Halong or Halong Bay is a fantastic destination in Vietnam, relatively close to Hanoi. Here, seafood is the specialty, and the white sands and bright blue skies are the perfect stage for one good meal after another.
Here’s all you need to know about Halong Bay, including the most popular dishes to enjoy, but let’s start from the beginning. These are the most common questions visitors ask before traveling to Halong Bay.
What should I bring to Halong Bay?
There are two things you must bring to Ha Long, your swimming suit and your hunger. Eat in Halong bay and walk around; Halong City is vibrant! Experience the Halong Bay food from lovely stews to grilled chopped squid! Yes, that’s a popular dish.
Are there sharks in Halong Bay?
Regularly no. There are no sharks in Halong Bay, and there are little to no reports of incidents related to sharks. This is the ocean, though, so follow safety measures and you’ll have a great time in Halong!
Is it safe to swim in Halong Bay?
Visiting Halong Bay is entirely safe. The waters are calm and clean. If you have trouble swimming, you’re better off using a lifejacket, and remember some ships cruise the seas, so just be mindful.
Is one day enough for Halong Bay?
Once you see the gorgeous scenery, you’ll want to stay for weeks! But a day in Halong bay is enough to sunbathe, swim a little and enjoy the city’s delicious food.
What other places to visit?
Once you feel you know Halong and have mastered its street food, visit the neighboring Lan Ha Bay, a much quieter area with immense natural beauty. Lan Ha Bay is almost a secret amongst locals!
Visit the Cat Ba Island as well. The largest island in the area is an excellent source for seafood dishes, and we’re talking about mouth-watering dishes served with a few garnishes, just fresher seafood than what you'd find at home.
From the Delicious Flavor of Fresh Seafood to Sticky Rice, Halong Bay Has You Covered
The most popular restaurants in the city specialize in fresh seafood, and it isn’t always expensive seafood; you can find good food at the many floating restaurants and street stands.
Restaurants in Halong abound; they’re all a great source for unique dishes that just taste like the Ha Long Bay. From street food to western food, there’s something for everyone here.
1. Cha Muc (Grilled chopped squid)
The term 'grilled chopped squid' might not sound that appetizing, but this Halong Bay specialty is certainly more appealing than its name suggests! More than just grilled chopped squid, cooks make a squid sausage with squid meat and make a squid cake, a rice cake made with rice flour that’s much more than grilled chopped squid; it’s a fantastic starchy two-biter!
You’ll find this crunchy bite around Halong City; it’s unique to Halong, and vendors sell it from food stalls; the tempting food is beyond compare, you don’t know what a squid cake tastes like until you try Halong squid cake.
2. Chao Ha (Acorn barnacle porridge)
How about a hot bowl of cooked porridge? Yes, and it’s flavored with a local seafood known as acorn barnacle. Often flavored with fish sauce and livened by a pinch of chili salt, this comforting soup is one of the lesser-known dishes in Halong Bay, but it’s well worth trying.
Imagine a mixture between oatmeal and seafood, but better. That’s Chao Ha, and one bowl is never enough; you’ll want to repeat! Who knew you could make such a straightforward yet enjoyable meal with barnacles? You’ll have to try it to believe it.
3. Sam (Horseshoe crab)
If there’s one dish that showcases Ha Long seafood, that’s the horseshoe crab. This delicious dish is Halong Bay at its best. It’s made with horseshoe crab meat tossed with lemongrass and other aromatics in a wide variety of dishes, from crab salad to stir-fires topped with fried eggs and served with sticky rice.
The Horseshoe crab is indigenous to the area, so they’re easy to find, and therefore, relatively cheap. When cooked right, though, they’re a meal fit for a king. There’s no doubt this is an authentic delicacy! You’ll love the helmet-looking seafood.
4. Bun Be Be (Noodles with mantis shrimp)
Of course, you’ll find noodles in Ha Long; this is Vietnam. Rice noodles take a different shape here, though, they’re made in several ways, but you want to try them topped with mantis shrimp.
The dish is called Bun Be Be, and it’s based on a rich and creamy pork bone broth, where the tender crustacean gets cooked to perfection while infusing the dish with marine salinity. Then the dish is topped with a colorful variety of veggies, fresh herbs, spicy sauce and other goodies.
5. Drunken Prawn
Prawns and lobster are incredibly fresh in Halong bay, where you’ll find them cooked in many ways, always straight out of the water. The most common ways to enjoy them are as battered shrimp or in the Chinese-inspired recipe called Drunken prawns.
The shellfish are marinated traditionally in rice wine, although beer and vodka are popular now, too. Then they’re steamed or grilled (sometimes live) for a decadently fresh meal. This shows you Halong Bay food is not only vibrant but always fresh and fun!
6. Bun Xao Ngan (Glass noodle with mud clams)
Mud clams have an unappealing name, but trust me these beauties are thoroughly washed before being cooked, and they’re super tasty, especially when stir-fried with fish sauce and glass noodle.
