A Vietnamese folk song says:
“Thap Muoi đẹp nhất bông sen,
Việt Nam đẹp nhất có tên Bác Hồ.”
(“Lotus flower is the most beautiful in Thap Muoi,
Name of Ho Chi Minh is the most beautiful in Vietnam.”
The folk song is about the beauty of Dong Thap province with lots of lotuses. The province is also famous for various flavorful dishes such as Grilled snakehead wrapped in young lotus leaves, Snail hung in kitchen, Roasted mouse, Snake sausage, Sa Giang shrimp crackers, Sa Dec clear rice noodle soup, Lai Vung fermented pork roll, etc. Grilled snakehead wrapped in young lotus leaves or Ca loc nuong trui cuon la sen non is a specialty dish which visitors could not miss in Dong Thap. It is a wonderful blend of flavors and spices. Wrapping smelling and tender white grilled snakehead meat in crunchy young lotus leaves, dipping in sweet-sour tamarind fish sauce and tuck in, dinner can feel the soul of the countryside of Dong Thap.
The outstanding taste of the food comes from great ingredients and unique method of cooking. Main ingredients of Ca loc nuong trui cuon la sen non are snakehead which is caught in the wild (rice paddies, lakes, swamps, rivers, channels) and young lotus leaves. The snakehead should be big and fresh. It is prepared, washed with unrefined salt, and drained off. Except for the bitter galangal, the fish guts are retained. Before grilling the fish, the cook put a lemongrass stalk through it to remove fishy odor and add flavor as well as smell to the grilled fish. Dong Thap people grill snakehead in a very special way. They do not grill the fish on charcoal but with rice straws. The grilled fish meat must be well-done and tender inside, not too dry, not too burnt outside and very fragrant. The cook removes dust and burnt parts of the grilled snakehead, pour green onion oil and sprinkle some crushed peanuts onto it.
The grilled snakehead is served on a plate with young lotus leaves, various vegetables, and herbs. The young lotus leaf which is curled and unrolling out into a disc is the best one to eat with grilled snakehead with rice straws. The plate is decorated with some beautiful lotus flowers. The dipping sauce is an important part of this specialty. The dip is made from fish sauce, ripe tamarind, garlic, chili pepper so that it has sweet, salty, sour and hot tastes and viscous texture.
A trip to Dong Thap could not complete without trying Grilled snakehead wrapped in young lotus leaves. The dish is served at most of the restaurant in Dong Thap – the land of lotus ponds.
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