Quy Nhon Food Guide

Quy Nhon Food Guide

First published September 2022 | Words and photos by Luke Digweed

Luke Digweed, Contributing Writer at Vietnam Coracle

Luke Digweed is a contributing writer for Vietnam Coracle. He has been living in Vietnam since 2011, mostly in Huế but also in Đà Nẵng & Sài Gòn. While living in Huế, he ran the Huế Grit Tour & co-organized events & small concerts between 2017-2020. His most recent ongoing project is Festivals of Vietnam which documents ceremonies, rituals & processions around the country….read more about Luke


Quy Nhơn is an up-and-coming beach city in the south-central province of Bình Định. Historically rich and aesthetically charming, the province is the former capital of the Chăm Kingdom and birthplace of the iconoclastic, yet short-lived, 18th-century Tây Sơn Dynasty. Like neighbouring coastal cities, Quy Nhơn has a long, attractive municipal beach and borders the sweeping mountains of the Central Highlands. Both the sea and the mountains influence its exciting, but underappreciated, cuisine. I spent a month exploring Quy Nhơn’s food scene for this guide.

Gỏi cá mai - sardine salad - Quy Nhon, Vietnam

[Back Top]


QUY NHON FOOD GUIDE


A Vibrant Dining Scene on the South-Central Coast

This food guide features many of Quy Nhơn’s essential dishes and some of my favourite places to eat during my stay in the city. Although typically defined as Central Vietnam, I found many differences between the food in Quy Nhơn compared to other Central Vietnamese coastal cities, such as Đà Nẵng and Đồng Hới. One predominant element in Quy Nhơn’s food is the array of dipping sauces and fish sauce combinations on offer with each dish. Quy Nhơn was once part of the kingdom of Chăm but now it’s the city of chấm (dipping sauce)!

CONTENTS:

Map

Bún Rạm (crab noodles)

Bún/Gỏi Sứa (jellyfish noodles/salad)

Bún Chả Cá (fishcake noodles)

Bánh Xèo (savoury pancakes)

Gỏi Cá Mai (sardine salad)

Bánh Hỏi Cháo Lòng (pork noodles & congee)

Hải Sản & Ốc (seafood & snails)

Bánh Tráng Dừa (coconut rice crackers)

Bánh Hồng (rice cakes)

Bánh Ít Lá Gai (green bean cakes)

Tré Bình Định (pork parcels)

Rượu Bàu Đá (rice liquor)

Related Guides


Please Support this Site
If you use & enjoy this website, please make a donation or become a patron. Vietnam Coracle is free to read & 100% independent: there’s no sponsored content whatsoever.
Thank you,
Tom


Quy Nhon Food Guide

[Back to Contents]


MAP:

Quy Nhon Food Guide

View LARGER MAP


Luke’s chosen charity | Click for details

[Back to Contents]


Bún Rạm (crab noodles)

LOCATIONS:

  • Bún Rạm Mỹ Hạnh: 48 Ngô Gia Tự Kế street [MAP]
  • Quán Bún Cá Thùy: 261 Tăng Bạt Hổ street [MAP]
  • Bún Cá Quy Nhơn: 53 Lâm Văn Thạnh street [MAP]

A soft, white vermicelli noodle, bún is a staple of the Vietnamese kitchen. Made from varying ratios of rice and rice starch, it’s either served uncooked, added in broths, or sometimes stir-fried. Bún is used as the foundation for a range of noodle soups in Quy Nhơn, as it is throughout Vietnam.   

On my first walk around the city, I saw a sign for bún rạm. Puzzled by the second word, I asked the hotel owner: “What is rạm?”. “Ground crab”, he replied. Another name for riêu, I thought.

