Local Insight: Nha Trang
Crystal Gem by the Sea
There is a fantastic range of international dining options in Nha Trang.
However, local Vietnamese cuisine is a taste sensation with street food-stalls and small family restaurants being the best way to enjoy it. The secret? Get away from the tourist areas and look for where the locals gather. Here are a few ideas, so get you map out. You will need it!
When travelling to Nha Trang, most people will stay within, or close to, the tourist hub bounded by Tran Phu (The esplanade bordering Nha Trang Bay), Nguyen Thien Thuat to the west, Tran Quang Khai to the south and Nguyen Thi Minh Khai in the north. This area is home to a plethora of dining options although for a bit of adventure, and within easy walking distance, wander west a little up Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, and explore the maze of streets.
“Get away from the tourist areas and look for where the locals gather.”
The first intersection on Nguyen Thi Minh Khai after leaving the tourist district is To Hien Thanh. Directly on the eastern corner is a tiny restaurant which sells the famous Vietnamese seafood pancake, banh xeo, a dish which appeals to all tastes. It opens late afternoon for the dinner trade.
Just a little further along Nguyen Thi Minh Khai you will come to Le Dai Hanh, which has a series of stalls and little restaurants serving all manner of dishes at local prices. The national dish, pho bo and the famous and ever popular fish noodle soup, banh canh are offered everywhere and some of the nation’s better, but lesser known dishes bo kho (beef stew) and bun thit nuong (BBQ pork, vegetables and vermicelli noodles) are specialities here.
“Lesser known dishes bo kho (beef stew) and bun thit nuong (BBQ pork, vegetables and vermicelli noodles) are specialities here.”
Renowned as one of the country’s best street foods, banh mi stalls are widespread. Cheap and tasty, they make a great lunch and with hundreds of stalls all over town, the choice is limitless.
While wandering around the Nguyen Thi Minh Khai area, there are a couple of must-go places for the visitor. The Xom Moi market offers everything from fresh food to appliances and has a series of very local food stalls on the upper level. An hour here is well spent and don’t forget to check out the fresh seafood section which has a remarkable variety available. Nearby is Bach Dang, and number 69 is Nha Trang’s most famous bia hoi.
Bia hoi is the name of any place in Vietnam selling fresh, unpasteurised beer brewed locally. The cheapest beer in Asia can be found in a bia hoi, costing just cents per litre. It is mild in strength and flavour but very drinkable and is the choice of the local working man. You can mix with the locals and try the duck hot pot at 69 Bach Dang.
That is just a tiny sample of what can be had in this part of the “real” Nha Trang. There are so many choices, but do not lose your map! It will seem like a labyrinth if you lose your direction.
Nha Trang, with its huge fishing fleet and aquaculture industry is the seafood capital of the nation. There are specialist seafood restaurants everywhere offering live and fresh products at fantastic prices compared to the West. Just over the Tran Phu bridge to the north of town is “seafood street”. It is a longish walk or easy taxi ride and when you cross the bridge look west (to your left). Along the river is a street with literally dozens of restaurants offering some extraordinary seafood delights. Stroll along and make your choice depending upon the fresh seafood on display. No trip would be complete without an evening spent here.
“There are so many choices it is astounding, but do not lose your map! It will seem like a labyrinth if you lose your direction.”
So, now you have a quick heads up to the local dining scene in town. Spend some time exploring on foot and it will be rewarded tenfold.