Explore unique taste of Lao Cai cuisine

Tourists to Lao Cai are fascinated with natural beauty, but don’t forget that this place is also a culinary paradise of the northwestern region. Tourists often joke that dishes in Lao Cai have something very "strange”. Familiar flavors make the dishes so attractive that diners can not resist. Lao Cai's culinary culture is like the beautiful scenery and people here. They are emotional, rustic and leave impression on tourists. Let's explore Lao Cai’s famous dishes and drinks in the article below.

1. Eye-catching seven-color sticky rice

Attractive colors of Lao Cai seven-color sticky rice.

Seven-color sticky rice should not miss out of the list of delicious dishes in Lao Cai. It has become a symbol of northwestern cuisine. Not only a simple sticky rice dish, it shows the national culture’s beauty. The ancients told that when foreign invaders attacked this place, many people died on the first day of the seventh lunar month. Therefore, they made sticky rice to offer to the souls of dead people. Each color of sticky rice carries a symbolic meaning of affection and gratitude. Blue represents spring, red is the heroic sacrifice, yellow is the pain of those being separated, and bright red represents the glorious victories of our country.

Seven-color sticky rice has a special flavor thanks to the skillful and meticulous processing of Lao Cai people. Rice is soaked in water for about 12 hours, then cooked for 1.5 to 2 hours. All ingredients are from natural sources without chemical dyes. The red-orange color of sticky rice is made from gac fruit (scientifically known as Momordica cochinchinensis). The purple color is taken from the camomile leaves, the green color is ginger leaf and the yellow color is from turmeric, That gives the seven-color sticky rice a pleasant aroma of the nature. According to gourmets, to fully enjoy the taste of seven-color sticky rice, you should eat with sesame salt and grilled chicken.

2. Thang Co – a specialty of Lao Cai winter

A Thang Co pot with special flavor.

It is said that if you have ever visited Lao Cai without tasting Thang Co, you will miss enjoying more than half of the beauty here. Besides the natural beauty, Lao Cai is also famous for its unique culinary culture that is far different from food of other areas. Thang Co dish in Lao Cai originated from Yunnan, China, then was imported to Dao and Tay ethnic groups in Vietnam. In Lao Cai, there are many kinds of Thang Co, but the best one is probably the horsemeat from Bac Ha, Muong Khuong, Sa Pa.

Thang Co is served with fresh wild vegetables.

Do you wonder why the dish is named Thang Co? It means a pot of water in the Mong language. That means all of the horse bones, organs, blood and 12 spices (ginger, lemon leaves, cardamom, star anise, cinnamon) will be put in a pot of water and cooked for a few hours until the horsemeat is tender. Thang Co is not a dish for the majority. Those who love this dish will feel its fleshy, sweet taste and find it easy to eat. Those who do not like the taste will feel the internal organs are slightly bitter and have a strong smell. Try it for one or two times, you will definitely become a fan of this dish. Imagine sitting in the cold and drizzly weather of Lao Cai next to the fire, there is nothing better than sipping a glass of corn wine and enjoying a steaming pot of Thang Co.

3. Grilled stream fish

Delicious grilled stream fish.

Those who have tried seven-colored sticky rice and a hot pot of Thang Co should not miss grilled food in Lao Cai. Topping the grilled food list is definitely barbecued stream fish. There are a lot of fresh and delicious fish raised in the cool climate in the rivers and streams here. The stream fish does not have fishy smell. The fish meat is firm and sweet so when being grilled, the fish meat will be solid, and the skin will turn dry and crispy. Don't forget to eat with Mac Khen and doi seeds – the seasonings of the northwestern region. The spiciness of Mac Khen mixed with natural sweetness of the stream fish will amaze diners.

4. Lao Cai corn wine winning tourists’ hearts

Jars of Bac Ha corn wine.

Bac Ha corn wine has become a brand name of this land. Unlike other types of wine, Bac Ha corn wine has a strong and seductive aroma. Because it is made entirely of natural ingredients, even if you drink a lot, it will not discomfort you with headache. It takes nearly a month to make a delicious pot of corn wine including harvesting, processing and cooking steps. Thanks to the meticulousness of Bac Ha people, every drop of processed corn wine is extremely delicious and wins the hearts of diners.

5. Bac Ha sour noodles

Bac Ha-Lao Cai sour noodles.

At the end of the ourney to discover Lao Cai cuisine, we want to introduce you sour noodles. We want to save the sour noodle soup until the end because of its unique feature. You might be probably wondering what's so special about it, right? It is special from ingredients to processing. All stages are handmade and extremely meticulous. The noodle broth takes many months to make. Sour noodle soup wins the hearts of everyone because of the new, chewy and soft rice-scented noodles, giving diners a sense of excitement when enjoying it. A bowl of sour noodles has ingredients such as pickles, green vegetables, peanuts, lean meat mixed with slightly sour broth. The blended taste of the ingredients is so tempting that you will want to pack a backpack and take a trip to Lao Cai right away, isn’t it?

Q.Lien