Da Nang has great seafood, no doubt about that. But ordering seafood in Da Nang can be a bit tricky: navigating the restaurant scene, knowing what’s good, figuring out what it costs, how to order, and things like that. In a previous post, I gave an overview on Vietnamese food and eating culture. So here’s a quick crash course in ordering seafood in Da Nang.
Ordering Seafood in Da Nang – What to Get
Quail eggs, along with peanuts, are your standard appetizers at any dinner place. Eggs are 1,000 each (about 5 cents) whether you buy them from the restaurant or from a lady on the street. The street vendors will of course try to upsell you to a bag of 20 (“I don’t have any bags with 10”). Don’t worry, she can open the bag and take 10 out if you ask nicely. A bag of peanuts should be about 10,000. Also, you may see the ladies walking around selling peanuts by the tin can-ful; these are usually boiled, which I didn’t like at first but now I really do. These you buy similar to petrol for your motorbike: tell them how much money you want to spend and they will dish it out accordingly. I’m usually good with about 10,000.
My Regular Orders
The cheapest things at most seafood places (and my favorite) are grilled clams nghêu nướng, steamed baby clams chíp chíp hấp sả and fried squid mực chiên mắm. Think tangy, not so much fishy. If you’re getting squid, the big squid (mực lá = leaf squid) is much more expensive and actually not as good. I get the mực ống (tube squid) if they have it; it’s the medium-sized one. It makes for nice rings and it’s cheaper. If they don’t have that, everywhere will have the mực cơm (= rice squid). These get their name from the rice-like stuff on the inside. It’s actually the guts, but they just cook them inside, and you can totally eat them. These are the cheapest, and they’re really good.
They have different prices for different sizes, so if you’re eating the big ones, you’re gonna pay more. Get them grilled, steamed, or, my favorite, cooked in a tamarind sauce. This is potentially the most risky, as it’s much easier to mess up than just throwing them on the grill, but when you get a good tamarind sauce, you’ll be glad. Order a bánh mì to mop up the rest of the sauce.
Lots of people want to get fish, but if you get a fish, you have to get the whole thing. Some places will offer to make three dishes from one fish, like steamed, grilled, and cooked in a rice soup. That’s a good option, but that’s also a lot of fish. I really like the grilled stingrays cá đuối nướng because they’re small enough that even two people can eat one and, best of all, there’s only four bones. I rarely order a whole fish unless I’m with a big group, and usually it’s with Vietnamese friends who want to toss the body and just steam the head on the table.
How to Order
It’s always good to order out of the tanks. You’ll learn to spot which things are fresh if you haven’t already. Ordering entirely from the menu can be risky. If they don’t have it, they might not say so (‘saving face’ and all that), and they could go somewhere else to get it, which means it’s less fresh. Or they might pull something out of the freezer, also not good, since you’re paying for live, fresh seafood. From the tanks, you always know what you’re getting, so there’s no ‘He said, she said’ later on. You can order một phần (1 portion) or by the kilo. Nửa ký is a half kilo, but when it’s one and a half, it changes to rưởi. So you would say: Cho nửa ký tôm nướng (Give me half a kilo of grilled shrimp) but cho một ký rưởi chíp chíp hấp (Give me a kilo and a half of steamed clams). Hope that makes sense.
Hopefully you’re feeling empowered and less confused about eating seafood in Da Nang. Of course, if you want some more help, along with some great eating spots, check out my Evening Food Tour.