Dong Thap – the kingdom of lotus is well-known for beautiful lotus fields, Tram Chim National Park, flood season with numerous local products. Coming to this province, do not miss specialty foods which have won the hearts of most of the travelers and visitors. What to eat in Dong Thap? I answer the question right now.
Grilled chicken in clay (Ga nuong dat set) is a specialty food which travelers should not miss in Dong Thap province. To make Ga nuong dat set, Dong Thap people choose a garden chicken which meat is crunchier and firmer than farmed chicken. Kill the chicken, coagulate its blood in order to have blood pudding make a hole at asshole of the chicken, carefully get the organs of the chicken out. Prepare and marinate the organs, fill the chicken with blood pudding, marinated organs, lime leaves and minced lemongrass which remove the chicken odor. After marinating the chicken, wrap it in lotus leaves or banana leaves, then a layer of clay.
The chicken in clay is grilled on a fire from very dry wood and rice straws for 2 hours. The sticky layer of clay must turn dry and hard. Unwrap the chicken, its leathers are removed easily with the clay, the shining yellow skin of the chicken is revealed and a great smell spreads in the air. The chicken is shredded, mixed with salt, ground pepper, lime juice and Vietnamese mint. The dish is a little crunchy, tenter, a little salty, a little sour and a little hot. I am sure that it can satisfy the most difficult diners.
Sa Dec is a provincial city of Dong Thap province. Maybe the dish is originated in Sa Dec so that they call the dish Sa Dec grilled duck. In Dong Thap, each cook has its own recipe for making Sa Dec grilled duck. However, most Sa Dec grilled duck recipes impress diners with the greasy, tender, a little chewy duck meat, the crispy duck skin, and the typical sweet smell. The plumpy grilled duck with yellow-brown, shining skin attract diners at the first look. Farmed duck on rice fields in Dong Thap have firm, tender and a little chewy meat is a key to delicious Grilled duck dishes in this province.
Besides the traditional Sa Dec grilled duck, Dong Thap also has Sa Dec Grilled duck with green pepper, Sa Dec Grilled duck with honey, Sa Dec Grilled duck with fermented tofu, Sa Dec Grilled duck in clay, Sa Dec Grilled duck with galangal, etc.
In Cao Lanh, Dong Thap, plumpy mouse in rice fields with sweet-tasty and smelling meat is a perfect ingredient for the grilled mouse in terracotta jar.
The mice are prepared (guts, skin, claws are removed), marinated with spices for 15 minutes, then hung at the top of a terracotta jar using special hangers. The number of mice which could be grilled at the same time depends on the size of the jar. They make a fire from straws in the jar to grill these mice for 1 hour. The cook must continuously cover the mice with fat/oil, spices, change the side of the mice while grilling. The mouse turns crispy outside and tender, a little chewy inside. The grilled mouse is served hot with a mixture of salt, ground pepper, lime juice, veggies including green banana, tomato, cucumber and Vietnamese mint.
In flood season, big and plumpy rainbow water snake and snakes of Colubridae family with very sweet-tasty and tender meat are caught and used to cook a specialty food which is call Snake sausage (Doi ran). The snakes are burned on fired or poached in boiling water in order to remove their scales. Remove the snake organs and peel the skin. The cook must keep the whole skin. Snake meat is ground, marinated with spices then used to fill the whole skin until the skin looks full and plumpy. Use ropes to tie two ends of the skin and tie the snake sausage into chunks. Snake sausage can be steamed or grilled, fried, then served with various herbs. The tender meat, the crunchy snake skin, the typical taste and smell of snake can satisfy the most difficult diners.
The first fermented pork (Nem chua Lai Vung) was made by Mrs. Tu Man who lived in Tan Khanh hamlet, Tan Thanh commune, Lai Vung district, Dong Thap province. Main ingredients for Nem chua Lai Vung are lean pork, pork skin, Erythrina orientalis leaf (or Otaheite gooseberry leaf), banana leaf. Mix the ground lean pork, shredded pork skin, black pepper, chili pepper. Wrap each piece of the mixture in Erythrina orientalis leaves (or Otaheite gooseberry leaves), then banana leaves into a cube. Leave the cube for 3-4 days, the fermented pork is ready.
Unwrap the banana leaves, the shining pink-red fermented pork piece attracts you at the first look. The food has sweet, sour, salt, hot tastes a. The perfect mix of tender meat and crunchy skin makes the food outstandingly tasty. Nem chua Lai Vung can be eaten raw as a snack or served with steamed rice, rice noodles or plain bread.
From a food of rural Dong Thap, Bi mam has become a famous specialty food of the province thanks to distinct taste. The food is usually served with sliced boiled pork belly, vegetables, herbs, steamed rice (or rice noodle, plain bread).