I thought wrong. Unlike riêu, the crab isn’t congealed into cakes or balls. Depending on the restaurant, the crab comes as a minced dollop cooked with oil, seasoning and shallots. It’s served either afloat in the bowl of bún noodles or in a separate bowl for you to add to the broth yourself. On serving, stir it in with the noodles and herbs. A rice cracker comes separately with the dish for you to break up and add to your noodles or dip into the broth and variety of sauces. Adding the cracker to the noodles provides additional depth to the textures of this dish. A stroke of culinary genius prominent in a lot of Bình Định cuisine.

I found bún rạm more enjoyable than the crab cakes in bún riêu. In Quy Nhơn, bún rạm is high in the rankings alongside other popular national street food regulars. Delicious, fresh and cheap, I had never heard of bún rạm before I researched this guide and I‘ve craved it ever since I left Quy Nhơn. It’s a real gem and an essential eat.

I am told that bún rạm is eaten at any time of day, but most vendors only serve it in the morning. The first place I was introduced to for eating the dish was Bún Rạm Mỹ Hạnh. Even at 9 o’clock on a Tuesday morning (a little late for a Vietnamese breakfast), I was shocked by how busy it was. Domestic independent travellers and organised tours come here for their bite. It was chaotic. I came away unsatisfied with my experience but returned later in the month to find it to be the most enjoyable serving of the dish in the city. The noodles, the crab and the herbs are all served separately. A nice touch is the single fish cake added to the noodles. The more I ate here, the more I loved it.

IMAGES: Bún Rạm (crab noodles)

Bún rạm crab noodles, Quy Nhon

Bún rạm crab noodles, Quy Nhon

Bún rạm crab noodles, Quy Nhon

[Back to Contents]


Bún/Gỏi Sứa (jellyfish noodles/salad)

LOCATIONS:

  • Quán Bún Cá Thùy: 261 Tăng Bạt Hổ street [MAP]
  • Bún Cá Quy Nhơn: 53 Lâm Văn Thạnh street [MAP]
  • Bún Rạm Mỹ Hạnh: 32 Ngô Đức Kế street [MAP]

Jellyfish noodles may not sound too appealing, but its soft-crunchy texture makes it a unique addition to a bowl of noodles. Consuming jellyfish also has a range of health benefits and can contribute to a sustainable diet. Quy Nhơn is an especially good place to try sứa (jellyfish). Depending on the future of our planet, it may become a more frequent part of your diet!

Sứa is not exclusive to Quy Nhơn, but it’s more common in south-central Vietnam than most other regions. The jellyfish is cut up into mouth-sized pieces and served raw either in a hot broth with noodles (bún sứa) or in a cold salad (gỏi sứa). Its taste is more subtle than its texture: sea-salt watery is the most prominent flavour. Gỏi sứa is a personal favourite and perfect as a summer cooler. The salad is commonly served with mango, chilli, peanuts and sometimes shredded coconut flesh. Delicious.

Quán Bún Cá Thùy is a long-operating, family-run business with three generations on the shop floor. They have a large variety of choices on the menu, but I was particularly enamored of the bún and gỏi sứa.

IMAGES: Bún/Gỏi Sứa (jellyfish noodles/salad)

Bún sứa - jellyfish noodles - Quy Nhon

Gỏi sứa - jellyfish salad - Quy Nhon, Vietnam

Bún sứa - jellyfish noodles - Quy Nhon

[Back to Contents]


Bún Chả Cá (fishcake noodles)

LOCATIONS:

  • Bún Cá Quy Nhơn: 53 Lâm Văn Thạnh street [MAP]
  • Quán Bún Cá Thùy: 261 Tăng Bạt Hổ street [MAP]
  • Bún Rạm Mỹ Hạnh: 32 Ngô Đức Kế street [MAP]

Commonly described as Vietnamese sausage, chả is ground-down, reconstituted meat accompanied by varying herbs and spices. For seaside dwellers, the most common type of sausage is chả cá: minced fish reconstituted into ‘bricks’ then later cut down into small shapes to add to noodles (bún) and sandwiches (bánh mì). Pepper corn husks, ground with the fish, freckle the cakes.

