Delicious Street Food in Sapa: A Culinary Adventure in Northwestern Vietnam

by Huy Huỳnh Ngọc

Visiting Sapa, a picturesque town in Northwestern Vietnam, offers not only breathtaking landscapes and a glimpse into the local culture but also a chance to indulge in a wide array of mouthwatering street food. The cuisine of Sapa reflects the region’s rich cultural and ethnic diversity, with a focus on fresh, light ingredients and unique flavors. From grilled dishes to bamboo-tube rice, Sapa’s street food is sure to tantalize your taste buds and leave a lasting impression. In this article, Palm Vietnam Travel will offer you the opportunity to savor some of the most delicious street food options that you shouldn’t miss during your visit to Sapa.

1. Grilled Dishes – A Sapa Street Food Favorite

One cannot talk about Sapa street food without mentioning the famous grilled dishes. In the chilly weather of Sapa, locals and tourists alike seek comfort in the hot and flavorful barbecue options available throughout the town.

Grilled pork, marinated with Indian pepper, is a must-try dish that showcases the tender and flavorful qualities of the meat. Other grilled options include beef, fish, bird, quail, sausage, corn, potato, root vegetables, and a variety of mushrooms.

The unique blend of ingredients creates a distinct taste that is synonymous with Sapa’s culinary identity. These grilled dishes pair exceptionally well with the local San Lung liquor, which helps balance the flavors and keeps you warm.


The unique combination of Northwest ingredients creates the distinct cuisine of Sapa.
In the cold weather of Sapa, barbecue grilled meat is the top choice for tourists.

2. Bamboo-tube Rice (Com Lam) – A Sapa Specialty

When in Sapa, don’t miss the opportunity to try Bamboo-tube Rice, also known as Com Lam. This traditional dish originated from the ethnic minorities in the mountainous areas of Northern Vietnam and has become increasingly popular over time.

Com Lam offers a unique blend of rice, stream water, and a subtle hint of bamboo fragrance. Sticky rice, grown on the hills of Sapa, is placed inside a bamboo tube with water and sometimes salt. The tube is then sealed with banana leaves and roasted over hot coals or fire.

The result is a flavorful and aromatic dish that pairs perfectly with grilled pork or chicken, creating a delightful combination of textures and tastes.

Lam rice, is a traditional dish originating from the ethnic minorities in the northern mountainous regions of Vietnam.

3. Seven-color Sticky Rice – A Colorful Delight

One of the most visually striking dishes in Sapa is the Seven-color Sticky Rice, a traditional specialty of the Nung people, an ethnic group residing in Muong Khuong district, Lao Cai province.

This dish was traditionally prepared on special occasions but is now readily available for tourists to enjoy as a delicious Sapa street food. What makes this dish truly unique is the natural extraction of seven different colors from leaves found in the local forests.

The vibrant colors, including indigo, yellow, green, pink, dark red, and light red, create a stunning visual presentation. Apart from its appealing appearance, the Seven-color Sticky Rice is also renowned for its exceptional taste, and the locals believe that consuming it brings good health and luck.

The traditional specialty of the Nung people.

4. Black Chicken – A Unique Sapa Delicacy

Another must-try Sapa street food is Black Chicken. Smaller in size compared to other types of chicken, the Black Chicken may seem intimidating with its black-colored skin. However, once you indulge in its flavorful meat, any initial reservations will dissipate.

The most delicious way to enjoy Black Chicken is by grilling it with honey, lime, mint leaves, and a sprinkle of pepper salt. In addition to its delectable taste, Black Chicken is also known for its health benefits and effective treatment of heart diseases. A visit to Sapa would be incomplete without savoring the distinct and exquisite flavors of this unique dish.

A visit to Sapa would not be complete without the presence of black chicken.

5. Hmong’s Horse Beef (Thang Co) – A Hearty Delight

Thang Co, a dish created by the Hmong people in Vietnam, is a culinary delight that showcases the cultural beauty and ingenuity of this ethnic group. Traditionally prepared using horse meat, including various organs, vegetables, and special spices, Thang Co is a hearty soup that is simmered for hours to develop rich flavors.

Today, Thang Co is available for all visitors to enjoy, and you can find it in many stalls in Sapa’s markets. This dish is best enjoyed with a side of vegetables, such as “Cai meo” or “Cai lau,” which perfectly complement the flavors of the soup. Trying Thang Co allows you to experience the authentic taste and cultural heritage of the Hmong people.

