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A foodie’s guide to Long Xuyen in southern Vietnam

Tuesday, January 12, 2021, 10:51 GMT+7
A foodie’s guide to Long Xuyen in southern Vietnam
Terraced shophouses in Long Xuyen City, An Giang Province, Vietnam. Photo: Xuan Tung / Tuoi Tre News

As the capital city of the Mekong Delta province of An Giang, Long Xuyen is built upon a solid foundation of cultural diversity, a characteristic highlighted by its robust food culture.

Located on the southern bank of the Hau River, an offshoot of the Mekong River in Vietnam, Long Xuyen sits about 189 kilometers, or a 4.5-hour motorbike ride, from Ho Chi Minh City.

Sleeper buses connecting Long Xuyen and Saigon’s Eastern Bus Station run every 30-45 minutes during the week.

The city earned first-class status in Vietnam’s municipality ranking in August 2020, thanks to a booming service sector that ranks amongst the highest in the Mekong Delta region.

Terraced shophouses with covered pedestrian paths in Long Xuyen City. Photo: Xuan Tung / Tuoi Tre

Houses with covered pedestrian paths in Long Xuyen City, An Giang Province, Vietnam. Photo: Xuan Tung / Tuoi Tre News

The Heart Hospital of An Giang as seen from Nguyen Du Lake of Long Xuyen City. Photo: Xuan Tung / Tuoi Tre

The Heart Hospital of An Giang as seen from Nguyen Du Lake in Long Xuyen City, An Giang Province, Vietnam. Photo: Xuan Tung / Tuoi Tre News

Despite Long Xuyen’s numerous accolades, the city still moves at a laid-back pace so slow that a short walk through My Binh and My Long, the two central downtown areas, lets visitors take in the town’s best cafés and eateries.

Kids who sell lottery tickets are seen at Nguyen Du Lake of Long Xuyen City. Photo: Xuan Tung / Tuoi Tre

Kids who sell lottery tickets are seen at Nguyen Du Lake in Long Xuyen City, An Giang Province, Vietnam. Photo: Xuan Tung / Tuoi Tre News

A statue of a Buddhist deity at Binh An Pagoda of Long Xuyen City. Photo: Xuan Tung / Tuoi Tre

A statue of a Buddhist deity at Binh An Pagoda in Long Xuyen City, An Giang Province, Vietnam. Photo: Xuan Tung / Tuoi Tre News

A carnivore’s paradise

Alongside the brightly-colored religious and communal buildings that span the city, Chinese hints can be tasted in some of Long Xuyen’s most popular dishes, including the massive bowls of duck noodle soup served up at Huu Hanh at 60 Ton Duc Thang Street.

Huu Hanh eatery in Long Xuyen City. Photo: Xuan Tung / Tuoi Tre

Huu Hanh eatery in Long Xuyen City, An Giang Province, Vietnam. Photo: Xuan Tung / Tuoi Tre News

Topped with a massive cut of duck that seems to hide the ingredients underneath, the soup at Huu Hanh evokes subtle notes of Chinese medicinal soup accented by the generous portion of deep fried shallots in the broth.

A bowl of duck noodle soup with added duck intestines costs just VND75,000 at Huu Hanh eatery in Long Xuyen City. Photo: Xuan Tung / Tuoi Tre

A bowl of duck noodle soup with added duck intestines costs just VND75,000 (US$3) at Huu Hanh eatery in Long Xuyen City, An Giang Province, Vietnam. Photo: Xuan Tung / Tuoi Tre News

The full-bodied experience can be balanced out with lime juice and slices of chili pepper to taste, as well as a few bites of greens and mushrooms.

A typical bowl of duck noodle soup with added duck intestines costs just VND75,000 ($3), but many visitors to Long Xuyen say it is the highlight of their trip.

A bowl of duck noodle soup with added duck intestines costs just VND75,000 at Huu Hanh eatery in Long Xuyen City. Photo: Xuan Tung / Tuoi Tre

A bowl of duck noodle soup with added duck intestines costs just VND75,000 ($3) at Huu Hanh eatery in Long Xuyen City, An Giang Province, Vietnam. Photo: Xuan Tung / Tuoi Tre News

Regret-free dimsum

Located amongst an unassuming terrace of shophouses on Doan Van Phoi Street, Nam Vien is a hidden gem in Long Xuyen, rarely visited by tourists and seen as a luxury amongst locals due to its above average pricing.

However, since Nam Vien’s founding in the 1970s, the eatery has managed to stand its ground and as a representative of the local Chinese community’s influence on the city’s food scene.

Ms. Sau runs the till at Nam Vien eatery in Long Xuyen City. Photo: Xuan Tung / Tuoi Tre

Sau runs the till at Nam Vien eatery in Long Xuyen City, An Giang Province, Vietnam. Photo: Xuan Tung / Tuoi Tre News

Each dish served at Nam Vien is made fresh each morning, with wonton dumplings stuffed with shrimp and meat as the eatery’s most popular bite.

Regulars at Nam Vien also say the restaurant’s specialty bao buns, stuffed with minced meat, char siu, or green beans, are must-tries.

For those in search of a lighter breakfast, the restaurant offers a variety of congee paired with soy milk or coffee as a quick to-go option.

