is made of cold steamed rice puree into flour, it is quite saving.

One note when making this dish is choosing the low quality rice. If you choose good rice, the powder will be very plastic and so when it is difficult to take the cake off the mold, the powder will stick on the mold, the cake will be broken and cannot eat. The can cakes are often combined with spicy fish sauce, so you will feel warm in the cold space of the city.

And “strange” when enjoying

If you go about 500 meters southwest from Xuan Huong Lake, you will see grilled girdle cake shops. This dish is too familiar with Saigon teen but in Da Lat, the way to enjoy is very different.

Grilled girdle cake is made quite simple but every time you bite a piece as if you do not want to swallow that piece. It’s also quite easy to make. I asked the owner how to do, she also enthusiastically instructed.

The saltiness of the onion and cooking oil, a little chili powder and beef jerky grinded with the fatty taste of melted cheese on the charcoal oven makes me crave for its seductive aroma. The price is quite cheap, only 15,000 VND / one.

The cake is quite big, so when eating, you have to cut into small pieces, dip with sour tamarind sauce mixed with chili sauce. The spicy taste makes you feel warmer than in the cold night of the mountain town.

Grilled girdle cake with egg

Grilled girdle cake with egg

Go down a little is Tang Bat Ho street which is famous for the hot soy milk, offering good smell for the corner of the road. For the first time in my life I know how to mix condensed milk with peanuts. You can enjoy green peas, soybeans mixed with fresh cow’s milk is still delicious. People here call off this familiar thing: “nanh bo”, “nanh xanh”, “nanh phong”…. The price is 6,000 VND / a glass only.

Soy milk is probably too common for everyone, but when you come here, you will have a different feeling. While drinking hot soy milk with the scarf wrapped around the neck and thick jacket is really a great feeling.

By Lai Tien

Discovering the strangeness of Dalat cuisine
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