Photo: A cheap lunch at Dai Hang.

Eat and meet

Ly Son’s main industry is fishing and growing garlic, shallots and onion so it should come as no surprise that dishes feature both.

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Vietnamese from all over the country visit Ly Son to indulge in cheap fresh seafood and the famed garlic, which isn’t as pungent and hot as you’d expect. They are small and rather mild, and believed to have all sorts of good medicinal qualities. Highly prized is the “lonely garlic” which only has one clove. To give you an idea, vendors were selling regular garlic for 100,000 dong per kilogram, slightly better garlic that had just three cloves per bulb were 120,000 dong per kilo. This one-clove garlic costs 800,000 dong a kilogram.

Have a hot pot—you've earned it.

Have a hot pot—you've earned it. Photo: Cindy Fan

Garlic salad is a local dish where the special garlic is boiled or steamed, tossed in a dressing and topped with peanuts. While a far more delicate flavour than normal garlic, you probably won’t be French kissing your partner for a while.

Seafood prepared the way you like, with or without garlic, is the highlight. One street back from the pier, small eateries are a quick fix for lunch and those bustling with Vietnamese tourists is always a good sign. The shop part of Nha Nghi Dai Hang motel was packed so we squeezed in and enjoyed stir-fried squid, garlicky fried morning glory and rice for a whopping 65,000 dong (US$3). Portions are designed for eating family style.

The staple (other than garlic).

The staple (other than garlic). Photo: Cindy Fan

For dinner, there are more formal establishments—we heard Thuy Son restaurant is a favourite. We loved the outdoor evening market, two restaurants taking over a street with wooden tables and chairs in a laneway, all the seafood on display and piled up in buckets. The oddly shaped Huynh De crab, better known in the animal kingdom as Ranina ranina, is a meaty speciality—look for the freaky red crab with a broad flat body. Ask the price by weight, make your selection, watch them weigh it on the scale and note the amount.

Prices fluctuate, however, to give you an idea, clams were 70,000 dong per kilogram, squid was 350,000 dong per kilogram. Then pick how you want it prepared, whether barbecue, fried, steamed or most popularly, in a hot pot (lau). We had a delicious hot pot with one whole mu do red fish and all the fixings (noodles, vegetables, herbs), washed down with cold cans of Dung Quat, Quang Ngai province’s lager beer “produced by technology of Branik, Czech Republic”. We’re still pinching ourselves over the total bill, a feast for two only cost 210,000 dong.

Wrapped up thrown-downs: banh it la gai.

Wrapped up thrown-downs: banh it la gai. Photo: Cindy Fan

Finally, for a snack on the go, try another Ly Son speciality banh it la gai, a kind of sticky rice cake made with rice flour, gai leaves and filled with ground green bean or coconut. Look for the baskets of packages wrapped in banana leaf.

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Popular attractions in Ly Son Island

A selection of some of our favourite sights and activities around Ly Son Island.

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Where to next?

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

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