In general, I don’t eat chả cá out of enjoyment. So, for this article, I challenged a friend to show me a place where even I could appreciate chả cá. She took me to Bún Cá Quy Nhơn. Small yet busy, modern and well-maintained, the bún chả cá was indeed fantastic. It was the intricate sweetness of the chả cá here that won me over. In addition, there are plenty of other options on their extensive menu.

IMAGES: Bún Chả Cá (fishcake noodles)

Bún chả cá - fishcake noodles - Quy Nhon

Bún chả cá - fishcake noodles - Quy Nhon

Cooking and serving noodles in Quy Nhon

[Back to Contents]


Bánh Xèo (savoury pancakes)

LOCATIONS:

  • Bánh Xèo Tôm Nhảy Gia Vỹ: 14 Diên Hồng street [MAP]
  • Bánh Xèo Cây Me: 546 Nguyễn Thái Học street [MAP]
  • Bánh Xèo Bà Năm: near Cầu Mỹ Cang bridge [MAP]
  • Bánh Xèo Tôm Nhảy Bụng Bự: 255 Tăng Bạt Hổ street [MAP]
  • Bánh Xèo Tôm Nhảy Mộc Miên: 18 Diên Hồng street [MAP]

Bánh xèo can be found all over central and southern Vietnam, but with each province comes a different variation. In Quy Nhơn, the dish goes by two names. Bánh xèo tôm nhảy translates as ‘dancing/jumping shrimp’, because the shrimp are so legendarily fresh, they’re still moving when they hit the frying pan. The dish’s other regional name, bánh xèo Mỹ Cang, refers to the village where the dish is most famous: Mỹ Cang bridge, in Phước Sơn, 15km north of Quy Nhơn city. I love bánh xèo. But, in researching this guide, I nearly reached my greasy pancake limit. Such is my dedication to my work!

Bánh xèo is a battered rice-flour savoury ‘pancake’, typically containing shrimp, pork belly and bean sprouts. It’s often rolled into rice paper with an assortment of herbs, cucumber and mango before being dunked into a peanut sauce or fish sauce. Bánh xèo tôm nhảy is served ‘open-top’, unlike in other cities where the pancake is folded in half. Compared to its Sài Gòn counterpart, the size of the pancake is a lot smaller: about 5 inches in diameter. Another key difference is the choice of fillings. Restaurants typically offer shrimp, squid or beef. Rice paper comes wet or dry (if dry, you have to bathe the paper in water to dampen it until it’s the right texture to roll).

Bánh Xèo Tôm Nhảy Mộc Miên is arguably one of the fanciest bánh xèo places in Quý Nhơn. I felt embarrassed by the interior design: it bought up many inner conflicts over street food, street eateries and the meaning of life. My dining partner explained the upgrade in facilities is a more attractive location to Vietnamese customers in an area with stiff neighbourhood competition. Posh or not, Bánh Xèo Tôm Nhảy Mộc Miên lacked the intensity of a Vietnamese street eatery but the bánh xèo was undoubtedly good and the price was almost identical to others in the vicinity. The dining style would be perfect for some visitors, but maybe too sterile for others. On a side note, Bánh Xèo Tôm Nhảy Mộc Miên also sell another Bình Đinh specialty, chả ram tôm đất, deep fried shrimp rolls. Great with sweet chilli sauce.

Bánh Xèo Cây Me lies on Nguyễn Văn Cừ street, where the boundaries of tourism and inner-city industry overlap. Bánh Xèo Cây Me operates out of an aged building and encroaches onto the street. The name ‘Cây Me’ means ‘tamarind tree’ referring to the natural landmark that stands on the pavement in front of the restaurant. Nguyễn Văn Cừ is one of Quy Nhơn’s busiest streets and the tamarind tree is lost amongst the chaos of the traffic and multi-story houses. One person oversees the cooking of multiple bánh xèo while another serves customers over a small set of tables and chairs. The ability to multitask like this is impressive and makes for an entertaining spectacle. The bánh xèo here is cheap and the batter for the pancakes was perfectly crisp: the best I tried in the city.