Fermented pork skin is made from lean pork, pork skin, galangal, sugar, garlic, chili pepper, toasted rice powder (Thinh gao), Erythrina orientalis leaf, Musa balbisiana leaf. Although they don’t use fish sauce to make this food, it has a good smell like fish sauce.
Except for the leaves which are used to wrap, all of the above ingredients are prepared, mixed and wrapped in Erythrina orientalis leaf, then Musa balbisiana leaf. Left for 3-4 days, the Fermented pork skin is ready to eat and can be store for a half of month. Bi mam tastes crunchy and tender at the same time so that it makes diner eat more and more. The food has enough 4 tastes: sweet, sour, salty, hot tastes which satisfy most of the Vietnamese people.
They usually cook Braised fermented fish from Fermented Snakeskin gourami. Cook the Mam with water until tender, use a filter to retain the first extract from Mam. Coconut water adds a light sweetness to the extract. Continue cooking the remaining after filtering with water to have the second extract from Mam. Add chili pepper, lemongrass, salt, sugar to the second extract. Pork belly, Anabas testudineus, snakehead, shrimp are added into the pot of Braised fermented fish and cooked until well-done. Lastly, add the first extract. Water lily stem is washed, peeled, cut into chunks, drained off.
It is better to enjoy Bong sung mam kho right after cooking. The typical smell spreads in the air and makes diners mouth-watering. Dip juicy, airy, crunchy water lily stem chunks in the broth of the Braised fermented fish and tuck in. In addition, the flavorful broth plays off greasy and fatty pork belly, firm flesh of fishes and shrimps.
Pila conica is a genus of large freshwater snails, its meat is yellow, crunchy and sweet tasty. Dong Thap province is well-known for big and tasty farmed Pila conica but also the unique dish from Pila conica – Pila conica hung in kitchen (Oc lac treo gian bep).
Pila conica is washed carefully, put into bamboo baskets and hang the baskets in the kitchen where there is smoke generated by the ovens. During 4-5 months, the snails are still alive in the basket, they smell the smoke from the ovens so that their meat turn outstandingly and distinctively tasty and fragrant. To cook Pila conica hung in kitchen, wash them, mix the snails with milk and eggs. After 20 minutes, the snails has drunk the mixture of milk and eggs. Prepare a pot, cover it with a layer of lemongrass, salt and a little of water. Cut the apexes of the snails, put them into the pot. Cook until boiling, shake the pot by hand for a few times, continue cooking for a few minutes.
The snail is served with a sauce made from fish sauce, lemongrass, chili pepper. Pour some fish sauce dip, a drop of lime juice into the shell, and eat the flavorful broth in the shell. Dip the crunchy and tender snail meat in the sauce and tuck in.
Hot pot with Siamese mud carp and Sesbania sesban flower is the perfect mix of the two ingredients which only are available in the flood season in Mekong Delta. This hot pot has become the pride of Dong Thap province as well as the entire Mekong Delta region.
The broth of Lau ca linh bong dien dien is the easiest to cook in comparison to other kinds of hot pots. Just pour coconut water into the pot, add tamarind, spices (sugar, salt, and fish sauce, etc.) and cook until boiling. Finally, top the broth with coriander, deep-fried pork fat pieces, deep-fried garlic. Freshly-caught Siamese mud carps are chosen to cook the hot pot. Remove the tail, organs of the fishes. Wash the fishes carefully, drain them off.
Local people cook the fishes and the flowers at the tables. Siamese mud carp has a small size, tender flesh, and not many bones. So that it takes a short time to cook and is a perfect ingredient to cook hot pot. This dish is usually served with steamed rice (or rice noodles) and fish sauce.
Grilled snakehead wrapped in young lotus leaves or Ca loc nuong trui cuon la sen non is a wonderful blend of flavors and spices. The snakehead is prepared, washed with unrefined salt, and drained off. Except for the bitter galangal, the fish organs 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. 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 which are curled and unrolling out into a disc, various vegetables, and herbs. The dip which is made from fish sauce, ripe tamarind, garlic, chili pepper so that it has sweet, salty, sour and hot tastes and viscous texture. 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.
11. Sa Giang shrimp crackers
Vietnamese shrimp crackers are usually eaten as snacks or served with many Vietnamese salads. They are not only a favorite food at home meals but also served at important events (Tet, Mid-autumn festival, wedding, death anniversary). The best Vietnamese shrimp crackers are produced in Ca Mau and Dong Thap. Sa Giang shrimp crackers (Dong Thap province) have been a famous brand in Vietnam since 1960. The crackers are made from tapioca starch, fresh shrimp, duck egg, garlic, onion, and spices. Traditionally the dough is steamed, rolled out, cut into round chips then dried. Dried shrimp crackers can be stored for from 6 months to 2 years. The dried cracker can be a round sheet with a diameter of 2-3 cm. Or they can make it a rectangle. Dried shrimp crackers could not be eaten because they are very hard. They must be fried in oil for a few minutes until crispy, smelling, lighter and 3-4 times bigger. Fried shrimp crackers look like small bowls. When eating, the crackers melt right away in dinner’s mouth.