A staff member at Nam Vien in Long Xuyen City prepares drinks at the back of the shop. Photo: Xuan Tung / Tuoi Tre

A staff member at Nam Vien in Long Xuyen City, An Giang Province prepares drinks at the back of the shop. Photo: Xuan Tung / Tuoi Tre News

Those who are not in a rush can have a seat at the restaurant and enjoy a complimentary pot of hot tea from Sau, the woman who runs Nam Vien’s front counter.

For under VND100,000 ($4), eaters can start off the day with a full stomach and a regret-free state of mind.

A steamer full of shumai in Nam Vien eatery of Long Xuyen City. Photo: Tri Nguyen/Facebook

A steamer full of shumai at Nam Vien eatery in Long Xuyen City, An Giang Province, Vietnam. Photo: Tri Nguyen / Facebook

A steamer full of bao at Nam Vien eatery of Long Xuyen City. Photo: Tri Nguyen/Facebook

A steamer full of bao buns at Nam Vien eatery in Long Xuyen City, An Giang Province, Vietnam. Photo: Tri Nguyen / Facebook

The Mekong Delta in a bowl

Unlike the northern variant, which features deep fried fish crisps and strokes of umami produced from tomatoes, the fish noodle soup served in An Giang relies on turmeric for its golden color and a variety of local veggies, including morning glory, basil, banana flowers, bean sprouts, and sesban – a yellow flower that has become the symbol of Vietnam’s Mekong Delta region.

In Long Xuyen, the dish can be found at its best at Tu Lun – a stall on 20 Ly Thuong Kiet Street overlooking Nguyen Du Lake.

The eatery typically sells out very early into the day, which means brunch seekers often have to opt for Nguyen Tram Café at 22 Nguyen Thai Hoc Street as a back-up option.

Each bowl of fish noodle soup at Nguyen Tram consists of enough rice noodles to keep diners full the whole morning, yet it is the broth that steals the show.

The umami and richness of the broth combined with the funky sensation of turmeric and the biting flavor of fresh basil leaves are like a sensory punch and warm hug at the same time.

A bowl of snail noodle soup is priced at VND30,000 at Nguyen Tram eatery in Long Xuyen City. Photo: Xuan Tung / Tuoi Tre

A bowl of snail noodle soup is priced at VND30,000 ($1.3) at Nguyen Tram eatery in Long Xuyen City, An Giang Province, Vietnam. Photo: Xuan Tung / Tuoi Tre News

Nguyen Tram also offers an alternative choice – snail noodle soup that feels like a feast with a benevolent amount of crab meatballs, snails, squids, and two chunks of blood jelly chucked in.

Going nuts for donuts

Banh tieu, or hollow donuts, are known by the Long Xuyen community as one of the best bang-for-your-buck snacks in town.

A humble street cart on Le Minh Nguon Street, owned by married couple Quang and Ai, is the city’s banh tieu stall of choice.

Married couple Quang and Ai make banh tieu at their cart in Long Xuyen City. Photo: Xuan Tung / Tuoi Tre

Married couple Quang and Ai make banh tieu at their cart in Long Xuyen City, An Giang Province, Vietnam. Photo: Xuan Tung / Tuoi Tre News

Ai has run the stall for 25 years. For the past 14 years, she has been running the business in tandem with her husband.

Her banh tieu recipie has been passed on in her family through four generations, with the latest being to one of her children, who opened his own stall only two kilometers away from hers.

Ai can barely keep tabs on how many banh tieu she sells each day, as her adept hands dance through pieces of dough, using a PVC pipe as a rolling pin to flatten the pieces before handing them over to her husband who takes care of the frying pan.

Customers have to wait at least 15 minutes to get their hands on the donuts, yet the crowd around Quang and Ai’s stall barely wanes until she closes shop at 9:00 pm.

That alone might be enough to testify for the quality of the pieces, which are sold for only VND3,000 ($0.13) each for the classic version or VND5,000 ($0.22) each for the matcha-infused variety. 

Quang fries banh tieu at a food cart in Long Xuyen City. Photo: Xuan Tung / Tuoi Tre

Quang fries banh tieu at a food cart in Long Xuyen City, An Giang Province, Vietnam. Photo: Xuan Tung / Tuoi Tre News

Last from the past

Coffee shops in smaller Vietnamese towns run the enormous risk of being lukewarm replicas of their successful big city peers.

For this reason, coffee aficionados are often doubtful when hearing about '1985,' a coffee shop with a vintage theme – a cliché concept seen throughout the country.

However, 1985 has proved that it is not a victim to the troupes – it managed to strike a balance between nostalgia and boldness, the most outstanding example being a stilt house with the second floor’s structure covered almost entirely by discarded doors and windows.

Located deep in an alley on Tran Hung Dao Street, the decor choices and brilliant seating locations of 1985 indicated the touches of a refined eye in interior design, which is not too surprising knowing the professional creative background of the couple who founded the place. 

It is a perfect place to spend a lazy Sunday morning indulging in a favorite book, or simply relishing the laid-back atmosphere of the town.

The interior of 1985 Caphe in Long Xuyen City. Photo: Xuan Tung / Tuoi Tre

The interior of '1985 Caphe' in Long Xuyen City, An Giang Province, Vietnam. Photo: Xuan Tung / Tuoi Tre News

The stilt house in 1985 Caphe in Long Xuyen City. Photo: Xuan Tung / Tuoi Tre

The stilt house in '1985 Caphe' in Long Xuyen City, An Giang Province, Vietnam. Photo: Xuan Tung / Tuoi Tre News

Xuan Tung / Tuoi Tre News

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