Vu Dai village—also known as Dai Hoang—in Ly Nhan District, Ha Nam Province, has been well known for its braised fish in local earthenware pots. Recently, this specialty has been marketed overseas by some entrepreneurs and has become a signature food of the province.
A Vu Dai-style braised fish pot
In the old days, Vu Dai villagers prepared the dish to worship their ancestors at Lunar New Year. The dish is now served in daily meals of local people.
It takes a cook quite a time to make the dish which requires different phases. In the case of the dish of Vu Dai village, it is even more complicated because each household has its own seasoning recipe. The secret lies in the ratio of the spices in use.
Another factor relates to earthenware pots which contain the fish. Some even say it is the pot that gives the dish its unique taste and flavor. Pots must be new and soaked in boiling water before being used.
As per the ingredients of the specialty, black grass carp weighing four to five kilograms each is the best. Fish to be used are first cleaned carefully and each of them will be cut into one-kilogram pieces. Fish pieces are marinated in galangal, ginger, lemon juice, fish sauce, pepper and herbs.
Local cooks insist that the fire to cook the dish is important. According to these cooks, longan firewood and rice husk must be used to maintain the distinctive flavor of the braised fish pot.
The medium fire must be kept alive at the same temperature for 12 to 14 hours. Off the fire, a pot of braised fish has a shelf life up to seven days.
Vu Dai braised fish pots have been available nationwide in Vietnam and abroad for VND400,000 to VND1.2 million each.
However, some say enjoying the dish right on the spot is much better.
By Phuc An & Ky Anh