Food Highlights in Sapa, Vietnam
- Try exciting bamboo sticky rice
- Have a picnic on the top of a mountain with a wonderful view
- Home-stay with a local Sapa family
- Taste your way through the local markets with fresh, local ingredients
Sapa’s traditional cuisine is one of the oldest cuisines in Vietnam, and consists mainly of soups, stews, and grilled food.
Fresh, light, locally-grown ingredients characterize all Sapa dishes. Most dishes feature meat and fish, but there are always plenty of vegetables in the dishes, as well as completely vegetarian dishes.
Subtle combinations of herbs and spices create the characteristic flavors of Sapa’s cuisine. Most dishes feature garlic, ginger, lime, and hot spices.
This special cake has been found in Vietnam, particularly Sapa and its region, since the times of the Hung Kings who ruled Vietnam for 2,500 years up until around 250 B.C. Making Pau play day cake is tricky!
The cake is made of glutinous rice and green peas. The most challenging part is choosing appropriate rice. The rice is dried and then soaked in water for two hours. The filling is usually made simply of green peas, mashed into a smooth paste, for an overall sweet flavor.
You’ll be able to find these cakes at street stalls or markets when walking around in Sapa, often in the morning.
This specialty sounds exactly like it is, sticky rice cooked inside bamboo. Locals spend hours collecting, cleaning and chopping the bamboo into the perfect size.
Once the bamboo is cleaned, rice seasoned with a little salt is stuffed inside. Local stream water is then used to cook it over a fire, which is thought to add a sweet flavor.
You’ll find tasty bamboo sticky rice at Khu Do Nuong’s BBQ area (Cau May Street, Sapa).
Brook fish is a favorite with locals and tourists alike, found in the mountainous streams near Sapa. Normally in Sapa this fish is grilled directly on charcoal.
This cooking method removes most of the fishy smell and leaves you with crunchy fish packed full of flavor. Try Brook fish at a local restaurant in Sapa.
Other fish you might find on your culinary adventures in Sapa are Goby fish and carp.
Try Brook fish at Hoang Minh Restaurant (corner of Xuan Vien Street and Thac Bac Street).
In Sapa you can find a variety of dried meats at the local markets. Buffalo is the most popular local dried meat.
To find your favorite, we suggest you sample meats until you find your favorite. Dried meat can be stored for years and make a great gift for family and friends (if your country’s customs allow you to bring meats home, do check this before buying with the intent of bringing it home!).
Apart from market stalls, you can try dried meats at Fansipang Restaurant (25 Cau May, Sapa).
In Sapa you’ll find a traditional Hmong dish called Thang Co served at local Hmong restaurants as well as at the markets. This dish is a stew of horse meat, heart, liver, innards, blood, and 12 kinds of spices.
Not for the faint hearted, Thang Co has a very particular flavor due to the many spices added as well as the corn wine. As a result of the red-hot peppers this dish is also spicy.
You can find good Thang Co at Thang Co A Quynh Restaurant (15 Thach Son Street, Sapa)
Served on a skewer off the grill, grilled pork with Indian pepper is a must-try. It’s a little spicy because of the peppers, but the pork is delicious as it is eaten fresh off the grill.
Try this at a food market in the evening as it is easy to eat while walking around exploring.
Salmon is also a popular fish in Sapa, and is often served in a hot pot with sour soup. The people of Sapa are proud that their salmon is firm, low in fat, and higher in nutritional value than European salmon.
It is served alongside vegetables such as fresh bamboo shoots and forest mushrooms, in a warm soup, and best eaten at a sit-down restaurant to enjoy with your family or travel buddies!
You can find it at Hao Dao restaurant (48 Le Van Tam Street, Sapa).
Cai meo is a local Sapa vegetable that looks like a combination between spinach and kale. It’s popular with tourists and also a great vegetarian option.
This dish usually comes stir-fried or boiled, mixed with ginger for a little bit of a kick, or in a soup. Sometimes it will also be stir-fried with other vegetables such as mushrooms. You’ll find this at most Vietnamese restaurants in Sapa, or at a food market.
A special fowl dish in Sapa is the black chicken, special because, as you can guess from its name, the meat and bones are black. Across Asia, this chicken is believed to help sexual drive as well as treat heart disease and is usually served in a sweet soup with honey.
You can find this dish at most restaurants in Sapa, for example Sapa Cuisine Restaurant (17 Xuan Vien, Sapa).
Blessed by nature, Sapa has lots of forest mushrooms that are special to the area. One of these is the black forest mushroom, which are so delicious that they are usually the main ingredient in a spicy stir-fry dish with lots of peppers.
