Vietnamese fishes living both in freshwater and saltwater

Fish is a nutritious food, prepared in a variety of ways to create delicious dishes that many Vietnamese people like.

In family meals, Vietnamese fishes are often the main dishes. It is because Vietnam has a lot of rivers, lagoons, and the large ocean where supply different types of freshwater and saltwater fishes.

Here are the popular kinds of Vietnamese fishes that you may see when you travel to this beautiful country.

Content menu:
1. Freshwater fishes
2. Saltwater fishes
3. Fishes given to the kings

1. Vietnamese fishes living in freshwater

The system of rivers, ponds and lagoons in Vietnam is very dense. It is a favorable environment for many kinds of freshwater fishes to live and develop.

So, taking advantage of the rich resources of nature, the Vietnamese use a variety of fishes from the rivers, ponds and lagoons for their daily meals.

You can see the following common freshwater fishes.

1.1 Black carp

Black carp (in Vietnamese: Cá trắm đen) with a long body, small head, and the flat tail, is considered to be a high-quality freshwater fish, mainly living in the lower part of the big river; however, it often spawns in the middle areas of large rivers.

The sweet, delicious meat is the most expensive fish among the freshwater fishes.

Back Carp
Back Carp – Photo: internet

1.2. Snakehead fish

Snakehead fish (Cá lóc) is also known as “fruiting fish” (Cá Quả) in the North, “banana fish” (Cá Chuối) in the Central, the South is still called snakehead fish.

This fish has a flattened head, elongated body, yellow-black color, light blue spots. Snakehead fishes live mainly on the bottom of freshwater lakes, rivers, and streams in Vietnam.

Snakehead fish is the type of fish that everyone likes and is chosen to cook soup, grilled fish dishes. It is a good taste with less fat, but rich vitamins.

Snakehead Fish
Snakehead Fish (Ca Loc) – Photo: @nhu_cherie

1.3. Crucian carp

Crucian carps (Cá diếc) live in freshwater areas in Vietnam such as ponds, lakes, rice fields at plains or upland areas. The fish meat is thick, its meat is sweet and very fragrant. The body is shaped like a white flower vase.

Crucian fish is not only a delicious dish, but it also has many rich nutrients. The local people often choose this fish to cook soup or fry it.

However, crucian carps have a lot of bones in their meat, so if you are foreigner tourists visiting Vietnam, you need to note and be careful when tasting this kind of fish.

1.4. Catfish

Catfish (Cá trê) has a brown-yellow color with a flat head and beard, living in lakes, ponds, fields, places with lots of mud, calm water, little light. Catfish is one of good fresh food and has high nutritional value.

Catfish – Photo: @saigonmenu

1.5. Red tilapia

Red tilapia (Cá điêu hồng) has a little tall body in an oval shape, laterally flattened sides, short head, and wide mouth, living mainly in the Mekong Delta.

This type of fish is popular with most of the Vietnamese people because the meat is delicious and sweet. Its price is quite suitable and stable, it is easy to process into many delicious dishes.

1.6. Long goby

Long goby (cá bống kèo) has a small head like a pyramid. Its narrow mouth has many teeth, living in riverside, canals, swamps.

This is a nutritious fish, sweet meat and soft bones, which can be prepared into dishes such as fried dishes, well-cooked with fish sauce, hot pot, …

Lau ca keo (Goby hotpot) is one of the top local food in Mekong Delta in Vietnam for tourists to taste when exploring the South.

Ca Bong Keo
Ca Bong Keo – Photo:@quynhuneu50

1.7. Short goby

Short goby (Cá bống) live only in clean water, streams, ponds, lakes, and canals. Short gobies are concentrated in the Central and Southwest region of Vietnam. That is also very popular with the people here.

Short gobies are easy to prepare, their meat is hard and very fragrant. The delicious and attractive dish from goby must mention as lightly stewed goby with pepper. This dish is the most popular dish that attracts most of the Vietnamese people.

1.8. Perch fish

Perch fish (Cá rô đồng) is well-known for the Vietnamese people in the countryside. Perches live mainly in freshwater.

Their meat is fatty, quite chewy. To increase the fatness of perch meat, many chefs cook them as braised perch, grilled fish and vegetable soup, or deep-fried perch to dipped with lemon sauce, chili, minced garlic.

The flavor of grilled perch is great to help everyone in the family feel extremely delicious.

However, as the same feature of crucian carps (Cá diếc), perch fishes contain a lot of bones in their body. So, be very careful to try eating them if you are visitors from other countries out of Vietnam.

