Travelling is not only about discovering the beauty of the land, of the local people, but also getting to know special cuisine characteristics of that land. Eating Sapa, you have a chance to taste many delicious and unique dishes which feature the flavor of the Northwestern region. This guide will give you a list of top must-eats and the best places to eat in Sapa. Let’s check it out.
I. What to Eat in Sapa – 13 Must-Eats
1. Xoi Bay Mau (Seven-color Sticky Rice)
There are many different ethnic minority groups in Sapa which leads to diversity in cuisine. Seven color sticky rice is the typical dish of the Nung people who live in Muong Khuong, Lao Cai. As its name suggests, there are seven colors of the sticky rice including red, magenta, pink, light blue, green, light green, and yellow. To color the sticky rice, the local people use many kinds of natural forest leaves. It helps bring distinctive flavors of the mountain forest. This dish is mostly served in Tet holiday to bring more luck.
2. Grilled Food (Pork, Fish, etc.)
Due to the cold climate, grilled foods are very popular in Sapa. Anything can be grilled: from pork, chicken, duck eggs, to corn, sweet potatoes,… The street vendors prepare these skewers in different ways with their own spices. Therefore, even if you eat a lot of grilled foods at the same time, you don’t have the feeling of boredom and duplication.
3. Com Lam (Bamboo Sticky Rice)
Com lam, or so called bamboo sticky rice, can be seen in many local markets and street vendors in Sapa. It is prepared by putting rice inside a bamboo tube which is first wrapped in banana leaves. After that, these tubes are roasted over hot coals. This dish was first invented as a convenient and portable dish that can bring along for long journeys. The restaurants often serve “com lam” with grilled pork or chicken.
4. Thang Co (Horse Meat Soup)
Thang Co, a traditional dish of the Mong ethnic minority, is so famous in the mountainous north-western region, especially in Sapa. After the animal is killed, its internal parts are removed. These parts are later cut up and fried in their own grease in a pan. After that, they add water to the pan and simmer the meat for hours. The dish has an attractive aroma with some mountainous spicy fruits such as “thao qua” and “dia dien”.
5. Salmon Sour Hot Pot
Most people may think that salmon live in the sea. But no, this species even lives in Sapa. The reason is that Sapa is located in the high mountain where the weather is extremely cool all year round. So, the salmon can exist here and salmon sour hot pot is a simple food to local people. The highlight of the dish is its broth. Local people often put several types of mountainous vegetables and freshly caught salmon. Salmon sour hot pot surely makes your meal more elegant and has a delicate flavor.
6. Thit Trau Gac Bep (Dried Buffalo Meat)
If you are a finger food lover, Thit trau gac bep is created for you. “Thit trau gac bep” is also called dried buffalo meat or smoked buffalo meat. It was first invented to preserve the food during the rainy days. The black Thai people usually flavor the meat with salt, garlic, pepper, and ginger. When trying dried buffalo meat, you can feel a distinct smell from the smoke from the kitchen. The first bite might be a little tough, but after that, you will be easily addicted to this dish.
7. Tao Meo Wine – H’mong’s Whiskey (Wine from Assam Apple)
Tao Meo is the kind of popular wine in Sapa and its taste is very delicious. It has enough sweet, bitter and acrid. This wine also helps to lower blood pressure, lower blood fat, blood vessels, and improve heart muscle operation. Made from fresh assam apple, it has a “mountain flavor” with very nice brown color. Because it is good and an effective treatment, don’t forget to try it when visiting Sapa.
8. Mam Da Vegetable
Mam Da is a kind of mountainous vegetable which is harvested between November to end of March. Not easy to find and buy, its taste is quite similar to Chinese broccoli, however, its smell is better and its taste is sweeter. Local people often boil Mam Da, then dip it in popular fish sauce or enjoy roasted mam da in sesame. This is the best way to enjoy the original taste of mam da. It also can be cooked with buffalo meat.
9. Ga Den (Black Chicken)
Black chicken is rarely found in the north, Black Chickens’ meat is sweet and delicious. It can be made into different dishes like boiled, steamed, fried. However, the most typical and favorite dish is grilled black chicken with honey. The honey is taken from the forest by the locals. The grilled black chicken is finished with perfect crispy skin, having a sweet and typical smell of forest honey. If you enjoy this dish in the cold days of Sapa, it will be truly a great dining experience.
