Covered by clouds and fog, Sapa Vietnam is a dreamy land of outstanding scenery, rice terraces, where has Mount Fansipan - the highest mountain peak in Vietnam. Since this small town is home to many minority tribes, it is not only well-known as a wonderful landscape with cool weather but also famous for unrivaled cuisine culture of the northwest of Vietnam. If you have an opportunity to visit Sapa, there are 10 delicious must-try Sapa food that will help you understand another special trait of this land.

1. Salmon sour hotpot

You may try many delicious dishes from salmon such as sashimi, salmon salads, grilled salmon, salmon cooked with curry... but have you ever heard about Salmon Sour Hotpot, especially in a mountainous area as Sapa? This sounds unbelievable but it is the most favorite local dish of many foodies all over the world in recent years.

With cool weather and pretty cold year round, Sapa is a suitable place for raising salmon. Unlike salmon imported in regions such as Europe or America, salmon raised here is more nutrition and less greasy. It's the reason why salmon hot pot with sour flavor is timeless quality food in Sapa.

The thing making the hot pot unique is its broth, the combination of fresh salmon and several types of special Sapa-grown wild vegetables and herbs. Some restaurants in Sapa offer cooking classes so you can learn how to make a delicious Salmon hot pot by yourself and enjoy it later. On any cold day of the year in Sapa, the elegant and delicate flavor of a Salmon Sour Hotpot will surely melt your heart.

Below is some best Salmon hot pot restaurant in Sapa:

Lotus Sapa Restaurant

  • Address: 34 Cau May, Sapa
  • Opening hours: 9.00 AM - 10.00 PM

Little View Restaurant

  • Address: 42 Cau May, Sapa, Viet Nam
  • Phone: 84 98 878 77 11
  • Opening hours: 9.00 AM - 10.00 PM

Hoa Dao Restaurant

  • Address: 48 Le Van Tam st, Sapa
  • Opening hours: 9.00 AM - 10.00 PM

2. Roasted Cap Nach Pigs

Cap Nach Pigs or free-range pig is another specialty in Sapa you don't want to miss. These weird name origins from the image of local ranchers put the pig under their armpit whether they sell it or buy it. Unlike pig raised in the delta, Cap Nach pigs in Sapa aren't locked up in cages. They are free to find food in the forest or the surrounding areas. After one year of growing up naturally, they will be sold for meat when reaching more than 20 kilograms.

With this special raise, Sapa’s pork has the feature sweetness and soften that you can’t find anywhere else. It's explained why the Cap Nach pig is so popular to process many delicious dishes in local restaurants. The ways to cook Cap Nach pigs are diverse but they usually grill or roast a whole pig directly on charcoal after marinated carefully in many kinds of spices. The soft, sweet and less greasy meat with the crunchy brown skin of roasted pork will definitely make you fall in love with this dish.

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Here are some recommended restaurants to try roasted Cap Nach pigs in Sapa:

Anh Dung Restaurant

  • Address: 69 Xuan Vien Street, Sapa Town
  • Opening hours: 8 AM – 10:30 PM
  • Phone: (+84) 91 960 1499

Sapa Grilling Area

  • Address: Cau May Street, Sapa Town
  • Opening hours: in the evening.

Hoang Minh Restaurant

  • Address: 22-23 Sapa Food Court (at the corner of Xuan Vien Street and Fansipan Street)
  • Opening hours:  9 AM – 10 PM
  • Phone: (+84) 98 368 4666

3. Thang Co (Horsemeat soup)

Thang Co is considered an "old" featured specialty in Sapa as it is believed to exist for more than 200 years. This is a traditional dish of the H’ mong people. Thang Co is a type of horse meat soup cooked in a large pan or in a big pot within a couple of hours. The ingredients are meat, bone, blood, heart, liver, and innards of the horse. The locals stew horsemeat with at least 12 spices from botanical herbs including cardamom, citronella, ginger, star aniseed, cinnamon twig, and Thang Co plant (special taste named after the specialty’s name).

Thang Co is usually served with many kinds of fresh vegetables such as "cai meo”, turnip cabbage, etc and a red hot pepper name Muong Khuong. Especially, it even tastes better when Thang Co is served with corn wine - the unique wine of the highland region as it brings harmonious combination and pleasant taste.

This special dish was once only served for special occasions such as Tet Holiday and crop festival celebration. But now, Thang Co has become more popular and you can easily find it in the H' mong villages and markets or in the menus of any restaurant in Sapa.

