Poisonous traditional Vietnamese food: Do you dare to try?
traditional vietnamese food

Poisonous traditional Vietnamese food: Do you dare to try?

Vietnamese cuisine is worldwide famous with Pho and Banh Mi. Traditional Vietnamese food, however, is more diverse with weird food, creepy food, and especially poisonous food.

Jicama (Cu san) – the common traditional Vietnamese food of farmers

In farmers’meal, this veggie is the most common traditional Vietnamese food, especially in poor families. In the past, they added jicamas into the rice pot because they couldn’t afford the rice while jicama was much cheaper. Nowadays, jicama can be fried, boiled or stir-fried to be a side dish in the normal meal.

traditional vietnamese food

In the past, the Vietnamese need to add jicama into rice pot because rice was unaffordable – Image: kenh14.vn.

However, few people know that jicama contains a poison named cyanide, which is highly toxic. A large amount of cyanide can cause damage to the human’s brain and heart. If human exposures with a little amount, it can lead to difficulty breathing, nausea, heart attack. If they are not delivered to the hospital in time, it can lead to coma, hemiplegia, and death.

traditional vietnamese food

Jicama skin contains a large amount of cyanide.

The skin of jicama is the part containing the largest amount of cyanide. So before eating, you need to peel the jicama carefully, soak it in water for several hours before well-done cook it. When boiling it, note to keep the lid open to let the toxic evaporate. One more thing you need to remember is that do not eat too much raw jicama.

traditional vietnamese food

After being cooked, jicama is one of the most ingredients of traditional Vietnamese food – Image: www.savourydays.com

Bamboo (Mang) – traditional Vietnamese food with high toxicant

Bamboo is another traditional Vietnamese food consisting of many poisons such as glycosides, cyanogenic and cyanide like jicama. Just 20mg of fresh bamboo can kill an adult. If you’re lightly poisoned, you will have a dizzy, headache and nausea. If it gets worse, there are some symptom such as respiratory failure, muscles contraction, and coma.

traditional vietnamese food

Raw bamboo consists of many toxicants which can kill an adult easily – Image: tinanvien.com.

On the other hand, bamboo is an important ingredient in traditional Vietnamese food. For example, a bowl of bamboo soup is indispensable on Lunar New Year’s Eve. The Vietnamese also eat bamboo with Pho, vermicelli, and rice. They even use bamboo to make the salad as a kind of vegetable. It’s because those “MasterChefs” know how to deal with a high level of toxin. They will first soak the bamboo in few hours then boil it once or twice to make sure all of the poison is out.

Besides, people are selling fermented bamboo, which is harmful not only because of the cyanide but also the additives added to keep the bamboo clean and crunchy. Moreover, cyanide combines with some chemicals in the soaking solid plus enzymes in the intestine which can cause acute poisoning.

Au tau Congee (Chao au tau) – the “deadly” congee in Ha Giang Province

Ha Giang is a province in Northeast Vietnam. This land is famous among tourists because of the breathtaking landscapes as well as unique cuisine. One of the most famous traditional Vietnamese food visitors desire to try is Au tau congee.

traditional vietnamese food

Au Tau congee – the “deadly” congee you must try when visiting Ha Giang Province – Image: Instagram/@beanie_vivi.

Au tau congee consists of rice, sticky rice, trotters, eggs, and au tau. The scientific name of Au tau is Aconitum fortunei, which listed in Type A of Poisons. It takes a long time to cook a pot of Au tau congee perfectly. Besides choosing all the ingredients in good quality, they need to spend 12 – 14 hours removing toxin out of Au tau. People first soak it in hog-wash for 2 hours then boil it overnight until it becomes mushy. The only way to check whether it’s edible or not is tasting it. If your tongue loses feeling, there must be toxin left and you need to boil more.

traditional vietnamese food

Raw Au tau is listed in Type A of Poisons.

This traditional Vietnamese food is served with minced pork, herbs, pepper, and bamboo. In addition to the greasy taste, you can easily find it a little bitter, the signature taste of Au tau. It’s not a seasonal vegetable so they can eat it throughout the year. However, people only sell it at night because the main effect of this congee is helping you have a sound sleep. What’s more, it is said that having this dish at night can improve men’s “night shift”.

La ngon – the poisonous traditional Vietnamese food

When the Vietnamese mention La ngon, they mean a plant with deadly toxicity. It grows in Northeast mountainous region and only two leaves can make an adult be six feet under. However, La ngon the Northeast ethnic minorities use to make this dish is another non-toxic La ngon. Only locals can distinguish these two types so it would be a risk if you challenge yourself collecting it in the forest.

traditional vietnamese food

Only the locals can distinguish between the toxic La ngon and non-toxic La ngon – Image: Youtube.

La ngon is a traditional Vietnamese food of the ethnic in Lai Chau Province. They serve this dish at worship events, New Year’s Eve, and when they have special guests. Thai ethnic eat it as a normal kind of vegetable. The common ways of cooking are boiling, stir-fry, or making soup. But the best dish is La ngon stir-fried with garlic. It leaves a tart taste of forest vegetables at first, but then you will find it a special aroma and sweet taste. What’s more, the non-toxic La ngon is believed to be good for the liver.

traditional vietnamese food

is a traditional Vietnamese food that the Northeast ethnic serve in worship events or for special guests – Image: Nguyen Bac.


With the high skills, Vietnamese people have made the poisonous ingredient become traditional Vietnamese food that all backpackers wanting to try once. If you have a chance to visit the beautiful Northeast mountains, don’t miss a chance to try out those special dishes above!