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The Good, the Fresh and the Crispy: Quy Nhơn's Wondrous Cuisine in 3 Dishes

A beautiful coastline, stunning rolling mountainscapes, and multiple historic vestiges are not the only merits of Quy Nhơn City.

Situated in Bình Định, a central Vietnam province, Quy Nhơn boasts a rich cuisine that serves as a constant reminder of its nuanced cultural landscape as well as a window into the enterprising spirit of the locals.

Waking up in the morning to the saline breeze of the sea air, an inquisitive visitor can take a walk down the beaches that wind beside the curvy coast roads and behold the uniquely shaped islets lodged on the distant horizon, before heading out to a close-by eatery for a warm, appetizing dish to remedy the cool dampness now tingling across one’s body. It doesn’t matter where you stand in the city, a quality restaurant always seems to be mere steps away. Such a place can come in the form of small, unassuming street vendors sitting by the railway, or modest-looking family businesses nesting right on the other side of the crossroads. 

As such, it is of general consensus that a visit to Quy Nhơn is incomplete without a food tour. Prepare to whet your appetite as we invite you to join us in a photo journey through some of the most iconic eateries and dishes that have now come to characterize the culinary scene of this charming city by the sea.  

Bánh hỏi cháo lòng

Located at 145 Diên Hồng, this family business is one of the most acclaimed eateries in Quy Nhơn City. With 20 years of operation, its enduring popularity has drawn visitors from all over to come and try out this curious amalgam of seemingly incongruous but oddly harmonious elements called bánh hỏi cháo lòng, a Quy Nhơn staple dish.

While bánh hỏi and cháo lòng are both familiar dishes on their own, the thought of combining them together does not immediately spring to mind. To someone who grew up loving these dishes as separate foods and alternating between them for separate breakfasts like myself, this unlikely fusion strikes me as the result of a daring culinary artist with a lot of food savviness.

Made of thin rice vermicelli threads woven into rectangular bundles, bánh hỏi is often topped with scallions and garlic chives sautéed in oil and spread evenly across its surface, resulting in a firm yet spongy texture. The Quy Nhơn variation of bánh hỏi replaces the standard roast or grilled pork with lòng — nutritious pork organs including intestines, tripe, livers, tongues, hearts, and so forth. A hot, steamy bowl of porridge made of rice and accompanied by a variety of tender herbs is the cherry on top to balance out the heaviness of the offal and imbue the diner with a sense of warmth to kick start their day. 

As is the case with most cháo places, this restaurant only opens during early morning hours from 6am to 10am. Within this narrow time frame, however, the eatery manages to serve a huge number of guests and reportedly uses up 40 kilograms of bánh hỏi every morning, living up to its reputation as one of the top dining experiences in the city.

Bánh xèo tôm nhảy

With two locations on Diên Hồng and Nguyễn Tư streets, Bánh Xèo Gia Vỹ, named after the owner’s son, first started out as a modest bánh xèo restaurant 18 years ago. This once-small family-owned business is impressive not only in how it has secured its name as a front-runner among the wide array of eateries here, but most importantly also how it has largely contributed to the current culinary identity of the city.

Bánh xèo’s robust taste and crispness make it a strong favorite of many when it comes to Vietnamese cuisine. Each regional rendering of the dish contains differences, large and small, in ingredients, preparation techniques, and flavors. However, it is in Quy Nhơn that I witnessed the most prominent alterations in bánh xèo varieties, from bánh xèo vỏ ,a lesser known dish unique to Bình Định province, to bánh xèo tôm nhảy, the kind that Bánh xèo Gia Vỹ serves. In fact, the restaurant’s rendition of the latter style of bánh xèo, birthed by Minh, the owner, was so successful that other restaurants started to follow suit and replicate his version. 

Recounting the conception of his business with a perpetual, welcoming smile on his face, Minh told us that, in an effort to differentiate his brand from the slew of other central bánh xèo places and increase the price in good faith, he decided to shake up the recipe by offering more topping options including beef and squid as opposed to only the usual shrimp. His bánh xèo also benefits from better quality and richer volume of toppings, adding a simple yet unprecedented touch to the standard central bánh xèo style. This new interpretation became an instant success among locals, and in no time, visitors from everywhere came to the restaurant to experience the savory, flavorful dishes. 

After six successful years, a second location was opened while the first one refurbished. And in the process, Minh’s business shrewdness has given rise to one of Quy Nhơn’s now signature dishes and enriched the area’s food culture in ways that can be clearly observed today. 

Bún chả cá Quy Nhơn

When the light goes out after a full day spent exploring the city, nothing is more tempting than filling up your belly with a hearty bowl of bún chả cá — Vietnamese fish cake noodles. Bún chả cá, like every other popular cuisine, differs from region to region. It doesn’t take a culinary connoisseur to discern the clear divergences in how different localities want their bún chả cá to taste, and with that, Quy Nhơn takes the cake for the spiciest, most pungent rendering. 

Bún Cá Thùy, another family-owned eatery in this series, understands so well what sets bún chả cá Quy Nhơn apart from all other versions of the dish, which is the distinctive tongue-numbing spice and that peculiar pizzazz it adds to the flavor of every element in the bowl, from the broth to the poached ground fish cakes, to the banana flowers, dill, and cilantro leaves.

Speaking with one of the family members, we were told that Bún Cá Thùy had developed its own secret recipe of chili paste for an exclusive taste, which arguably propelled its popularity among locals and tourists alike. The chili paste that we had here possessed a unique smoky flavor, partially disclosed to be the result of peppers being roasted and mixed with sugar, which in turn created a rich, creamy texture. A favorite in this restaurant is the thập cẩm bowl, which contained the widest range of toppings including snails, trotters, jellyfish, minced freshwater crab, dill, mango, peanuts, etc. 

Tâm, one of the family members, answered our questions about the history and operation of the restaurant with a huge smile on his face, all the while carrying on with greeting and serving his customers. Having been opened for over 20 years and amassed a huge group of loyal customers and name for itself, this restaurant boasts impressive numbers as it sells over 150 kilograms of bún and 40 kilograms of mì Quảng everyday. Bún Cá Thùy is open from 6am to 10pm, making it easy for everyone to drop by at any convenient time to enjoy a kick to the senses, Quy Nhơn-style.  

Why Quy Nhơn always deserves another visit even if solely for its food

While Quy Nhơn dishes have increased in popularity and can now be found in many cities around the country, it is arguably most authentic to experience them in their home city. They’re at their best when made with fresh seafood obtained at a coastal market according to the idiosyncratic recipes of the local restaurants that developed the fare. They come at incredibly affordable prices, too. In fact, the city’s cuisine seems tailored for the region’s unique weather and culture, which becomes clear when tasted where it originated. One can always count on the city of Quy Nhơn to provide an unforgettable food encounter. 

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