Ca Ro Dong
Ca Ro Dong – Photo: @leohuynh204

1.9. Basa Fish

Basa fishes are a key export product of Vietnam to markets in European countries and the US. Basa fish is a type of catfish, mainly living in the Mekong Delta.

The Vietnamese farmers cultivate them in big freshwater lakes. The most attractive dish made from Basa fish is cooked sour soup or braised fish dish.

1.10. Silver carp

Silver carp (Cá mè trắng) is a kind of freshwater fish belonging to the carp family with a flat body, small scales, elongated body, in the body with very fishy smell glands.

These carps lives in freshwater ponds, lakes, lagoons, and rivers and streams with weak currents. They really like to stay in calm water areas.

Silver carps live in the surface and middle level of water. Their food is small plants. They grow quickly when feeding with plant powders, the time of raising from 10-12 months can get the weight of about 0.5 – 1kg each. Especially, in the Da River in North Vietnam, Ca Me Trang can get up to 15kg.

Despite that, silver carps have very fishy smell glands as mentioned. So, many people do not like this kind of this. Tourists can find silver carps to taste its flavor at the local or Vietnamese restaurants.

Silver Carp- Ca Me Trang
Silver Carp (Ca Me Trang) – Photo: camnangnuoitrong

Freshwater fishes in Vietnam are still judged to be good food with rich nutrients. With the dense level of the lakes, ponds, and rivers, freshwater fishes can be found all around the country.

If you want to try Vietnamese freshwater fishes when traveling in Vietnam, you can visit the Vietnamese restaurants or some local families where the people can cook these fishes for you.

And, always note that freshwater Vietnamese fishes are usually fishy, and their meat contains bones, so you need to note when eating any kind of freshwater fishes.

2. Popular Vietnamese fishes living in saltwater

2.1. Sardine

One of the most popular sea fish loved by the great taste is sardine. This fish has white meat, sweet and aromatic taste. Therefore, they are very common in processing into daily or canned dishes.

In particular, sardines are quite clean fish as they nearly do not absorb the number of toxins in the seaweeds.

Vietnamese fish: Sardine
Sardine – Photo: @camoikhonhukienthuy

Not only delicious,  but sardines are also extremely useful foods for the body. Specifically, the abundant omega – 3 of this fish provides has a great effect on the effective regulation of cholesterol, thus helping to prevent cardiovascular diseases.

Sardines are cooked into many delicious dishes in family meals such as tomato sardines, ginger sardines, fried sardines with fried eggs…

2.2. Mackerel

Surely mackerel is always the name chosen in the list of delicious Vietnamese seafood. The fish meat is thick, sweet, and not fishy to be very easy to eat.

So, they often appear in the menu of families and tourist restaurants such as mackerel with tomato, mackerel salad, mackerel vermicelli, well-cooked mackerel with pepper…

Vietnamese saltwater fish: Mackerel
Mackerel – Photo: @cuc_chipi9x

According to scientists, mackerel is a very good fish for our bodies because they provide large amounts of omega – 3 and selenium. the active ingredient of selenium has a huge role in the production of enzymes that are resistant to mercury poisoning as well as against oxidation in the body.

2.3. Salmon

Salmons are fishes loved by many women. They contain lots of protein and amino acids that help provide enough nutrients without worrying about being obese. Especially salmon fishes contain many vitamins to help bones strong.

Vietnamese fish: Salmon
Salmon – Photo: @bepcahoinhattam

Salmon can be processed into many different dishes. With soft, fat, low-bone meat, it is very suitable for cooking delicious and nutritious seafood for children. Some delicious dishes are made from salmon such as salmon salad, salmon with tomato sauce, salmon sour soup, salmon sushi, fried salmon with fish sauce,…

2.4. Pompano

The next fish with a sweet taste that many people love is the pompano. The pompano is classified into two types, white and black pompano. Both of them have sweet, chewy and fragrant white flesh.

Vietnamese fish of Pompano
Pompano – Photo: @keomut925

On average, 100 grams of white pompano meat will provide a total of 126kcal. Therefore, the addition of white pompano 2 times per week on the menu will help your body be provided with nutrients and healthy.

2.5. Tuna

Tuna is an indispensable dish in the list of delicious seafood in Vietnam. Tuna meat is lean, low fat, delicious, non-toxic.

In particular, this fish has extremely abundant nutrients such as omega – 3 to help prevent cardiovascular diseases, vitamins and minerals good for the brain and skeletal system.

2.6. Herring

Herring is a type of fish with high economic value not only in Vietnam but also as fishing in the world. They are exploited and caught a lot to get meat.

Herring has a bluish skin color, small bones, long and thin stems. They often migrate into large flocks.

