A Lizard Tale (With Recipe)

“Lizard curry,” Darling Man announces, seemingly apropos of nothing.

I snigger.

We are in Bookafe in Quy Nhon, a seaside town on Vietnam’s south-central coast. We have been talking about lizards since before the train started pulling out of Ho Chi Minh City station, when a local guy told us it was the local food specialty of Phu Yen, the neighbouring province to Quy Nhon.

“You want the recipe?” Darling Man asks, looking up from the “How To Raise Dong Lizards” book he snagged from the rack at the entrance to the cafe. It seems fate really wants us to track down the local lizards, which are apparently best served in the form of “paste”. But this book has a number of other lizard dining options.

A lizard tale

“YES, give me the recipe. I’m going to write it down,” I say.

Darling Man begins, speaking clearly and seriously as he concentrates on his translation.

1 kg of dong lizard
1 small bowl of oil or pork fat
1 dry coconut
1 fresh coconut
3 cloves of garlic
1 sachet of curry powder
3 spoons of curry oil
1 kg of potato
(For some reason this everyday addition to the lizard curry recipe sends my into paroxysms of laughter.)
1 kg of onion
50 g shallots
5 stalks of lemongrass, cut into short lengths
chilli, salt, pepper and sugar to taste
fresh noodles or bánh mì (baguettes)


Peel the skin off the dong lizards and chop into small pieces.
Heat the pan with the oil or fat.
Brown the chopped onion and garlic.
Add the dong lizard meat, the curry powder and the lemongrass and stir until the meat is cooked.
Remove the dong lizard meat mix from the pan, draining the excess oil, and put it into a fresh pan.
Add the water from the fresh coconut.
Add the cubed potato and curry oil.
Simmer until the potato is tender.
Add chilli, salt, pepper and sugar to taste.
Add the coconut milk (from the dry coconut) and bring to the boil.
Serve with fresh bánh mì (baguettes) or rice noodles.

I finish transcribing and I just can’t stop laughing. Who thinks up this stuff?

We agree that we simply must find lizard on a menu somewhere in Phu Yen the next day.

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10 years ago

By: Barbara

A career girl who dropped out, traveled, found love, and never got around to going home again. Now wrangling a cross-cultural relationship and two third culture kids.


  1. budget jan says:

    Just as well I did not have this recipe when walking through the bush on Maggie the other day, or I may have been tempted. Substituting lamb 🙂
    budget jan recently posted..Florence Bay on Magnetic Island

  2. Good to know!! I miss Vietnamese food… Maybe not dong lizard curry, specifically…!
    Meryl @ Expat Travels recently posted..No Nakey Bums in the Restaurant

  3. […] As our overriding mission was to track down the best local foods in four central Vietnamese towns, Darling Man naturally asked our visitor what the local Phu Yen specialty was. The answer: dông lizard. […]

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