10. Men Men (Type of Rice Made of Corn)
Men Men is one of the most typical dishes of H’Mong people. Made from local maize, it is not only flexible but also very fragrant. In the past, the H’Mong grinded corn with a stone grinder by hand so it took much time. After that, they mix cornmeal with water and beat this mixture before cooking it in the pan. The result is a very special sweet flavor of Men Men. It is often served with soups such as pumpkin soup or bone broth.
11. Sapa Cap-Nach Pork
This type of pork is from free-range pigs, usually smaller than 20kg.
Cap Nach Pork is a famous specialty in Sapa. The pigs are raised in the field or in the forest. They are not locked up but they had to find food by themselves. There are some ways to make this dish. The most common way is to roast the whole pig directly on charcoal so its skin is very brittle and the meat inside is fleshy. Other people prefer stir-fry pork with different kinds of herbs.
12. Black Mushroom
With cool temperature, Sapa is the place where black mushrooms are hidden inside the forests. If you have chances to come to the fair of Sapa, you will be invited to buy these mushrooms and introduced them as a specialty of the mountainous area. At the restaurants, you can ask them to have Chinese black mushroom dishes. Normally, they often serve stir-fried black mushrooms with meat or dried squid.
13. Cuon Sui (Dry Pho)
Cuon sui is a so-called dry pho invented by the Chinese who live in Sapa. The dish is made of rice noodles, beef, roasted shallots, roasted peanuts, chili, pepper, herbs, and served with a small bowl of local flavored sauce. You may think that the dish is similar to “pho” at your first sight. But no, the big difference is: “pho” is served with beef soup and “cuon sui” is served with local flavored sauce and vegetables.
II. 14 Best Eating Places & Restaurants in Sapa
Don’t know where to find the best food in Sapa? Let’s check out the following list of 14 restaurants in Sapa to not skip.
1. Gia Ban Restaurant
Address: 421 Dien Bien Phu street, Sapa town
Opening hours: 08:00 am – 11:00 pm
Gia Ban is worth your money with cheap but delicious dishes. They serve typical Northwest cuisine with hill chicken, pigs, salmon, and river fish,… Decorated with wooden items, Gia Ban Restaurant wants to make you feel simple but cozy. The staff here is very friendly and enthusiastic. This restaurant can serve different types of customers even the difficult ones.
2. Hotpot Center Restaurant
Address: 552 Dien Bien Phu street, Sapa town
Opening hours: 11:00 am – 03:00 pm; 06:00 pm – 10:00 pm
You can find many typical mountainous dishes in Sapa. It has a diverse menu serving some kinds of hot pots, roasted chicken, grilled chicken, fish salad,… To serve different customer groups, it has many suitable combos for groups of 2, 3, and 4 customers. It’s recommended to try grilled chicken with green pepper, Beijing hot pot and spicy dried chicken.
3. Viet Deli Restaurant
Address: 01 Le Van Tam street, Sapa town
Opening hours: 07:00 am – 11:00 pm
Its full name is Viet Deli – Mon ngon Tay Bac restaurant. The restaurant receives many positive comments from visitors to Sapa. It has 2 branches with 2 different styles. We highly recommend the Le Van Tam branch. The staff serves the food quickly and they contact each other through walkie talkies. Though the space is not large but it’s very clean. The must-try dishes are sturgeon hotpot, “goi ca hoi”, and “ngua xao sot nong”.
4. Pi’s Boutique Sapa
Address: 41A Fansipan street, Sapa town
Opening hours: 07:00 am – 10:30 pm
Pi’s Boutique Sapa is located right next to Pi’s Boutique Sapa Hotel. As it is newly renovated, the restaurant offers a welcoming atmosphere with its open kitchen. Just a few steps from the local tourist market, the restaurant has a great view overlooking the famous Sapa mountainous landscape.
5. Viet Emotion Restaurant
Address: 27 Cau May street, Sapa town
Opening hours: 07:00 am – 10:30 pm
With a cozy fireplace inside, the restaurant is an ideal place during the cold nights. Its menu has Western items like steaks, pastas, and pizzas, and some other Vietnamese and Sapa dishes. You can enjoy herbal hot pot with mushrooms and lemongrass or spring rolls. If you want to use free internet, there are also 2 available computers.
6. Sapa O’Chau Café
Address: 03 Le Van Tam street, Sapa town
Opening hours: 07:30 am – 06:30 pm
Sapa O’Chau Cafe is run by Sapa O’Chau Travel Social Enterprise, a non-profit organization aiming to promote education and enhance employment opportunities of the H’Mong. It is a special cafe, serving as a meeting place and a training facility for the students of the enterprise, and a place for organizing homestays and treks. Sapa O’Chau is best known for the ginger tea which is served with mountain honey. It is the best drink for warming up in the winter.