Vietnamese fish of Herring
Herring – Photo: @campham.tingo

Herring is not only delicious but also provides many healthy nutrients because they are rich in protein, calcium, magnesium, vitamin B12 and selenium.

One of her favorite dishes in Vietnam made from herring is herring salad. But, this fish has many small bones, so when eating, you need to be careful.

2.7. Anchovies

Anchovies usually swim in large flocks, with very small sizes, so when eating, people can eat their bones because the bones are very soft. 

This type of fish provides a lot of calcium and this is also a clean marine fish, less prone to contaminated by environmental toxins.

Vietnamese fish of Anchovy
Anchovy fishes – Photo: @campham.tingo

Anchovies are also familiar to many people in Vietnam because they are very common and processed into many different delicacies such as stewed anchovies, well-cooked anchovies with pepper.

Typically,  the Vietnamese fish sauce made from anchovies is well-known in the nation as well as many countries in the world.

2.8. Cod

Cod is the common name belonging to the species of Gadus. The codfishes have high economic value and are exploited, consumed and exported in large quantities.

Cod in Vietnam is listed as a specialty that is sold in many local and tourist restaurants, so the list of delicious sea fish cannot be omitted.

Cod fish
Cod fish -Photo: @24hseafood

Cod has white flesh, good strange taste; therefore, a lot of customers choose it to cook for the families. Besides, cod is a good source of phosphorus, niacin and abundant vitamins B12 and many other minerals and vitamins like E, D.

2.9. Stingray fish (ca duoi)

Stingrays belong to a group of sea rays, which are cartilaginous fish associated with sharks.

Stingrays have grey color, a flat body, and a long tail. They are a type of fish very popular with central coastal Vietnam.

The stingrays live at the bottom of the shallow sea along the coast where has a lot of sand. Their color is very similar to the sand, so they often hide by laying quiet or moving very close to the sand in the sea.

Vietnamese fish of ca duoi
Ca duoi (stingray fish) – Photo: @taiduyen_bibi

Grilled stingrays with spices like turmeric, garlic, pepper then add a little salt and cooking oil will be very delicious. To enhance the delicious taste of stingrays, you should be grilled with charcoal. That is a very famous seafood dish in Vietnam.

2.10. Cutlassfish

Cutlassfish (ca ho) has different names such as hairtail, Australia hairtail, or scabbard fish. Cutlass fish is a common marine fish in the saltwater ocean of Central Vietnam. This fish is not only consumed domestically, but it is also exported to many countries.

Vietnamese fish of Ca Ho
Ca Ho – Photo: facebook

The hairtail fish has white and sweet meat with many bones which are concentrated on both sides of the long body. When cooking cutlassfish, the chef often cuts it into short pieces from 4-5 cm.

The popular dishes of cutlassfish are stewed fish with pepper and turmeric, hairtail fish with tomato sauce, fish sour soup, grilled or fried fish with paper.

Hopefully, the above saltwater fishes will help you add more delicious and nutritious dishes to the daily menu, and will be a reference to choose and enjoy the popular seafood dishes when you have holidays in Vietnam. Most of these Vietnamese fishes in the sea can be found at seafood restaurants in Da Nang City, Nha Trang, Halong Bay, or Phu Quoc Island.

3. Five types of Vietnamese fishes given to the kings

These Vietnamese fishes are rare and delicious species that were honored to be present on the banquet tables of ancient kings in Vietnam.

3.1. Green corbel fish (Cá rầm xanh)

Green corbel fish is one of the species of carp that occurs in many rivers in the northern mountainous provinces and is scattered in the North Central region of Vietnam. This is a precious fish that has been recorded in history as an advanced product to the kings for centuries ago.

Ca ram xanh
Ca ram xanh – Photo: internet

This fish has soft bones, sweet meat, especially the greasy eggs which many eaters like to taste. Unlike many common fishes that only taste good when they are large, the flesh of this fish is delicious from the time it is as small as a fingertip until it is big like a jackfruit.

At the moment, people in some villages in the Northern lands of Vietnam still keep growing Ca Dam Xanh in their ponds as a traditional style. In the future, feeding this fish is considered the way to develop the economy for the countryside people.

3.2. Snakehead fish (Cá tràu)

Snakehead is a popular freshwater fish in Vietnam. Most of rivers, lagoons or lakes are the good places for snakehead fish to live.

However, this kind of fish in the limestone areas of Hoa Lu Ninh Binh has an additional beauty in the name, which is the snakehead gift to the king (ca trau tien vua).

