Photo: Cham Tower, Phan Thiet.

Eat and meet

In contrast to Mui Ne’s tourist restaurants, the capital of Binh Thuan province has fantastic local restaurants and cheap seafood – if it wasn’t fresh and tasty, the locals wouldn’t go there. We befriended a Phan Thiet local who, over the course of many days, took us on a whirlwind tour of the best eats in area.

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Skip the expensive and questionable quality of the bo ke seafood restaurants in Mui Ne and head to Pham Van Dong Street in Phan Thiet, which runs along the Ca Ty River south of Tran Hung Dao bridge. This whole strip is packed with seafood restaurants and a quick survey will tell you which are the most popular – always a good sign.

Crab with tamarind. Yum!

Crab with tamarind. Yum!

At Phan Thiet Quan at 35 Phan Van Dong, we feasted on crab with tamarind sauce, barbecued scallops and a type of giant sea snail sauteed with ginger and green onions. The sea snail is definitely an acquired texture, but the locals were loving it. The total bill was barely 150,000 dong per person.

Sea snail -- try it!

This, friends, is sea snail.

Sweet Delights is a bakery cafe that serves cheap and cheerful Vietnamese favourites: stir-fried noodles, rice with beef or tasty fried rice served in a clay pot so the bottom bits get nice and crispy, only 35,000 to 45,000 dong. For dessert, how about house-made ice cream or a cake, cream puff or cannoli from the display case. If you’re craving Western food, they have spaghetti, hamburgers and pizzas from 65,000 to 90,000 dong.

The fried rice at Sweet was sweeeeet.

The fried rice at Sweet was sweeeeet.

We asked to be taken to the best pho joint in Phan Thiet and we’ve been dreaming about this bowl ever since. Pho Ba Tuet is a famous spot among locals — tucked down a nondescript sidestreet, travellers would never know it’s there.

Pho Ba Tuet. You'll be dreaming about this pho for ages afterwards.

Pho Ba Tuet. You’ll be dreaming about this pho for ages afterwards.

The broth was rich with flavour, a bit more tang than your average bowl, with big pieces of beef fillet and tender brisket, served with a basket of fresh herbs. Slurp up, it’s worth every bit of the 40,000 dong. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Find it at on Yersin, just south of Hai Thuon Lan Ong and Truong Cong Dinh Street.

The pho joint to look for.

The pho joint to look for.

Pizzabelle, in the new development area around Lotte Mart, will satisfy any itch for pizza, pasta or salad. They have the classic pizza pies (99,000 dong) as well as a range with different toppings and cheeses for 149,000 to 179,000 dong. Pastas and salads will only set you back 75,000 dong, all in a comfortable modern space of exposed brick walls and colourful cushions.

Within the same area, at night try some Vietnamese-style dessert at Bum Cute Handmade pop-up stall on the corner of Ton Duc Thang and Vo Van Kiet Street. You may be familiar with milk bubble tea – but instead of boring tapioca balls, this stand has gone wild with an assortment of homemade jellies of all shapes and sizes. Teenagers flock here to share buckets of it. It’s a low plastic stool affair, and a very filling glass is only 20,000 dong. It’s only there in the evening.


Try the assortment of jellies at Bum Cute.

For another sweet after dinner treat, try Co Loan fruit ice, a typical Vietnamese street dessert of crushed ice piled with milk, tons of fruit and sweet beans. Find this shop with tables and stools set up out front at May Than Street, west of Ton Duc Thang Street. The exact cost depends on your toppings, but expect a plate to be around 13,000 dong.

Finally, there are a few pleasant cafes along Le Loi Street, aka the beach road. Take a break over a Vietnamese coffee.

Hitting up Mui Ne for tourist eateries is always an option, too.

Bum Cute Tra Sua Handmade: Corner of Ton Duc Thang and Vo Van Kiet St,Phan Thiet; open evenings.
Co Loan: May Than St, west of Ton Duc Thang St, Phan Thiet.
Phan Thiet Quan: 35 Pham Van Dong, Phan Thiet; T: (097) 4704 893.
Pho Ba Tuyet: Yersin St, just south of Hai Thuong Lan Ong and Truong Cong Dinh St, Phan Thiet.
Pizzabelle: G12 Vo Van Kiet; T: (012) 1965 8638;;
Sweet Delights: 219 Ton Duc Thang; T: (062) 383 4472;;

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Famous worldwide for its kite-surfing, Mui Ne, just a few hours north of Saigon in Vietnam, has long attracted travellers looking for a bit of down time by the sea. With a wealth of reasonably affordable accommodation, Mui Ne can make for a fun beach break. This guide also covers the nearby provincial capital of Phan Thiet, which is famous for seafood and may appeal to travellers looking for a more unadulterated experience.

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Where are you planning on heading to after Phan Thiet? Here are some spots commonly visited from here, or click here to see a full destination list for Vietnam.

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