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It takes guts to try these iconic dishes from Vietnam’s northern hills

By Ngoc Thanh   April 1, 2017 | 05:09 pm GMT+7

The northwest region never fails to deliver delightful surprises.

Vietnam’s northwest is best known for the landscapes. Dien Bien, Mai Chau and Sa Pa, to name a few, have provided the voluptuous backdrops for so many pictures and inspired so many blog posts.

But the region’s inhabitants and their culture alone should be enough for a visit. When you’re here, don’t forget to try these iconic dishes. They are without a doubt some of the best-kept secrets of Vietnam’s rich and unique cuisine.

Rotten buffalo skin  Thai ethnic people cover pieces of buffalo skin (with fur) in banana leaves for two days in summer and longer if it is winter. When the skin gives out a smell, they clean it and water would wash away all fur. The rotten skin will then be dried under direct sunshine for making soup.

Rotten buffalo skin: Thai people cover pieces of buffalo skin (with hair) in banana leaves for at least two days. When the smell comes out, it’s ready. Home cooks will wash and shave the skin first. The rotten skin will then be dried under direct sunlight. A great ingredient for soups.

Dragonfly nymphs are only available in March and April near rivers and streams in Dien Bien Province.  As for food, they are mixed with eel, herbs, chili, and pepper and then being covered in banana leaves for grilling.

Dragonfly nymph: Dragonfly nymphs are caught around March and April near rivers and streams in Dien Bien. Locals wrap them in banana leaves with minced eel, herbs and spices. Then they will grill the wrapped mixture under hot burning coal for around 40 minutes.

Stink bug: The harvesting season of this bug is early May when longan, mango and litchi flowers start blooming.  To get rid of their typical smell, people soak the bugs in rice water for hours before cooking them with sour water.

Bush cricket: The insect usually appears in summer. The easiest way is to fry the crickets with fish sauce, ginger and fresh chili. When they become crispy, with a caramel-like color, add some lemon leaves.

Bamboo worm: Thai people usually catch worms from bamboo trees between December and January.  They steam or fry the worms and serve them with sour bamboo water.

Stink bug: May is the season of this bug when longan, mango and litchi trees start flowering. To get rid of their typical smell, northwesterners soak the bugs in rice water for hours before cooking them in pickle juice until they are crispy and dry. Warning: Badly cooked stink bugs could numb your tongue for a few days.

Bumblebee: Although bumblebees can take peoples lives with their stings, many still try to catch them for making food or wine.

Bamboo worm: Thai people usually catch worms from bamboo trees between December and January. They steam or fry the worms.

Noodlefish: The name suggests how the fish looks: exactly like noodle. Noodlefishes are either white or translucent. They are material for sour soup and fish ball. People also fry them with egg or wrap them in lolot leaves for grilling.

Bees: Although bees should not be messed with, many still try to catch them for food or wine.

The name suggests how the fish looks: exactly like noodle. Noodlefishes are either white or translucent. They are material for sour soup and fish ball. People also fry them with egg or wrap them in lolot leaves for grilling.

Noodlefish: The name says it all. Noodlefish are either white or translucent. Locals also make them into fish ball, fry them with egg or wrap them in lolot leaves for grilling.