Quang Ninh is not only well known for the beautiful Ha Long Bay, but also its tasty seafood.
|The finished chả cá dưa is crispy, aromatic and deliciously greasy. Photo cleverfood.com.vn|
These delicious dishes delight both visitors and local diners, including chả cá dưa and chả cá bơn – fried minced dưa (a kind of conger eel) and bơn (halibut) fish.
I was lucky enough to enjoy chả cá dưa (fried dưa) while visiting my friend Le Ngoc Long who comes from Quang Ninh Province.
Long's mother Tran Thi Dao told me that her husband, a fisherman, had caught some dưa early that day.
"The eel looks angry but its meat is very lean, tasty and especially suitable to make fried minced eel," she said.
Long's father Le Ngoc Luong said this kind of eel lives in warm sea or river areas and is popular in the province's Ngoc Vung and Co To islands.
"I've been working as a fisherman for many years but only a few times have I caught dưa, I decide to give the eel to my relatives and friends as a special gift," he said, noting that his wife can cook chả cá dưa very well.
Dao said to have a good dish she has to choose fresh and grown dưa fish that has a thick body, but the most difficult stage is gutting the eel from its backbone but one should be very careful not to break its organs as they cause the meat to taste bitter.
"After gutting, I often use a spoon to grate the lean meat. This way helps me to remove almost all bits of bone that make the dish less tasty," she said.
|With an abundance of fresh fish, Quang Ninh is known for its busy seafood markets. Photo halongtourism.com.vn|
Long's mother mixed the fresh dưa with its attractive pink colour with spices, minced dried onion, garlic, dill, peppers, pork and several spoons of rice powder.
Dao then the mix into a stone mortar to grind it until it was fine then she kneaded it into small balls and fried them until they turned yellow, with fragrances wafting towards my watering mouth.
The finished dish is crispy, aromatic and deliciously greasy. "The dish can be eaten with normal rice or sticky rice and with noodle soup," she said.
The next day, Long led me to visit her aunt Le Thi Hoai on Co To for a taste of her delicious bơn (halibut).
Hoai said bơn on the island is much tastier compared with other areas, as the island's red bơn fish are best for frying, she told me.
Hoai asked Long and me to go with her to the beach to wait for a boat to return full of the delicious fish.
Luckily for us, when we arrived at the beach, the boat also came ashore, and a fisherman told Hoai he had saved several kg of fresh bơn fish for her.
Hoai said for a good bơn dish, several fresh squid and peeled shrimps and quality fish sauce are needed as well as the Long's mother used to make fried dưa.
"The added squid and shrimp makes the dish more aromatic, sweet and greasy compared with other fried fish," she said, noting that visitors to Co To love this dish.
Herbalist Ta Huan said fried dưa and bơn are very good for people's health as they are full of nutrition and vitamins A, B2, B12, and PP.
"They are particularly good for the cardiovascular system because they contain a lot of omega3," Huan said.