I took a morning drive to the ‘home’ of bánh xèo Mỹ Cang in Phước Sơn village, approximately 15km north of Quy Nhơn. Mỹ Cang is the name of the nearby bridge where numerous houses sell bánh xèo. The dish gained regional fame from the popularity of pioneer vendor Bà Năm. One of the most celebrated living personalities of Bình Định’s provincial cuisine, she’s been selling bánh xèo here for almost four decades in her shop Bánh Xèo Bà Năm. Despite being in her 80s, Bà Năm (real name Bà Lý Thị Thu) still helps with the running of her shop – chopping garlic and checking customers have their rice paper. But it’s her younger relatives who now take charge of most of the work.

There’s no menu at Bà Năm. They only serve one dish: bánh xèo tôm (shrimp pancakes). The shop is oddly furnished and the tiled floor around the kitchen is worn away from a combination of wear and cooking oil spills. The bánh xèo is still cooked over coals, a dangerous feat where flames occasionally flare up in front of the nonchalant cook. The pancakes come with thick chunks of cucumber and lettuce to roll with in the rice paper. There’s nothing sophisticated or pretentious about Bánh Xèo Bà Năm: it’s a regional cuisine relic that has avoided all unnecessary change. One story I read recounts Bà Năm’s refusal to relocate to the city centre and her resistance to unnecessary upgrades to her restaurant. While the bánh xèo itself was pretty ordinary, the fish sauce for dipping was phenomenal.

IMAGES: Bánh Xèo (savoury pancakes)

Bánh xèo - savoury pancakes - Quy Nhon

Bánh xèo - savoury pancakes - Quy Nhon

Bánh xèo - savoury pancakes - Quy Nhon

Bánh xèo - savoury pancakes - Quy Nhon

[Back to Contents]


Gỏi Cá Mai (sardine salad)

LOCATIONS:

  • Gỏi Cá Thanh Kiều: 69/1 Trần Hưng Đạo street [MAP]

Another seaside speciality, gỏi cá mai can be found up and down the Vietnamese coast. But, in Quy Nhơn, it’s especially delicious. A friend once referred to this dish as ‘Vietnamese sashimi’. Gỏi cá mai is a raw white-sardine salad. The salad is primarily made of garlic, chilli and peanuts. This is then wrapped in wet rice paper with a mixture of green herbs before being dunked into nước mắm (fish sauce) and nước chấm đậu phộng (peanut sauce). The result is a sweet, salty, sour, spicy overloading of the tastebuds. One of my favourite dishes in Quy Nhơn.

I’ve seen gỏi cá served in fishing communities in Đà Nẵng (Nam Ô) and Huế (Thuận An). Similarly, in Quy Nhơn there are a lot of places serving gỏi cá near the port and the old fishing neighbourhood. I assume, since sardines go bad quickly, there needs to be minimal amount of time between the fish leaving the water and the food entering your mouth. Hence why this dish is always found next to the sea. I’m told that gỏi cá requires expertise on how to clean and serve correctly and hygienically.

Up by the Quy Nhơn port, on the north-east side of the city, there’s a pocket of houses-cum-restaurants down one modest alley serving gỏi cá mai. The three times I went, I headed to Gỏi Cá Thanh Kiều. It was love at first bite. I’m a monogamous diner when something is this good. Gỏi Cá Thanh Kiều holds all the traits of a great eatery: a family-run business with big personalities, retrograde coloured signs and my favourite alcoholic beverage – the must-try sweet homemade rice wine (rượu nếp). Family member and manager, Chị Loan, said the restaurant had built up a steady reputation over its 30 years of operation. Nowadays, the restaurant sees guests coming from all over the city and beyond. 