Vietnamese pancake in Cao Lanh – the capital city of Dong Thap is famous for the big round thin rice flour crust which is fried in a big aluminum pan over charcoal. To make Banh xeo crust, choose high-quality rice which has just harvested and smells great. The rice is soaked in water, ground until smooth, mixed with coconut milk, salt, chopped green onion, turmeric powder. The filling is made from jicama, bean sprouts, duck (or lean pork and shrimp).
The cook must be very skillful to make the crust as thin as a paper and extremely crispy. When the pan is hot, pour the mixture onto the pan, add the filling and cover the lid. Wait until there is a sound “sizz”, open the lid, fold the cake in half and get the cake out of the pan and put it on banana leaves. The cake has a semicircle shape.
Vietnamese pancake in Cao Lanh is served with sweet-sour dipping fish sauce with pickled carrot and daikon, various vegetables and herbs. Diners wrap Banh xeo, veggies, herbs in brown mustard or salad leaves, then dip in the sauce and tuck in.
Sa Dec – the capital city of Dong Thap province has a tradition of making rice flour and rice noodles for over 100 years. The milky white, wide, tender and chewy enough Sa Dec clear rice noodle is famous in Vietnam and other countries. Although there are not less than ten recipes from clear rice noodle, Hu tieu nuoc and Hu tieu kho in Sa Dec has its own position in Vietnamese cuisine.
A portion of Sa Dec clear rice noodle soup (Hu tieu nuoc) consists of the broth, rice noodles, toppings, vegetables and herbs. The broth is cooked from pork bones, dried shrimp, dried squid. To serve, the clear and rich broth is poured onto poached dried clear rice noodles, the broth should cover the noodles. The boiling broth makes the noodles tender and a little chewy. The dish is topped with lean pork, pork cake, pork heart, pork liver, pork kidney, shrimp, chopped green onion. A bowl of Sa Dec clear rice noodle is usually served with vegetables (bean sprouts, garlic chives, celery, salad), soybean sauce, pickled chili pepper.
To serve Hu tieu kho, top the boiled dried clear rice noodles with lean pork, pork liver, crushed peanuts, bean sprouts, etc. Then pour a sweet-sour sauce onto the noodles and toppings.
Dong Thap province – the lotus kingdom is full of lotus in swamps, ponds, fields. Every year in the flooding season from July to August in the Lunar calendar, lotus flowers bloom and create a beautiful ever sight in Dong Thap.
Most of the parts of lotus such as seed, stem, young leaf and root are edible. From them, Dong Thap people have created tens of delicious specialty foods. Fresh lotus seed can be eaten raw as a snack, dried lotus seed is ingredients to cook sweet soups, sugar-preserved lotus seed, stewed dishes, soups. Lotus stem is the main ingredient for the famous Lotus stem salad, Stir-fried lotus stem with shrimp. Lotus root is used to cooked Soup with lotus root and pork leg. The young lotus leaf is the soul of the Grilled snakehead wrapped in young lotus leaf.
Lotus flower nectar and lotus heart are used to make great teas. Hong sen tuu or Pink lotus wine is a specialty of Dong Thap. It is made from lotus seed, lotus heart, lotus root, glutinous rice and Men bot sen – a special yeast made from lotus.
Lai Vung district in Dong Thap province is known as “the kingdom of mandarin”. It is famous for a kind of mandarin which has great taste, nice smell, thin skin, fewer seeds. Local people call this mandarin Lai Vung mandarin or Tieu son mandarin. The plumpy mandarin with shining red-orange skin is a favorite choice to arrange a plate of fruits which is offered to the ancestor or Five fruits tray – a must at Tet festival. Its flesh is juicy, sweet and tender so that many of people fall in love with it. One of the highlights of this mandarin is that it can be stored for a longer time in comparison to the others.
Chau Thanh longan
Longan in Chau Thanh is famous for juicy, sweet, thick, opaque, white flesh and small seed. Ripe longan is as bright brown as cow skin. Chau Thanh longan is a favorite of many people and it has become more and more famous in the country.
Mango in Cao Lanh
In Cao Lanh – the capital city of Dong Thap province, there are 2 main kinds of mangoes: Cat Chu mango and Hoa Loc mango. Cat Chu mango tastes a little chewy and light sweet. The other has heavier, bigger and longer fruit and more smelling than Cat Chu mango. Both of them are delicious and specialty foods of the province.
Now you know What to eat in Dong Thap? Are you ready for the trip to Dong Thap?