Read: Tasting Experience for South African Travelers in Vietnam

You can try Thang Co in Sapa restaurants such as:  

A Quynh Restaurant

  • Address: 15 Thach Son Street, Sapa Town
  • Opening hours: 7 AM – 10:30 PM
  • Phone: (+84) 214 3871 555

A Nguyen Restaurant

  • Address: Xuan Nguyen Street, Sapa Town
  • Opening hours: 9 AM – 10 PM

Moment Romantic Restaurant

  • Address: 26 Muong Hoa Street, Sapa Town
  • Opening hours: 6:30 AM – 10 PM
  • Phone: (+84) 902 021 002

4. Fresh vegetable

Mam da

Mam Da (stone sprout) is actually a kind of vegetable only found in the high mountainous regions. It has great health benefits. Locals often use it as a nutritious tranquilizer or a cure for some bone and joint diseases. Since it is only available in the cold season, it’s not easy to buy.

This vegetable tastes softer and sweeter than regular vegetables. The simplest way to process Mam Da is to boil it. When boiled, the sweetness of Mam Da dissolves in the water. It can be served with roasted sesame salt, egg or fish sauce. It's believed that this is the best way to enjoy its original taste. You can also try Mam Da stir-fried with garlic or buffalo meat. The Mam Da sweetness infusing the meat definitely brings you an unforgettable experience.

Cai meo Sapa

Cai Meo is another popular vegetable of Sapa, the main dish of the Mong people. This vegetable is not grown in rows but grows naturally. Cai Meo can grow and develop well in extreme weather conditions like Sapa without being pestilent. It is considered as a completely clean and safe vegetable with a delicious, crunchy, slightly bitter flavor. Cai Meo can be processed in many different ways, from boiling, stir-frying, cooking soup or dipping hot pot.

Black mushroom

The Back mushroom is one of the top local dishes must-try in Sapa. This small town has a suitable climate that typical temperate plants as black forest mushroom can grow. Black Mushrooms are advised to use in meals by scientists because of its incredible nutritional value for health. Locals always know how to turn their natural plants into amazing foods. Black Mushrooms stir-fried with pork or used as the main component for hot-pot is the best way to process it. What could be better than enjoying a stir-fried black mushroom dish while it's getting colder outside a restaurant on Sapa hill road?

So where to eat these specialties in Sapa:

Red Dao House

  • Address: 4B, Thac Bac St, Sa Pa
  • Opening hours: 07:00 AM - 10:00 PM

Hong Tai Restaurant

  • Address: 751 Dien Bien Phu Street, Sapa Town
  • Opening hours: open 24/7
  • Phone:  (84) 69 256 6738

5. Grilled food

With the cold atmosphere covers the whole town,  especially at night, it is always a good idea to sit near the cozy fireplace and enjoy tasty grilled food in the mountainous area of Sapa.

All kinds of food are available from many stalls around Sapa town and grilled over hot coals. They are put on skewers and look really colorful. You can pick your favorite food and have it freshly grilled in minutes. The foods include fish, pork, beef, vegetables and fruits such as carrots, cucumbers, and bitter melons, carrots, and string beans. Local specialties are also among the range of choices for grilling. The fragrant and the rich source of nutrients from the delicious BBQ will definitely whet your appetite.

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Besides local food stalls, you can enjoy grilled food in:

Hmong BBQ SaPa

  • Address: 33 Cau May St, Sa Pa Town, Lao Cai
  • Phone: 0214 3872 344

Cat Cat Riverside

  • Address: Cat Cat Village, Sapa
  • Opening hours: 8 AM - 6 PM
  • Phone: +84 98 402 88 58

6. Black chicken

One of the most delicious foods of Sapa is Ga Den (The Black chicken) or Black-Bone Silky Fowl. This dish of Mong people is very special because not only the meat but also its bone is in black. Just like the pig “theft armpit”, black chickens are grazed free range to feed themselves with natural food in the surrounding areas. Therefore, their meat is fragrant, quite tough and tasty, though the chicken is quite small (approximately 1.2 kilograms). Plus, eating black chicken can also help you treat heart diseases.

Black chickens can be processed in many different ways like frying, boiling, and steaming. However, the chicken marinated with honey then grilled directly on the charcoal is the most famous dish. After it soaks in honey, the chicken will be grilled directly on the charcoal. It's more flavorful if the chicken is enjoyed with a mixture seasoning of salt, pepper and lime juice. The sweetness of the meat and of the honey combine, giving you an unforgettable experience. The crunchy skin and excellent taste of the combination of meat and honey will surely meet your need.