The first time I visited Gỏi Cá Thanh Kiều, my party of three people had two plates of gỏi cá mai (100,000vnđ per plate) and it was too much. But I spotted a solo diner who had no problem eating an entire plate to himself. If you go, perhaps it’s best to order one dish at a time. The restaurants here also have a reputation for bò nướng (grilled beef), which seems odd but will please anyone looking for an alternative to raw fish. If Thanh Kiều is closed, or you feel like trying somewhere different, you’re only a short walk from many others options.

IMAGES: Gỏi Cá Mai (sardine salad)

Gỏi cá mai - sardine salad - Quy Nhon

Gỏi cá mai - sardine salad - Quy Nhon

Gỏi cá mai - sardine salad - Quy Nhon

[Back to Contents]


Bánh Hỏi Cháo Lòng (pork noodles & congee)

LOCATIONS:

  • Quán Bánh Hỏi Cháo Lòng: 20 Diên Hồng street [MAP]
  • Bánh Hỏi Cháo Mai Tư: 41 Nguyễn Chánh street [MAP]
  • Bánh Hỏi Lòng Heo Mẫn: 76 Trần Phú street [MAP]

Depending on how you see it and where you go, bánh hỏi cháo lòng is actually two or three separate dishes combined. Bánh hỏi is the noodle, cháo is congee (rice porridge) and lòng is pork offal. Bánh hỏi translates as ‘question noodles’. There are two theories explaining the origin of the name. The first is that the shape the noodle forms is like a question mark. The second is that the noodle is traditionally associated with wedding proposals in Vietnam.

Bánh hỏi is often served by itself (without the cháo or the lòng) and can be found at many street food vendors across the city for breakfast with shallots, chives and fish sauce. Lòng is a sliced assortment of pork intestines, liver and heart. Vendors choose the organs carefully to make sure they have the best and cleanest available. The offal is cooked, chopped and cooled before serving. Everything is done on site. Vendors often work as butchers, chopping up the meat as other staff serve the customers. At a busy restaurant, the fast-paced collaboration between staff is a fascinating spectacle to watch as they work together to serve all three elements of the dish – the noodle, meat and porridge – at the same time. 

Accompanied by salad and fish sauce, you can eat the bánh hỏi noodle and the lòng meat separately, or wrap them together and dunk it in the fish sauce. You can even put the bánh hỏi into the cháo porridge. The possibilities are endless.

IMAGES: Bánh Hỏi Cháo Lòng (pork noodles & congee)

Bánh hỏi cháo lòng, Quy Nhon

Bánh hỏi cháo lòng, Quy Nhon

Bánh hỏi cháo lòng, Quy Nhon

[Back to Contents]


Hải Sản & Ốc (seafood & snails)

LOCATIONS:

  • Quán Ốc Cô Xí: 22 Đào Duy Từ street [MAP]
  • Phố Ẩm Thực (Food Street): Ngô Văn Sở street [MAP]
  • Ốc Bà Bông: 22 Ngọc Hân Công Chúa street [MAP]

A large proportion of Quy Nhơn’s domestic tourism comes for the allure of the ocean and the feast of seafood available. Streets along the seafront brim with snail (ốc) and seafood (hải sản) restaurants. Up until this research trip to Quy Nhơn, snails weren’t a food I’d especially enjoyed. (I’ve lost count of the nights spent trying to catch a snail’s tail from its shell with a broken toothpick, while friends promptly make their way through an entire kilogram.) However, the snails and seafood on offer in this beachside city are fresh and delicious.

My favourite seafood and snail restaurant in Quy Nhơn is Quán Ốc Cô Xí, introduced to me by my landlady. The aesthetic is fun, featuring chairs and tables lined up and down a narrow alleyway. I was impressed with all the dishes we ordered and returned three times during my stay in the city. My personal favourites were the razor clams in tamarind sauce (ốc móng tay xào me), the lemongrass-steamed clams (nghêu hấp sả) and the grilled sea urchins (nhum biển nướng).

