Am porridge (Chao am) is a unique food in Tra Vinh province in Mekong Delta region of Vietnam. Firstly, the porridge impresses people with its strange name. “Chao” means porridge, “am” means “obsess/obsession” in Vietnamese. It has been said that hard to please mother in law in Tra Vinh usually asked her future daughter in law to cook porridge with snakehead to test her before the wedding. Porridge with snakehead had obsessed many young brides in Tra Vinh. That was the reason they call the porridge Chao am.
Chao am has been sold in Chau Thanh market in Tra Vinh over 30 years ago. The most famous Chao am stall in the market is owned by Mrs. Nam Biet. In recent days, there are not less than 10 stalls which serve Chao am in the market.
It needs hard-working to cook Chao am. The first step is choosing snakehead, the fish must be fresh and big. Remove all fins and scales, use salt to remove odor and mucus, cut the fish into chunks, boil them, remove all of the bones, stir-fry snakehead flesh with garlic and green onion. The broth cooked with the fish is used to cook porridge. Add rice, grilled shallots, dried shrimps, grilled dried squid to enhance its flavors. To make the porridge yellow, they add beaten snakehead eggs to it. The dipping sauce which is made by stirring fermented shrimp paste, lime, sugar, red small hot chili pepper until bubbles appear is an important part of the dish.
To eat, dinner mixes Chao am with veggies (pigweed, shredded banana blossom, onion, coriander, poached bean sprouts), sesame girdle cake, top Chao am with crushed peanuts and ground black pepper. Then eat the dish with the dipping sauce. A portion of Chao am in Tra Vinh can fill and warm your empty stomach. Chao am – one of the specialty foods of Tra Vinh is worth a try on your trip to Tra Vinh province.