Four unique dishes of the Central Highlands

Four unique dishes of the Central Highlands

Dak Lak Gia Lai - Kon Tum 15.07.2021

The Central Highlands is the “home” to majestic plateaus, which preserves the most unique regional cultural features of the country. Among those features, cuisine also plays an important role in attracting tourists to this land.

Translated by nguyendo

Written by giangvx

Can Wine

Can Wine (Cần Wine or Tube Wine) is considered as an official drink in festivals and New Year's Days of ethnic minorities in the Central Highlands. Drinking Can Wine has become a unique cultural feature of this land.


Can Wine is stored in crockery jars. Photo: eva

It is said that the Hedgehog God (a respectful way of calling the forest hedgehog - which is considered as the sacred animal in the regional culture) taught the people here how to make Can Wine. Therefore, they have the custom of inviting Giang (Heaven) and Hedgehog God before drinking wine.

Each region in the Central Highlands has its own recipes for making Can Wine, but the main ingredients include rice, corn, cassava, coix seed and millet. The wine must be kept in a crockery jar. The most important ingredient of Can Wine is the yeast, which is made from the leaves and roots of forest trees. The leaves and roots of some specific plants are pounded and then dried in the sun, after which the locals will use this kind of yeast within the whole year.


Can wine is usually made by women because it needs meticulousness. Photo: baogialai

First, soak corn and potatoes within 1-2 days. Next, wash and mix them with rice hulls and then cook them with yeast. Depending on each ethnic group, there will be different ways of brewing wine. For example, the Xo - Dang people usually keep the cooked corn and potatoes in a bamboo basket for about 4 days before putting them in the jar, while the E-de people put them into the jar right after mixing the ingredients. The common feature in brewing wine of these ethnic groups is to cover the bottom of the jar with a layer of rice hulls, a layer of cooked ingredients, and then a layer of rice hulls to prevent the residue of the ingredients from running into the tube when they drink Can Wine.

Another unique feature of Can Wine is that it is not distilled by heat, but buried deep underground. They often choose dry land and bury the jars in about 100 days. For some types of corn or cassava wine, the time should be shorter as a long period of time can lead to acidity.


The wine is enjoyed through a tube, which is called “Can” in Vietnamese. Photo: @hientran3293


The number of tubes is based on the tradition of each ethnic group.

It is quite complicated to enjoy Can Wine. A tube called “Can'' is the tool used to drink this kind of wine. “Can” is made of small bamboo tubes with a length of 1.2 - 1.5m and empty cores. There are three or four small holes at the end of the tube to filter the residue of ingredients in the jar. The number of tubes depends on the custom of each ethnic group, for example, the E-de people use one tube, while the Ba Na and Hre use many tubes for one jar. After the host takes a sip of the wine, the guests will drink together. Can Wine is not as strong as common types of wine, but light and sweet, bringing a feeling of relaxation when you drink it.


Can Wine appears not only in daily life but also in cultural festivals of the Central Highlands. Photo: @lillyadiva

Associated with the strong Can Wine is the sound of gongs in “the sun and wind of the Central Highlands”, or the flickering fire in the night of the wild mountains and forests, which will definitely make you excited.

Lam Rice (Rice cooked in bamboo tubes)

Lam Rice is one of the specialties of the Central Highlands that you should try. Unlike Lam Rice in the Northwest of Vietnam, the one in the Central Highlands has a better flavor thanks to the forest leaves.


Lam Rice is also one of the specialties of the Central Highlands. Photo:

To make Lam Rice with the style of the Central Highlands, you need to prepare bamboo tubes and sticky rice. The rice and fragrant leaves are soaked together from the previous night, then they are put into the bamboo tubes. Next, the locals pour cool spring water into the tube, cover the end of it with banana leaves and start grilling on a burning charcoal stove.

Lam Rice is served with sesame salt, grilled chicken or wild boar. You can feel the aroma of sticky rice mixed with the fragrant forest leaves when enjoying it. Each grain of rice is firm but glutinous. Even when you eat Lam Rice without any side dish, you can still feel its very unique flavor.


Lam Rice is often enjoyed with sesame salt or grilled game meat. Photo: @phuong_vo_92

Leaf Salad

Leaf salad, with 70 different types of forest leaves, has become a unique dish of the Central Highlands. A special feature is that this dish will include some types of leaves that are only found in the Central Highlands (such as such as black plum leaves, vernonia amygdalina leaves, brindle berry leaves, passion-flower leaves, etc.) and some other popular leaves (such as fig leaves, Chinese fever vine leaves, spring onion, basil, mustard green, etc.).


A tray of leaf salad can have up to 70 different types of leaves. Photo:

The dipping sauce is a highlight of the dish. Firstly, fermented glutinous rice, dried shrimp, bacon, satay paste and other spices are pureed altogether. Next, put the mixture in a pan and heat it up into a thick and eye-catching yellow paste.


Leaf salad is served with bacon, shrimps, pork rind, and characteristic yellow dipping sauce. Photo: vovdulich

The indispensable side dishes include thinly sliced boiled bacon, shrimp and pork rind. All of them are placed in the middle of the leaf salad tray, next to a plate of unrefined sea salt and green chili. You must enjoy the dish leisurely by rolling the leaves slowly. First, take the largest leaf (such as mustard green or fig leaf) and roll it into a funnel shape, then add smaller leaves inside. On average, it is advised that each roll should use at least 10 types of leaves. Next, add boiled bacon, pork rind and roasted peanuts into the roll, then sprinkle some dipping sauce on and enjoy it. The acrid taste from the leaves, the greasy pork bacon and sour dipping sauce create an impressive flavor.

The dish made from cicadas

This is a unique dish that you will likely only be to find in the Central Highlands of Vietnam. You can only try this dish in the summer as this is the season of cicadas. The cicadas used to make the dish are the ones that are molting to step into the adult stage. The locals often choose male cicadas as its meat is more fragrant and firmer.


The dish is made from cicadas in the Central Highlands. Photo: vnexpress

The cicadas are cut off wings, legs and intestines, then stuffed with roasted peanuts in the abdomen. Season the cicadas with some spices (such as fish sauce, monosodium glutamate, shallots, chili peppers, and garlic) and deep-fry them until their colour turns light golden. The fried cicadas are crispy with a greasy taste. Together with the richness of peanuts and spiciness from chili peppers, the dish makes anyone who has tasted it once will remember forever.

Coming to the Central Highlands, you can not only admire the majestic mountains and forests, but also have the opportunity to enjoy the unique dishes that are perhaps only found here. This is also an experience that you may remember forever.