Closer to the seafront, on Xuân Diệu street, is a very long strip of busy seafood restaurants. Towards the southern end of the seafront strip is Quy Nhơn’s Phố Ẩm Thực (Food Street). Grilled snacks, bánh xèo, bún cá and shellfish are all here in walking proximity. The street looks great in photos and the flurry of tourists keeps the atmosphere lively. An issue I have with these kinds of places is that prices are usually hiked and there’s often too much competition over the same food types being sold. The food becomes repetitive and the atmosphere a tad artificial. Nevertheless, if you’re around this area, it’s worth passing through and trying a few things out. The Food Street is an especially good option if you are short on time or have difficulty with transport.

Halfway up the seafood strip is a turning onto Ngọc Hân Công Chúa street, which I joyfully refer to as ‘Snail Street’. To be honest, a lot of streets in this area could be considered ‘Snail Street’, but I think Ngọc Hân Công Chúa wins the accolade. Each quán ốc (snail eatery) fiercely competes for potential customers as they pass by. Most of the places here are ‘pick and choose’ affairs. Head up to the tubs, buckets and trays of snails and shellfish and point at what you want. Each dish is a hard-hitting combination of spices and herbs fried with a snail species whose name you’ll never know and an assortment of dipping sauces. You pay by the plate and, once you’re done, you order more. One place I tried and enjoyed here was Ốc Bà Bông.

IMAGES: Hải Sản & Ốc (seafood & snails)

Seafood in Quy Nhon, Vietnam

Seafood in Quy Nhon, Vietnam

Seafood in Quy Nhon, Vietnam

Food Street, Quy Nhon city, Vietnam

[Back to Contents]


Bánh Tráng Dừa (coconut rice crackers)

LOCATIONS:

  • Tourist Shops & Vendors: sold at stores in popular areas of the city & by itinerant vendors plying eateries on busy dining streets

Itinerant traders wander from table to table in the city’s busy dining areas. They sell a variety of local specialities, either to complement your meal or as culinary ‘souvenirs’ from Quy Nhơn. A Bình Định staple is bánh tráng dừa (coconut rice cracker). These crispy discs are finger food while waiting for your main order to arrive, or used as a vehicle for mopping up all the nước chấm (dipping sauces) on your table, or simply something to occupy your hands (and mouth) during lulls in conversation. Bánh tráng are found all over Vietnam, but it’s the dừa (coconut) that makes the Bình Định variety special. 

IMAGES: Bánh Tráng Dừa (coconut rice crackers)

Rice crackers in noodles, Quy Nhon, Vietnam

[Back to Contents]


Bánh Hồng (rice cakes)

LOCATIONS:

  • Tourist Shops & Vendors: sold at stores in popular areas of the city & by itinerant vendors plying eateries on busy dining streets

Tourism in Quy Nhơn is booming and that’s resulted in a proliferation of ‘tourist shops’ selling local specialties, such as bánh hồng. This is a locally famous, sugary rice flour cake, made from sticky rice and pandan leaves (lá dứa) with chunks of coconut nestled inside. Sold in whole blocks or cut into pieces, its name translates as ‘pink cake’. However, bánh hồng is actually a gelatinous white (although some vendors dye their cakes different colours to make them more eye-catching). It’s worth a try if you have a sweet tooth.

