Cha Fermented Shrimp Paste (or Mam Tom Cha) in Go Cong district, Tien Giang province is a specialty food in Mekong Delta. It was a dish paid tribute to Vietnamese royal families at the beginning of 19th century.
In Go Cong, there are about 20 Cha Fermented Shrimp Paste factories, each has its own recipe to make this dish. The products are not enough to sell because there are not enough wild shrimps and it takes time, hard work, patience, and experience to make Cha Fermented Shrimp Paste. Good Mam Tom Cha must be light red and sweet-tasty. The shrimps must be caught in the wild, fresh and the same types and have lots of roes, the sunlight must be strong, the jar of Mam Tom Cha must be clean and covered tightly, spices must be enough. Otherwise, Mam Tom Cha will not be as tasty and melling as the cook desires.
Shrimps are washed, seasoninged, and kneaded. The well-kneaded shrimps are rubbed strongly on a flat basket to remove the shells. The shrimp flesh is dried under the sun for a few days. Then it is filtered with a sieve, seasoninged, dried under the sun for about 10 days, then left at room temperature for about 15 days. Mam Tom Cha must be thickened, well-kneaded, smooth, light red and smelling. From 3 kg of wild shrimps, they make 1 kg of Cha Fermented Shrimp Paste.
The best way to eat Mam Tom Cha is eating with thin boiled pig armpits slices, rice noodles, vegetables (green bananas, star-fruits, cucumbers) and herbs (culantro). Mam Tom Cha is eaten as a sauce. The reason they used pig armpits is that they have more fat content, and tend to be much much, much juicier than normal lean pork shoulders. Put a little white, tender, a little chewy rice noodles into a bowl, then fresh and aromatic vegetables, herbs, then pink boiled pork slice. At last, top the bowl with Mam Tom Cha which mix all of the others to create an outstandingly flavorful dish which melt in dinner’s mouth. Local people love to drink some Go Den wine while eating this amazing dish. If you have a chance to visit Go Cong, do not miss trying this local culture, immerse yourself in the interesting life in Mekong Delta.
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