A Vietnamese song says:
“Gió đưa gió đẩy về rẫy ăn còng/ Về sông ăn cá về đồng ăn dưa”
(Gone with the wind, come back to the field to eat fiddler crabs/Come back to the river to eat fishes, come back to the field to eat cucumbers”)
The song is about specialty foods in Mekong Delta, including fiddler crabs. There are many types of fiddler crab in Go Cong district in Tien Giang province is because it is next to the ocean. Go Cong is famous for Fermented shedder fiddler crab (or Mắm Còng lột) – a specialty food of the district as well as the entire Mekong Delta. Fermented shedder fiddler crab could be eaten with vegetables, herbs, green mango, pineapple, boiled pork belly slices with steamed rice. They also eat the dish with rice noodles, rice paper instead of steamed rice. Mam cong lot is distinctively rich, tasty, sour, hot, salty, and smelling.
The harvesting season of shedder fiddler crab is in May. Local people catch them along banks of rivers and channels. Tender shedder fiddler crab is a great ingredient to make lots of delicious dishes: the crispy fried shedder fiddler crab, the sweet and sour roasted shedder fiddler crab with tamarind. According to local people, in the past, there were many shedder fiddler crabs and they could not eat all of them right away so that their ancestors created the recipe of Fermented shedder fiddler crab which could be stored for a few months. Ms. Nam Sa – one of the oldest and the most famous Mam cong lot maker told us: “Every year at the Worm Killing Festival (on May 5th of the lunar calendar) thousands of shedder fiddler crabs had convened in dry ponds and grown out of their shells since I was young. They had called the day Festival of shedder fiddler crabs”.
Shedder fiddler crabs are washed and kneaded with garlic and chili pepper. The ratio is an easy one to remember: 10 bowls of crabs per 1 bowl of garlic and chili pepper. The mixture is put into a jar, then a little wine is added to the jar to make the dish smell and taste better. Dry the jar under the sun for 3 days, then separate the broth and the fiddler crabs, dry the broth until thickened, mix the crabs with the thickened broth. Good Mam cong lot has black and strong-smelling broth. Mam cong lot is not too salty like other kinds of Vietnamese fermented dishes. The food can be store until 3 months in a freezer. To eat, mix Mam cong lot with lime juice, pineapple, sugar, garlic, and chili pepper. The mixture is usually eaten with steamed rice, vegetables and herbs. Instead of steamed rice, dinner can eat with rice paper and rice noodles. Fermented shedder fiddler crab has strange, delicious taste and fragrant which impress people for the first time. Mam cong lot is used to make delicious dipping sauce which is favorite of many people.
Mam cong lot is the pride of Go Cong people, it is considered as the most valuable gift from Nature and their ancestors. Under Nguyen Dynasty, Mam cong lot was paid tribute to Nguyen Lords and the royal families. This kind of food has spread to around Hue – the old kingdom of Vietnam by Tu Du Queen – mother of Tu Duc King. In recent days, Mam cong lot has been popular around Vietnam and other countries. More and more foreigners know about this Fermented dish. A jar of Mam cong lot is a great gift to bring home from a trip to Go Cong, Tien Giang, Mekong Delta.
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Specialty foods in Tien Giang – Part 2