Cu hu dua salad, the heart of Ben Tre

Gỏi củ hũ dừa (coconut core) salad is a specialty of Ben Tre, the home of coconuts in Vietnam.

Cu hu dua salad, the heart of Ben Tre
Kicker: A plate of tasty cu hu dua salad, the quintessence of Ben Tre. — Photo

Cu hu dua can be found in the tops of the trees, hidden inside the branches.

The core was covered by a thin layer of capsules, and it's sweet, fresh, cool and highly nutritious, especially in minerals, and it is good for the digestive system.

Local elder Huynh Thi Nhung, who owns a coconut tree farm, said Ben Tre was famous for its coconuts and the dishes made from them. They include coconut core salad and coconut rice.

To make the salad, Nhung has to cut down a young coconut tree and remove the core, which is considered the heart of the tree.

She said ingredients for the dish (serves two) include 200g of coconut core, 100g shrimp, 100g bacon, 1 big onion, 1 carrot, 1 cucumber, 1 red chili, laksa leaves, roasted peanuts, 2 garlic cloves, 60g sugar, 80ml fish sauce, and 15ml lime juice.

The coconut core, carrot and cucumber should be cut into strips but not too finely to avoid them from losing their crunch. The shrimp should be steamed before being cut in two and the bacon is boiled and cut into thin strips. Then they are marinated in a bowl with fish sauce for 15 minutes before draining.

The next step is to make the main sauce which involves sugar, seasoning powder, chili sauce, ground chili, coriander and lime juice. They are added to the mix and topped with roasted peanuts and fried dried onions.

Cu hu dua salad, the heart of Ben Tre
Kicker: Coconut can be cooked in many dishes such as com dua. — Photo

“The dish is more enjoyable with a spoonful of coconut milk and prawn crackers,” she said.

Nhung’s son, Nguyen Van Thanh, who has moved to Hanoi, said he missed the dish so much because he does not have time to return home due to work.

“Every time I go home and try the the dish made by my mother, memories of our peaceful childhood suddenly rush back. We still respect the need to be united with our parents and our native home that produces the coconut core for the salad,” Thanh said.

Com dua (coconut rice)


Apart from the salad, Thanh said his mother knows how to cook cơm dừa (rice cooked in a coconut).

Different from ethnic groups in the country’s northwest where they bake rice in bamboo tube, Ben Tre housewives cook the coconut rice by steaming it in a pot to keep its natural fragrant flavour, Nhung said, noting that the dish had existed for hundreds of years.

Cu hu dua salad, the heart of Ben Tre
Kicker: Com dua, a nutritious food, is also among specialties cooked from coconut. Photo

To create tasty coconut rice, Nhung said she had to choose quality fragrant and soft rice, locally known as gạo tám and dừa xiêm, which is small, fresh and green in colour with sweet juice.

The top of a coconut is hacked off to release the milk, and set aside to use as a lid. The rice is then added and the whole coconut is steamed for an hour, Nhung said.

“The secret is how to pour the juice so that the rice is not too soft and not too hard. A professional cook can smell the fragrance from the steamer to decide if the rice is done,” she said.

The rice is much more enjoyable when eaten with tom dat (shrimp from a lake or a river) which should be stir-fried with fish sauce, sugar, onions and coconut milk to make the shrimp crispy, fatty and delicious, Nhung said, adding there were several ways to cook com dua.

Nhung’s young neighbour Ha Thu Hong said she often cooked com dua with chicken broth, but sometimes she used coconut milk, butter and garlic.

“My two daughters like com dua so much because they say it makes their skin beautiful and reduces acne. They call it a specialty,” Hong said. VNS

Ben Tre Coconut Festival to crack open in November

Ben Tre Coconut Festival to crack open in November

The fifth Coconut Festival will be held on November 14-20 in the Mekong Delta province of Ben Tre, offering a diverse range of cultural, sport and tourism activities.

Farm produce now available on online platforms

Farm produce now available on online platforms

HCM City will soon be able to order coconuts from Ben Tre and Lo Ren starapples from Tien Giang province.

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