The specialty of Sapa, Thang Co.

6. Smoked Water-Buffalo’s Flesh – A Flavorful Delicacy

One of the specialties of Sapa’s hill tribes is the Smoked Water-Buffalo’s Flesh, a popular Sapa street food that also serves as a sought-after gift for friends and family. Dried buffalo meat, also known as buffalo meat bacon, is a highly enticing delicacy.

The Black Thai ethnic group traditionally preserves the buffalo meat by storing it at cool temperatures and dehydrating it. This smoked food is available for sale in various locations throughout Sapa, but the best buffalo flesh can be found in the tribal villages during your visit.

When consumed alongside the local stem wine, known as San Lung Wine, the smoky flavors of the buffalo’s flesh are further enhanced, creating a memorable culinary experience.

A chosen gift for friends and family.

7. Grilled or Roasted Pork – A Sapa Classic

Grilled or Roasted Pork, locally known as “Thit Lon Cap Nach,” is another delectable Sapa street food that deserves a place on your food itinerary. The name of this dish refers to the practice of villagers catching small pigs and carrying them under their arms to the market for sale. The pigs are typically free-range and weigh around 4-5 kilograms.

The locals often roast the whole pig directly over charcoal, resulting in crispy skin and succulent meat. This type of grilled or roasted pork is known for being less fatty and having a delightful crunch. To enhance the flavors of this dish, pair it with Tao Meo wine, another specialty of the region.

Roast pork, also locally known as ‘Thịt Lợn Cắp Nách’.

8. Wild Chestnut – A Sapa Delight

While exploring Sapa, be sure to indulge in some wild chestnuts, a local delicacy that perfectly complements the cold weather. Sapa’s wild chestnuts have a distinct quality and taste that sets them apart from chestnuts found elsewhere.

Roasted with salt and cheese at high temperatures, these delectable snacks come to life with a burst of flavors. Many visitors choose to purchase kilograms of these well-spiced wild chestnuts as souvenirs, while others enjoy chewing on them during their journey.

Apart from their delectable taste, Sapa chestnuts also offer numerous health benefits, including support for heart health and a rich source of vitamin E. Sampling these reddish-brown chestnuts will provide a true taste of the mountainous region of Sapa.

A gift from nature for the land of Sapa.

9. Salmon in Sapa – A Luxurious Delight

Although salmon is not native to Sapa, it has found a home in this region due to its compatibility with the cool climate and snowy winters. Sapa’s salmon boasts firm, pink meat with high nutritional value, making it one of the most luxurious culinary options for tourists.

Whether enjoyed in hot pots, salads, or grilled preparations, Sapa’s salmon offers a delightful combination of flavors and textures. While savoring a salmon hot pot, accompanied by early-foggy-covered wild vegetables and a cup of wild cat apple wine, you will create unforgettable memories and fully immerse yourself in the flavors of Sapa.

Salmon in Sapa

10. Field Mushroom – A Natural Delicacy

Sapa’s mountainous terrain and forests are home to an abundance of field mushrooms, a specialty that should not be missed during your culinary adventure.

Field mushrooms are readily available at various restaurants in Sapa, and even after soaking in water, they retain the distinct taste of the mountainous land and the fragrance of the forest.

For a gastronomic treat, try “mushroom foot,” a unique combination of mushroom, meat, dried cuttlefish, and spices. This dish pairs well with a variety of vegetables, allowing you to fully appreciate the diverse flavors and textures that Sapa has to offer.

The mountainous specialties of Sapa.


Sapa’s street food scene is a culinary paradise, offering a wide range of flavors and unique dishes that are sure to leave a lasting impression. From the famous grilled dishes and bamboo-tube rice to the colorful seven-color sticky rice and the smoky flavors of smoked water buffalo’s flesh, each delicacy reflects the rich cultural heritage and culinary traditions of the region. Whether you’re indulging in the hearty Thang Co soup or savoring the luxurious taste of Sapa’s salmon, each bite will transport you to a world of gastronomic delight. So, embark on a culinary adventure in Sapa and treat your taste buds to an unforgettable experience filled with unique flavors and local delights.

Huy Huỳnh Ngọc

Written by Huy Huỳnh Ngọc