Ca Trau: Snakehead fish
Snakehead fish – Photo: google

Legend has it that from the time of King Dinh Tien Hoang (924-979), the Ninh Binh people caught the good snakehead fishes in nature as a precious product to offer to the Emperor.

“Ca Trau Tien Vua”  have another name of hill-climbing fish, because they are very strong, able to crawl on rocks to climb to higher points, such as crevices in the middle of hills, lakes in mountains, even sources of water along the cliffs.

Perhaps due to the characteristics of the habitat environment, the meat of this fish is very different from normal ones, it very fragrant.

At present, when the tourists travel to visit Ninh Binh including Tam Coc, Bich Dong, Hoa Lu, they can taste these fishes. It is because they are preserved and widely cultivated in Ninh Binh. They have become a culinary specialty imbued with the cultural history of the ancient land of Hoa Lu.

3.3. Tong Truong perch fish (Cá rô Tổng Trường)

Tong Truong perch fish belongs to the types of perch, which lives in the cave environment submerged in Hoa Lu, Ninh Binh. This is called Tong Truong perch because this species was discovered in the flooded cave area of ​​Tong Truong Yen, Hoa Lu district, Ninh Binh province, Vietnam.

Ca Ro Dong
Ca Ro Dong – Photo: @leohuynh204

They are morphologically similar to ricefield perches, but due to their long life in the swamp and caves in Hoa Lu, there are some small variations in color.

Perch fish of Tong Tuong has fatty, aromatic, chewy and delicious meat, so it was considered a culinary specialty of Ninh Binh more than 1,000 years ago. Together with snakehead fish, Tong Truong perch is the famous fish couple giving to the kings during Dinh and Tien Le dynasties.

For many years, the Research Institute for Aquaculture One has officially introduced the Tong Truong perch and snakehead fish in Ninh Binh as the products to the conservation and development program to serve the local and the travelers.

3.4. Semilabeo notabilis (Cá anh vũ)

Semilabeo notabilis (Cá anh vũ) is a species of carp fish found in freshwater lakes, rivers, and streams in Vietnam.

According to history, cá anh vũ was used to advance to the king from the third Hung King period (before the beginning century). This fish distributed in major rivers in mountainous provinces of Nothern Vietnam such as the Da River, the Thao River, the Chay River, the Lo River, the Gam River.

Ca Anh Vu
Ca anh vu – Photo: internet

They have a distinctive feature that is the mouth flaring out like a pig’s nose, which creates very thick and big lips. The lips are also the best part of Anh Vu fish because they are made from cartilage, creating a crispy feeling when chewing.

The fish meat is white and firm, and it has a particularly delicious flavor. According to popular belief, the meat of this fish is cool, so it can cure some heat-treating diseases.

Today, due to overfishing, this fish is almost extinct in the wild. However, they have been successfully bred in Vietnam. Despite being artificially raised, the meat of Anh Vu fish is still very expensive, about 700,000VND to 1 million VND  per kg. It is because farming is very complicated and expensive. One fish takes over 2 years to reach the weight of the meat.

3.5. Devil catfish (Cá chiên)

Devil catfish (Cá chiên or Chien fish), a type of catfish distributed mainly in the rivers in the mountainous region of Nothern Vietnam, is often dubbed the lord of the river. It is because of its ferocious and bloodthirsty nature,  and it can reach the size of 70 – 80kg adulthood. It eats all aquatic species smaller than it, even attacking humans when threatened.

Ca Chien Song Da
Ca Chien Song Da – Photo: casongda

The meat of the devil catfish is delicious, but this fish is more famous for its large, thick stomach like a pig’s stomach, crunchy and lumpy, a specialty the stomach used to give to the Vietnamese kings.

Although Chien fish is available in many places, this fish at the Da river still has the greatest taste. Like many other special fishes, although they have been less in the wild, Cá chiên has been artificially grown in some localities in North Vietnam.

In conclusion

With Vietnamese fishes living in freshwater and seawater are easy to find and taste their flavor. You can also try eating these fishes cooked and served in seafood restaurants or a local family.

But, 5 types of fishes that used to be given to the Vietnamese kings are not very common. So, if you want to try tasting them when you visit Vietnam, you have a local person check these rare fishes available in advance. And, please know that they are not cheap.

When you taste any fishes in Vietnam, please be careful with their fishy taste and bones in the body.

I hope you can find a different taste to know more about the Vietnamese culinary to enrich your journeys.

Will you travel to Vietnam to taste one of these fishes?

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    About the author

    The editorial staff of Vietnamdrive is a team of travel experts managed by Mr. Thom who has worked in tourism for 14 years. Trusted by thousands of tourists from all over the world.