Pia is a specialty food of Son La people, it can be eaten as a side dish or dipping sauce. Main ingredients of this dish are parts of herbivorous animals (buffalo, cow, goat, etc.). Pia from goat and Pia from cow are the most popular. This dish is so popular that it is served at most of the restaurants in Son La. Along Highway 6 from Chau Moc to Chau Thuan, there are a lot of Pia restaurants with signs “Cow Pia, Goat Pia” or “Coming to Son La, do not miss trying Pia”, or simply “Pia”.
There are at least 10 ingredients to cook Pia from cow: cow blood pudding, cow cartilage, cow tail, beef, internal organs of a cow such as guts, stomach, liver, etc. However, the most important ingredient is poop in cow intestine. Visitors do not know about poop in Pia until the cook or local people let them know because Pia has great flavor and fragrant. “Pia” means poop in the language of Thai ethnic group. That is the reason why they call this dish “Pia”. Thai people are very careful to get poop out right after they kill the cow. Cape yellowood seed (Mac khen) – a familiar spice in Highlands of Vietnam could not be missed to make Pia dish have typical taste and smell. Cow gallbladder and bitter leaves are used to make the dish a little bitter.
Beef bone is cooked in water on high heat for many hours until the broth achieves richness and greasiness the cook desires. After that all of the other ingredients are added and cooked until the broth turns viscous. Pia is served in bowl and decorated with some herbs. According to most visitors, Pia is not delicious for the first time because it has strange taste and poop is used as the key ingredient. However, visitors could not forget its unique taste, some would like to eat more and have fallen in love with it.