The premier location for sampling Phu Quoc Island’s seafood culture is the night market near Dinh Cau.
Apart from the usual keepsakes and souvenirs that every night market in Vietnam has to offer, the focus of this must-see attraction in Duong Dong is seafood. Grilled sea urchins for example are something you don’t get to eat every day. I wouldn’t go so far as to call them delicious, maybe not even good, but it’s a rare morsel that most of us have never tried before.
Towers of aquariums line the road, containing a vast selection of live animals from passive sharks, to sea snails that are trying to escape the confinement of their basin. Looking around, the view reminds you of an undersea documentary, with some marine life you have likely never seen before. Mantis shrimps, oysters and clams, blue lobsters, surreal looking fish and sea monsters adorned with tentacles, straight out of an HP Lovecraft story.
All of these amazing animals can find their way into your stomach if you are brave enough to face the culinary adventure. Grilled, steamed, boiled or stir-fried, the chefs at the night market stalls prepare the seafood fresh and with great efficiency. It gets served on steaming plates and you can dig right in.
Of course, the menu wouldn’t be complete without some sweet desserts. At the Dinh Cau Night Market there are stalls selling fresh pancake variations, with fruits, honey or Nutella. Other places offer sugar roasted peanuts and almonds, a delicacy that reminds many tourists of the Christmas markets in Europe.
But there is more. Spicy, roasted seaweed for example, packaged in nice portions and ready to be eaten as a snack. And two stalls offer an assortment of sweet soups. And as for the demand for liquids, you get the whole bandwidth of Vietnamese drinks. From delicious, refreshing sugarcane juice to iced Saigon Special.
There are also stalls selling t-shirts with a rudimentary map of Phu Quoc Island, the obligatory selection of ladies shoes, piled atop of each other, baskets full of cheap jewellery and keyrings with weird, supposedly cute looking animals attached.
The market’s more authentic souvenirs include shells and other treasures from the sea. But please be responsible and don’t buy corals. It takes many years for them to grow and “harvesting” them destroys the reefs, which are an essential part of the Phu Quoc ecosystem.