You can find delicious black forest mushroom dishes at Red Dao (4B Thac Bac Street, Sapa).
Sapa is located in the mountains of northern Vietnam, and although it is a small town, most people are pleasantly surprised by the selection of restaurants. Not only can you find great options for local cuisine, but you can also indulge in other international food. Below are a few restaurants we highly recommend.
After a long day exploring the area, we recommend the Nature Bar and Grill for a relaxing evening, surrounded by beautiful and unique artwork. This restaurant provides authentic rustic Vietnamese cuisine with generous serving sizes.
Stop by this cute shop for a quality breakfast, a baguette, or just some tasty dessert. The shop aims to help locals by cooperating with the Hoa Sua School for disadvantaged youth. Most of the staff are students at the school and are being trained in the hospitality industry.
This authentic Italian restaurant offers a variety of Italian and other European cuisine. Stop by for some food or even just a game of billiards. Either way you will have a fun evening with the lively staff.
This intimate bistro is a great place for smaller groups to get cozy by the fireplace on those cold mountain nights.
Viet Emotion offers a wide variety of food ranging from pizza and pasta to steak and Vietnamese classics. They also offer a couple of Sapa specialty dishes, such as the herbal medicine hotpot (with lemongrass and mountain mushrooms).
Good Morning View Restaurant is a popular Vietnamese restaurant with foreigners, offering up a wide array of local Vietnamese dishes both from the region and the entire country at affordable prices. Many travellers staying in the area will come back again and again.
There is a wonderful ambience and the staff are very friendly too.
With a wonderful view over Mount Fansipan, Sapa Sky View Restaurant & Bar is located in Chao Long Hotel and has a wonderful selection of food and drinks, focusing mostly on Sapa and Vietnamese cuisine.
Apart from the view, this spot is also known for its brunch, friendly staff and delicious salmon hot pot, a Sapa must-try!
A sports bar that is easy-going and has a pool table for extra entertainment, Relax Bar is pretty basic but does it well.
Lots of foreigners and locals come by to enjoy their time here, and the atmosphere is friendly and chatty. This bar is also open late, making it the perfect place to meet friends if you’re looking for travel companions.
The H’Mong sisters is a very cozy bar and has a wood fire in winter, perfect for those chillier mountain evenings in Sapa!
You’ll also find a pool table, plenty of games to choose from, great music, and apple sisha.
A popular restaurant, café, and bar, Café in the Clouds is set to the backdrop of a wonderful valley making it the perfect place to have a beer during the daytime to share with your friends!
Apart from drinks, the obvious benefit here is that you won’t go hungry, with plenty of Vietnamese and Asian food options on the menu all day.
As a pub and bar, Mountain Bar & Pub is a friendly and one of the cooler venues in Sapa, drawing lots of visitors from around the world.
In winter they have a fire going as well, which is lovely, and you have choice of beers and wines from around the world, as well as other drinks such as Vietnamese coffee and hot wine! What more could you want?
A fun bar, Color Bar is well designed and has a wonderful atmosphere. The staff are all extremely helpful and friendly, and you’ll likely meet lots of wonderful people here.
There is also a menu with snack food, and fun Latino music on their playlist!
Visiting the local markets in Sapa is a great way to catch a closer glimpse at the daily lives of the locals. It is also a great opportunity to try a variety of snacks found only in Sapa, like the dried meats and pau play day cakes.
Sapa doesn’t just have one market; the town has a different market every day of the week! One of the best-known markets, and one that we recommend, is the Bac Ha Night Market on Sundays. It attracts many people from all walks of life, which always makes for an interesting visit.
If you take our 13-day Vietnamese Classic Wonders with Sapa tour, you will participate in a trek of your choice on day 9 of your trip. On that day we recommend our clients pack a picnic lunch.
Once they reach the summit they can relax with their picnic and take in fully the wonderful panoramic views that make Sapa famous.
If you take a tour with us, you could spend a night with a local family. For most people this home-stay experience is priceless and what truly makes visiting Sapa such a special adventure.
During the home-stay you will not only eat locally grown food for dinner, but you will also enjoy the meal with a local family, who will teach you first-hand about their culture and local customs. Remember to pack warm clothes to stay overnight, as not all home-stay homes will have heating.
Our tailor-made tours will turn your travel dreams into reality. Take a closer look at our tours featuring Vietnam, especially the middle tour that stops in Sapa.
At Asia Highlights, we create your kind of journey — your dates, your destinations, at your pace. You can have any trip tailor made for your travel.