Editor’s Picks: Restaurants and Dishes

doi thong cu nam quang binhMy name is Thuy Ho and I am now the website editor for Phongnha Discovery. I was born in Dong Hoi, and as being a local, living in Dong Hoi for almost 18 years, I do have a lot of opportunities to dive into the exquisite food culture of Quang Binh – central Vietnam. 

One of the most interesting thing in Quang Binh is that the price for food is cheaper compared to others cities. Here are some places that I highly recommend that their the customer services are exceptional and the price is also affordable.

Some of my favourite spots may be for the brave, as they only sport a “menu” that consists of photos of food on the wall. They may require you to toss out your Western standards. You may have to shout out to the servers to get what you need. Patrons throwing used tissues and food waste onto the floor to be swept up later is a common occurrence. However, the food is very much worth it.

DONG HOI

Geminai Hotel and Cafe

Geminai Hotel and Coffee

Geminai is the one place in the city you can get a proper steak frites. The prices run higher, but the colourful atmosphere and good food warrant the price. They also have shisha if you feel like kicking back after your meal.

Tree Hugger Cafe

Tree Hugger Cafe Quang Binh

Tree hugger has such an artsy-cozy atmosphere. They have an ethical and sustainable business model, small artisanal shop and plenty of travel information in the restaurant. So you can read about the local area while you enjoy a locally sourced meal. A 3 course meal will run you less than $10.

Bo De Duyen Vegan RestaurantNhà hàng chay Bồ Đề Duyên

Bo De Duyen is a vegan restaurant which is best choice for those who are into vegan food. This restaurant is on a quiet street, the food is superb, not the cheapest place but very good value for money!

7th Heaven Restaurant

7th heaven dong hoi

For those of you who need a cheese fix, 7th Heaven is the only place in town that makes their own pizza’s at their restaurant. Their service is customer oriented and the speak great English. I have a theory that their chili con carne has a dash or two of taste of home.

PHONG NHA

Phong Nha Veggie Box

Phong Nha Veggie Box

Fresh food and nice vibes. I visited this place a couple of times during our stay in Phong Nha, the food served was fresh and portions were abundant. The staff is very warm and attentive. I would definitely recommend this place to fellow travelers.

Omar’s Namaste

Omar’s restaurant has gigantic garlic naan breads, savoury curries and rich vegetarian dishes. It is quite rare in Vietnam to find featured vegetarian dishes as “vegetarian” here can often mean picking out the large pieces of meat in the dish and giving you the rest for the same price. Omar comes from India himself, so his food is authentic. The chai tea is a must-try.

Recommended Dishes of Central Vietnam

For those of you who are more adventurous, I suggest a number of dishes served around the city that are scrumptious and will cost you less than a couple of dollars. You will see signs for these foods everywhere. The best part of Vietnam, is that even though you can’t pronounce anything properly, they use the alphabet, so you can just memorize how the dishes are spelt. Pronunciation is the hard part, (saying hello – “xin chào”- can also mean “may I have some porridge” depending on the infliction you use). Luckily, the restaurants where these dishes are served all feature photos. They also almost always have one or two specialties that you will see everyone in the restaurant eating, so you can simply point to anyone’s dish. I will highlight my top 5 favourite must-try dishes. Any one of these dishes run from $2-4.

Nem Lui


Nem lui consists of BBQ chicken skewers, pickled vegetables, lettuce and herbs. You wrap them up in rice paper, pull the skewer out, and dip them into peanut sauce. This dish will cost approximately $2.50.

Banh xeo

Ban Xeo is a crispy version of a fried “pancake”. It has a crunchy flour outer layer and a savoury inner layer with beef, shrimp, bean sprouts, and carrots or other vegetables. You add a piece of the pancake into a sheet of rice paper, along with lettuce, cilantro/mint, pickled carrots and/or parsnips then roll it up and dip it into a chili fish sauce or peanut sauce.

Bun thit nuong

Thit nuong means grilled pork. It is sweet and savoury and rests on top of the bun (vermicelli noodles). This dish can be found in Vietnamese restaurants in the west as it is quite popular. The mix of flavours from cilantro, peanuts, bean sprouts, and pickled carrots are a delightful mix. You can also simply order thit nuong by itself. This dish could come with everything in the Nem Lui, except the chicken skewers are replaced by the BBQ pork.

My Quang

This dish originates from a province further south, but you can find it throughout Quang Binh province. The dish is made with a particular type of wide rice noodle that can include turmeric; giving it a yellowish colour. The half soup, half noodle bowl includes beef and sometimes shrimp. Its flavours arise from green onion, pepper, garlic, mint, and coriander and there is a small boiled egg for increased protein.  You have the choice to add greens such as lettuce, chili, bean sprouts, etc. Each bowl of My Quang includes a crisp rice or shrimp cracker and lots of peanuts, making this a unique and incredibly tasty noodle dish.

Com suon trung

This dish name translates to “rice ribs eggs” and it is quite an adequate. It is a perfect mix of several filling foods. It almost always comes with a small bowl of vegetable soup on the side. There is also always some vegetable, either garlic morning glory or aubergine as well as some fresh salad pieces on the side. The fresh homemade fish sauce with chili and garlic is the piece de resistance as far as these dishes go.

Banh loc

I would personally recommend banh loc dau xanh (vegetarian ban loc). It is almost like a Vietnamese version of a pierogi or dumpling. The vegetation version is made from white beans, garlic, onions, etc. and wrapped up in a chewy rice dough and then steamed in banana leaves. You can also find this dish with meat and shrimp if you prefer to eat some seafood (banh loc).

BONUS: Tra Sua (BubbleTea)

This one is not exactly a dish, but it has been a vice of mine here. Popping tea is a twist on the classic bubble tea favourite. They come in a variety of flavours including green tea, taro, and chocolate. They still feature tapioca pearls, but they also include flavoured ‘popping bubbles’ and jelly squares that include all of the flavours available. Of course you can get it without all these features; it will be advertised as ‘milk tea’. One of these teas sell for around $2. There are some bubble tea shops in Dong Hoi such as Toco Toco, Ding Tea.

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