Lau Tha hot pot – a specialty food of Phan Thiet

Hot pot is a popular dish in Vietnam as well as many countries in the world. In Vietnam, hot pot is a favorite of many people thanks to its comfort, great taste, rich nutrition. It is a good choice on both cold days or hot days. It can be served as a daily meal or a part of a feast at important events such as wedding, death anniversary. There are tens of Vietnamese hot pot recipes. Some of famous hot pots are U Minh hot pot with fermented fish, Ninh Binh hot pot with goat, Hot pot with siamese mud carp and Sesbania sesban flower, Hot pot with mudskipper, Hot pot with eel and fermented steamed rice, Hot pot with duck and fermented tofu.

In the coastal Phan Thiet city, there is a dedicated and complex hot pot which anyone should not miss on his trip to the city. It is Lẩu thả or Lau Tha hot pot – a specialty food of Phan Thiet. The dish is not only delicious, healthy but also nice-looking. The dish is skillfully and beautifully decorated, the decoration and recipe reflect the elegance and sophistication of local people.

Lau tha hot pot includes the broth, dipping sauce, rice noodles, rice paper, grilled girdle sesame rice cake, vegetables (salad, cucumber, morning glory, star-fruit, banana blossom), herbs, fish, boiled pork belly strips, fried egg strips.

Unlike most of the Vietnamese hot pots, the broth is of Lau tha viscous. The broth is made from tomato, shrimp julienne, and pork julienne. Tomato makes the broth viscous and red. The broth is kept simmering in a medium terracotta pot which is put on charcoal.

The dipping sauce is made from tamarind, garlic, toasted peanuts, ripe chili pepper, apple banana, Phan Thiet fish sauce which is made from anchovy. All of the ingredients are mixed, ground into a smooth, viscous, greasy, buttery, rich and fragrant sauce.

Silverside (Cá suốt), white sardine (cá mai), whitings (cá đục) which are specialty fishes of Phan Thiet are used as the main ingredients for Lau tha hot pot. White sardine is the best choice among these fishes. They must choose freshly-caught fishes, mix the fish with lime juice, use a sharp knife to remove all of the bones and cut the flesh into thin slices which are drained off, marinated with minced garlic, chili pepper, and ginger juice.

Boil pork belly, fry eggs, and cut both of them into thin julienne strips. The boiled pork belly should not be overcooked so that it is tender, sweet-tasty. To prepare vegetables, slice star-fruits, julienne cucumber, shred morning glory, shred banana blossom.

The last step which not less important than the others is decorating, serving up the dish. They usually use flat bamboo baskets to arrange parts of the hot pot. As mentioned above, the broth is served in a medium terracotta pot which is put on charcoal. Boiled pork belly strips, fried egg strips, and vegetables are put in outer bracks of banana blossom which are arranged on the largest flat bamboo basket covered with some banana leaves so that they make a beautiful colorful flower. Fish is put in a plate which is arranged in the middle of banana blossom petals and looks like a nectar of the flower. Or the fish can be arranged separately on another flat basket. Rice noodles, rice paper, grilled girdle sesame rice cake and dipping sauce are arranged on baskets which are put around the biggest flat basket. They also make flowers from tomato and onion to decorate the hot pot. The dish looks colorful and attractive with green banana leaves, red broth, yellow fried egg, green vegetables and herbs, pink pork belly, white noodles and fish flesh, pink-red outer bracks of banana blossom.

Lau tha hot pot contains itself deep philosophy and meaningful combination of ingredients in Vietnamese cuisine. According to the five elements philosophy in Buddhism, a meal should have five colors, five tastes and satisfy five senses each of which corresponds to each element of five elements including Metal, Wood, Water, Fire, Earth. Such meal gives people enough energy and nutrients to grow and develop.  Five colors are white, green, yellow, red and black. Five tastes are sweet, sour, salty, tart, hot tastes. Five senses are taste, sight, smell, touch, and sound. The dish should have great taste, good-looking, sweet fragrance, and attractive sounds while cooking and eating. Lau tha hot pot meets all of the above requirements.

Put vegetables, herbs, pork belly, egg, fish, grilled girdle sesame rice cake into a bowl, then pour the broth into the bowl, and eat with dipping sauce. Or diner can use rice paper to wrap vegetables, herbs, pork belly, egg, fish, grilled girdle sesame rice cake, dip in the sauce and tuck in.

Lau tha hot pot is an authentic Vietnamese dish which you should not miss in Phan Thiet. It is a wonderful blend of all ingredients and worth your try.

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