IMAGES: Bánh Hồng (rice cakes)

Bánh hồng, Quy Nhon, Vietnam

[Back to Contents]


Bánh Ít Lá Gai (green bean cakes)

LOCATIONS:

  • Tourist Shops & Vendors: sold at stores in popular areas of the city & by itinerant vendors plying eateries on busy dining streets

Of the two famous Bình Định cakes, I prefer bánh ít lá gai to bánh hồng. Pyramid-shaped and traditionally wrapped in banana leaf, these cakes consist of deep-green dough made from ground green beans and boiled lá gai (Boehmeria nivea leaves – or ‘Chinese grass’) which are stuffed with a finger-pinch of shredded coconut. Unfortunately, the aesthetic appeal of a cake wrapped in banana leaf is limited these days, as tourist shops often use plastic and cardboard in place of the banana leaf wrapping, because it’s cheaper and has a longer shelf life. The banana leaf version isn’t impossible to find, but challenging. Banana leaf bánh ít lá gai can be ordered in advance at specialist shops, and the cakes are often consumed at special events in the province. A friend told me that the best bánh ít lá gai are served at parties and celebrations, such as weddings. 

IMAGES: Bánh Ít Lá Gai (green bean cakes)

Bánh ít lá ga, Quy Nhon, Vietnam

[Back to Contents]


Tré Bình Định (pork parcels)

LOCATIONS:

  • Tourist Shops & Vendors: sold at stores in popular areas of the city & by itinerant vendors plying eateries on busy dining streets

A regional delicacy, tré Bình Định is pork rind that’s steamed, dried then packed in guava leaves to retain the smell and taste before being embedded in straw packaging. Salty and chewy, tré is a great beer snack that might be a little tough on the teeth for some, but is definitely moreish.

While it can be found throughout Quy Nhơn in tourist shops, there is a tré epicentre close to the Tháp Banh Ít Chăm towers, about 15km north of the city, in Phước Lộc village. On an otherwise inconspicuous part of Highway 1A, a concentration of shophouses sell tré Bình Định on the roadside. If you visit in the daytime, many stores here also offer meat snacks (nem lụi) straight off the grill. Not a bad stopover if you are touring the Cham towers, Tây Sơn town or the rượu bàu đá village.

IMAGES: Tré Bình Định (pork parcels)

Tré Bình Định, Quy Nhon, Vietnam

[Back to Contents]


Rượu Bàu Đá (rice liquor)

LOCATIONS:

  • Tourist shops: found in popular areas of the city, especially near the seafront
  • Rượu Bàu Đá Village: Nhơn Lộc, An Nhơn; 30km northwest of Quy Nhơn [MAP]

Rice wines and homebrews are incredibly common in Vietnam. Rice wine (rượu) was the most commonly consumed alcoholic drink before the French colonial period introduced the country to beer, wine and imported spirits. Regional rice wines are often accompanied by legends and folklore. Bình Định province’s most famous rice wine, rượu bàu đá, is no different. One such story about rượu bàu đá, as it was told me by an acquaintance named Mạnh Hùng, revolves around Emperor Quang Trung, who based his rule here in Bình Định in the late 18th century:

“Quang Trung had to travel with his soldiers from Bình Định to Hà Nội [on foot]. The emperor needed something to energize his tired soldiers. They had to get to the north quickly to fight. The emperor gave them rượu bàu đá. The soldiers made the trip in half the time it should have taken and won the following battle.”

Legends aside, rượu bàu đá has been produced for a long time in Nhơn Lộc, An Nhơn village, around 30km from Quy Nhơn. The name rượu bàu đá comes from the well that the wine’s water was originally drawn from. As of today, that well is no longer functional, but the village and its inhabitants continue to produce the wine in their homemade distilleries. In 2011, provincial authorities and local businesses worked together to trademark the name of Rượu Bàu Đá and protect its ‘authenticity’. Today, the drink is licensed by a cooperative of small businesses and a food company in Đà Nẵng – hence the flurry of decal stickers you’ll find on any bottle. The houses that produce the wine are open to visitors during the daytime where you can do some tastings and see the fascinating home-run distilleries. 