Check out these recommended restaurants to try Black chickens in Sapa:

Hoa Dao restaurant

  • Address: 48 Le Van Tam St, Sapa
  • Opening hours: 9.00 am-10.00 pm

Sapa Cuisine Restaurant

  • Address: 17 Xuan Vien St, Sapa
  • Opening hours: 9.00 am- 10.00 pm

7. Smoked buffalo

Sapa is also popular for dried meat especially dried buffalo meat. As the name refers, Thit Trau Gac Bep (dried buffalo meat) literally means buffalo meat well dried with the addition of seasoning and hanged in the kitchen.

Originated from the need to preserve food of the Black Thai people of Sapa, This dish is processed in order to have food through the entire rainy season. The meat hangs for about eight months to a year and the smoke from the kitchen gives the meat a unique taste that can't be seen anywhere in Vietnam.

The buffalo meat can be eaten directly or cooked into many different dishes like grilled and stewed meat. On the outside, the meat is dark brown but inside is bright red. If you are a finger food lover or have a passion for dry-food, this dried buffalo meat is created for you. This special dish can be found in Black Thai villages or in some local restaurants such as:

Fansipan Restaurant

  • Address: 25 Cau May, Sapa
  • Opening hours: 9.00 am – 10.00 pm
  • Phone: (+84) 214 387 1556

The Hill Station Signature Restaurant

  • Address: 37 Fansipan St, Sapa
  • Phone:  +84 20 3887 111

8. Com lam (Sticky rice cooked in bamboo)

"Com Lam" or Bamboo sticky rice is the featured dish of Thai tribe in Sapa. Unlike other dishes from rice, it is totally cooked in bamboo tubes. Since life in the past in northwestern Vietnam was so struggle that people here didn’t have any material like saucepans or pots to cook, they used bamboo tubes to cook rice.

 Locals collect the bamboo then cleaning and chopping them into small sections at about 30 centimeters in length. Then they mix rice with a little bit of salt, stuff it up in bamboo and cover with banana leaves on the top. The biggest secret to cook this dish is the fresh and sweet water brought from the streams. After "Com Lam" is well-cooked, they will remove the burnt bamboo steam outside.

 Bamboo sticky rice is usually served with salted roasted sesame, grilled pork or chicken skewers. The harmonious combination of the fragrance smell of bamboo and special taste of all the ingredients definitely make you want to take "Com Lam" home. This is really a delicious specialty at a low price that you can find it in every restaurant in Sapa such as:  

Bon Mua Restaurant

  • Address: 9 Thac Bac Street, Sapa Town
  • Opening hours: 6:30 AM – 11 PM
  • Phone: (+84) 214 3771 125

Khu Do Nuong (BBQ area)

  • Address: Along Cau May St, Sapa
  • Opening hours: 4.00 pm – 10.00 pm

9. Seven-color sticky rice

Seven-color sticky rice is a traditional dish, an indispensable food of Nung group in Sapa. This dish is not only popular for its eye-catching appearance but also for its unique taste. Made from glutinous rice, the most special about this dish is its combination of seven colors (pink, light red, dark red, indigo, yellow-green, green and yellow) without using any kind of chemical color. The colors of Seven-color sticky rice are processed from different kinds of leaves in the forest and the Nung people's traditional secret.

Annually, Nung people cook the seven colors steamed glutinous rice to worship their ancestors and their agricultural deities with the wish of a comfortable life, an abundant harvest. They believe that eating this kind of dish on special and important occasions will bring good luck. Once you try it, you will surely want to come back to enjoy more.

Bac Ha Market

  • Address: Sapa Town
  • Opening hours: in the early morning every Sunday

10. Tao meo Wine

Tao Meo Wine of Sapa (wine from assam apple) is an original wine of the H’ mong people which is not only popular in Sapa but also in northwestern Vietnam. As the name suggests, it’s made from fruits of Tao Meo tree, a kind of apple blooming at the end of spring in autumn and grown naturally on Hoang Lien Son Mountain. To make Tao Meo wine, they soak assam apples in water and kept covered for six to eight months to fermentation. With the natural wine flavor, this Tao Meo Wine is created for those who are seeking something unique in the mountainous region. You can find Tao Meo Wine at:

Rendez Vous Restaurant

  • Address: 6 Muong Hoa Street, Sapa Town
  • Opening hours: 9 AM – 10 PM

Hoang Minh Restaurant

  • Address: 22-23 Sapa Food Court (at the corner of Xuan Vien Street and Fansipan Street)
  • Opening hours: 9 AM – 10 PM
  • Phone: (+84) 98 368 4666

I hope this article gives you some great ideas of what to eat in Sapa for your holidays to Vietnam from South Africa. For more experiences and information about Sapa, please feel free to see our Ultimate Sapa Travel Guide.

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