7. Song Nhi Restaurant (at Thac Bac’s foot)
Address: Thac Bac, Sapa town
Opening hours: All day
Song Nhi is the next famous Sapa restaurant on this list which serves salmons. Located at the Silver Falls which is a tourist area, it mainly serves the main tourist. The restaurant is a large stilt house with two floors and an outdoor campus which overlooks the vast sky of Sapa. It attracts a lot of tourists for its romantic and comfortable space. There are many dishes to choose from: salmon salad, salmon hot pot, and other local dishes.
8. A Phu Restaurant
Address: 15 Fansipan, Sapa town
Opening hours: all day
A Phu is loved by many food lovers. Its food is not only delicious but also cheap. Most visitors come here to enjoy the ancient and hot fish steak. However, you should try some other delicious food here such as Thang Co and fish hotpot. Thang Co has a strong flavor, its meat is soft and sweet. Fish hotpot has natural sweetness, serving with many fish and vegetables. The restaurant is always crowded and busy on weekends. So, it is better to make a reservation in advance.
9. A Quynh (Specializing in Thang Co)
Address: 15 Thach Son, Sapa town
Opening hours: All day
Famous for more than 10 years, A Quynh is chosen by many visitors to enjoy tasty dishes. Located near the center of Sapa town, it wins diners’ hearts by good food, impressive flavors and many kinds of vegetables. Though it is always crowded, the staff are very fast and perfect consultants. The restaurant serves many delicious dishes such as steamed hams, pork tomato sauce, charcoal grilled bananas, and salmon hotpot. But above all, “Thang Co” is the best dish of the restaurant. The price ranges from VND 100.000 to VND 330.000/ person.
10. Anise Sapa
Address: 21 Xuan Vien street, Sapa town
Opening hours: 09:00 am – 10:00 pm
Anise Sapa restaurant is one of the best spots for relaxing and socializing after a great day of trekking in Sapa.Wish the customers get more from the local life, it offers traditional home style cooked cuisine by passionate local chef. Most of the food are bought from local suppliers to ensure the quality and variety of the food. They also change the menu regularly to feature the season’s produce. Must-try dishes include: black chicken hotpot, pumpkin soup, and crispy pork knuckle.
11. Hill Station Signature Restaurant
Address: 37 Fansipan street, Sapa town
Opening hours: 07:00 am – 10:30 pm
Hill Station Signature Restaurant is an ideal place to enjoy authentic and delicious dishes of H’Mong ethnic people. Located right near Fansipan – the tallest mountain of Vietnam, it gives the customers a chance to enjoy superb views while indulging in the unique flavors from the north’s cuisine. Signature dishes of the restaurant include the flash-cooked pork with lime, traditional H’Mong style black pudding, and the ash-baked trout. Also, don’t forget to try homemade rice wine of Hill Station Signature.
12. Le Gecko Restaurant
Address: 33 Xuan Vien street, Sapa town
Opening hours: 06:30 am – 11:00 pm
Owned by a French, Le Gecko mainly serves Western dishes such as burgers, steaks, pizzas, pastas,.. There are also some local options such as fish served with local mushrooms. Especially, after a delicious meal, you can sit down in its patio, drinking a cup of coffee and watching people go by. “Nama chocolate” of Le Gecko is so delicious, so you should add it to your meal.
13. Moment Romantic Restaurant
Address: 01A Thac Bac, Sapa town
Opening hours: 08:00 am – 10:00 pm
Moment Romantic is a good restaurant for having dinners. It impresses customers not only by tasty food but also enthusiastic staff. You can find many local dishes here. Salmon hotpot and sturgeon hotpot are especially the most chosen dishes. Besides, “thang co” and “cap nach” pigs are also worth trying.
14. Hai Lam Restaurant
Address: 72 Luong Dinh Cua street, Sapa town
Opening hours: 08:00 am – 10:30 pm
Hai Lam restaurant is recommended by many locals and travellers to Sapa. Serving mountainous dishes such as salmon, sturgeon, fried rice,… And it would be a mistake if you don’t try the mouthwatering grilled chicken with green peppers. There are also many other dishes to enjoy here. The price is about VND 150.000/ person. If you go with your friends, the price would be a lot cheaper, so don’t forget to go with your team.
Eating in Sapa is a great experience where you can enjoy so many specialties in the best restaurants of this mountainous region. Don’t forget to discover its unique cuisine on your trip and let us know your experience there.