I made the 30km trip to the rượu bàu đá village via some of Bình Định’s Chăm towers. The hamlet is an islet of houses. Gusts of wind occasionally whistle through the sea of rice crops that surround the hamlet. The road into the village encircles the distilleries. I followed the road, uncertain which one to visit. Eventually, I chose Ngọc Khôi distillery and was greeted by Ngọc Khôi herself and her 17-year-old son. They were happy to share with me information about their village as well as introduce me to their modest distillery. Ngọc Khôi produces three different types of rượu bàu đá liquor: rượu gạo (rice), rượu nếp (glutinous rice) and rượu đậu xanh (green bean).

So what does the rice wine taste like? In a word: strong. That was the consensus between everyone I spoke to about rượu bàu đá. But since strong isn’t a flavour, I must admit that, to my untrained palate, rượu bàu đá tastes no different than any other rice wine I’ve drunk around Vietnam. However, I could distinguish between the three flavours I tried at Ngọc Khôi’s house, of which rượu đậu xanh (green bean) was my favourite, being the sweetest and most forgiving to my throat.

IMAGES: Rượu Bàu Đá (rice liquor)

Rượu bàu đá rice wine, Bình Định, Vietnam

Rượu bàu đá rice wine, Bình Định, Vietnam

Rượu bàu đá rice wine, Bình Định, Vietnam

*Disclosure: All content on Vietnam Coracle is free to read and independently produced. Luke has written this guide because he enjoys Quy Nhơn’s food and wants readers to know about it. For more details, see the Disclosure & Disclaimer statements and About Page

RELATED POSTS


 

Leave a Comment

Questions, updates and trip reports are all welcome. However, please keep comments polite and on-topic. See commenting etiquette for details.

  1. mark sheehan says:
    September 25, 2022 at 1:21 PM

    Excellent research on the food ,banh xeo and sardine salad looki amazing Looking at your pictures left me feeling hungry Had thought long ago about setting up some sort of business there when i heard it being described as the next Nha Trang Has tourism recovered there since covid?

    1. Tom says:
      September 26, 2022 at 10:29 AM

      Hi Mark,

      Yes, the gỏi cá mai (sardine salad) is also high up on my wish-list next time I’m in Quy Nhơn – it looks so fresh and colourful!

      As far as I know, tourism is up and running again – certainly domestic tourism. Quy Nhơn is still set to be the next really big destination on Vietnam’s central coast. There’s been a lot of heavy development already. But I’m sure Luke has something to say on the subject.

      Best,

      Tom

  2. Ben says:
    September 25, 2022 at 11:38 AM

    Another place worth checking out which is fairly well off the beaten path is Nem Chợ Huyện Ôlala. This is a very clean and very local family owned restaurant serving special dishes from Binh Dinh province including nem nuong and hot pot. You may need a bit of Vietnamese to navigate the menu as this is not really a place that sees many foreigners but that’s all the more reason to go! Fairly nearby the Banh It towers so it makes a good stop on the way to/from.

    1. Tom says:
      September 26, 2022 at 10:34 AM

      Thanks for the recommendation, Ben – sounds like a good place!

      Tom

  3. Jason Moss says:
    September 25, 2022 at 9:20 AM

    Tom & Luke, I really enjoyed your article on Quy Nhon food and was lucky enough to see the previous one on the local beaches. I’m planning to do a few weeks travelling from HCMC to Hoi An and Da Nang. I was planning to stay in Mui Ne, Nha Trang and Quy Nhon.
    Any thoughts on these places would be appreciated.
    I’ll be travelling on my own single male early sixties.
    Regards Jason

    1. Tom says:
      September 26, 2022 at 10:40 AM

      Hi Jason,

      Glad to hear you enjoyed this guide and the Quy Nhơn Beaches guide.

      Of those three coastal destinations you mention, Quy Nhơn is by far my favourite.

      For more information on Nha Trang and Mui Ne/Phan Thiet, try typing it into the search box at the top right of any page on this site to see what’s in the archives. (And perhaps Luke has some recommendations too.)

      Best,

      Tom