A classic in Halong City but popular along Halong Bay, these noodles are deliciously sticky and chewy. This is a Ha Long street food specialty, and it’s one of those meals that you just don’t stop looking for. I don’t know why glass noodles are so delicious, but they are, and they’re better enjoyed with some fresh clams!
7. Fresh Oysters
Eating live seafood is not uncommon in the Halong Bay food repertoire, and you’ll find everything from shellfish to clams and oysters. When served raw and seasoned with soy sauce and fish sauce, oysters are a true delight!
It goes without saying you’ll find fresh oysters all around the city, and there are countless ways in which they’re served. Sometimes they’re cooked over burning embers, and other times, they’re steamed. My favorite way is enjoying them raw and lightly seasoned because you can really appreciate their sea-scented personality.
The best part? Oysters are pretty cheap in Vietnam, especially when compared to the prices in the west.
8. Ga Loi Am Nuong (Loi Am grilled chicken)
Perhaps you never imagined you’d visit Halong Bay just for the grilled chicken, but the Loi Am chicken is not to be missed. Flavorful, crispy, smoky and tender, this chicken is on another level, especially for the special sauce they use to glaze the bird.
This is a quick lunch alternative that will let you enjoy the day without feeling hungry. Served with a side of sticky rice, this is a comforting meal that’s not too complicated. Still, it’s beautifully done and will surely bring a smile to your face.
9. Ngan (Clams)
Oysters are fun, sure, but clams have that unique feel that just makes them so fun to eat! Halong Bay Ngan clams are notable for the way people cook them — stir-fried, grilled or steamed, these are versatile little creatures, and although each clam has very little meat, you can eat a whole bunch of them until you’re satisfied.
These are no regular clams either; they're from the Austriella Corrugata species, which is known for its soft, although somewhat tasteless meat. The sauces and condiments used to cook them make the difference, though, so when you find a restaurant that serves them the way you like them, stick to it.
10. Banh Gat Gu (Nodding cake)
This Tien Yen district specialty is quite unique; it’s a rolled-up rice flour cake with a fluffy texture and various fillings that make it a compact appetizer or side dish. You see these a lot in Halong Bay, and they’re often served with the main courses.
You can enjoy nodding cakes by dipping them in a wide variety of sauces, from seasoned chicken fat to a spicy and herbal dip. Think of bahn gat gu as a friendly, uncomplicated snack, but don’t think for a second this is not a memorable food item; locals say it's been around for centuries!
11. Sa Sung (Marine peanut worms)
This exciting dish makes the most of local sandworms that thrive along the coast. They are shaped like Cheetos, but they undoubtedly taste like the sea. When stir-fried with sauces, herbs and veggies, you get a colorful stir-fry that’s quite delectable — especially if you don’t think you’re eating worms — you’re not! These are more like mollusks, and their taste is not dissimilar to that of clams.
You'll find these peanut worms in Ha Long restaurants all along the Halong Bay, and they’re both a snack and an appetizer.
12. Banh Cuon (Steamed rice rolls)
You’re in Vietnam, and no meal is complete without spring rolls, right? Well, the ones in Halong Bay are fantastic. These are steamed and never fried, and people have numerous fillings from them, from earthy mushrooms to ground pork. They’re always served with a salad or some veggie, and there are several dipping sauces to choose from.
The banh cuon rice rolls are light and refreshing. They’re never greasy, oily or too fatty; they’re exactly right, especially when enjoying them on the warm beach. Think of a lighter type of spring roll, but one that’s super flavorful!
13. Green mango
You’ll find lots of fresh fruit in Ha Long, but when you hear people talk about the green mango, they’re often talking about a restaurant of the same name in the Cat Ba Island.
The restaurant has over 400 reviews online, and it’s incredibly popular with tourists visiting Halong Bay, especially for their seafood. Yes, green mango is a popular food in the area as well, but make sure you’re asking for the fruit and not the venue when you talk with the locals. This got me so confused the first time I visited! That’s why I’m sharing this insider tip with you.
14. Whole Steamed Fish
Now you know that Halong City and Halong Bay are all about seafood. And although lobsters, prawns, oysters and clams are insanely famous, don’t forget to ask for steamed fish at least once.
The type of fish might vary, in what we call the ‘catch of the day’ in the west, but the preparation is always similar. Expect veggies, some condiments and fresh, pearly white fish that tastes like no other fish I’ve tried around the world.
Folks here surely know how to steam fish, and they can grill it, too, in case you want a smokier meal.
Fish is also used to fill spring rolls, top noodles or make delicious soups and porridge, you'll find many ways of enjoying the region's sea bounties.
15. Hoanh Bo rice wine
Why not end our list with a boozy, handmade drink? Hoanh Bo is a ward inside the larger Ha Long district, and it’s famous for its fiery and boozy rice wine. The drink is sweet, sour and a bit funky, with earthy flavors you’ll find immediately appealing.
The drink is ideal for the region’s warm weather, and it’s a nice break from the beer and cocktails you’ll be having all week. Wine is an authentic product you just must get to know!
Feeling rather hungry now? Dig into some of the best food in the area at Ha Long's top restaurants!