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Visiting Quang Tri to enjoy its speciality: bun chat chat

Mussel vermicelli in Quang Tri’s Mai Xa Village has been recognised as one of the top 100 of Vietnam’s outstanding specialties.

The dish is known locally as bún hến Mai Xá.  

Mai Xa is one of Quang Tri’s 65 ancient villages in Gio Linh District. It is famous nationwide for its traditional occupation of raking mussels and also its own specialty: mussel vermicelli. The mussels here live in brackish water and are smaller than the same of its kind in other locations. It has deep brown colour with a special savoury flavour.

The mussel is rich in protein, iron, copper and vitamin B12. It has little cholesterol, making it suitable for people with anaemia or heart-related diseases, according to village elderly To Thi Hoa, 90.                       
 
The land near the Canh Hom River helps to produce mussels with rich flavour in addition to local cookers’ technique to create a tasty dish that no others can compare.

Mussel meat in Quang Tri's Mai Xa Village is more enjoyable than mussels in other regions. 

Hoa said boiling mussels need careful care or it will be tough, so the cooker has to use chopsticks to stir it until the mussels all open their shells.

After boiling the mussels for 10 minutes, their meat is stir-fried in cooking oil with dried onion. Then the meat is poured into a pan over a big fire for several minutes before putting local special fish sauce and fresh chilli pieces in.

Meanwhile, the boiling water is used as broth added with minced ginger, fish sauce, and broth mix to make the broth become rich flavour, Hoa said, adding that locals often use thin-thread rice vermicelli that is soft and fragrant. 

Mai Xa mussel vermicelli is more enjoyable when eaten with some aromatic herbs, Hoa said.

Different from other places, where eaters are served a completed bowl of 'bún' or 'phở', dinners visiting Mai Xa prepare their ơn bowl of 'bún hến' as the waiter brings them the ingredients. 

Nguyen Thanh Thai from the Central Highlands province of Dac Lac told Việt Nam News that while visiting Quang Tri, she never missed a bowl of bún hến Mai Xá which has special characteristics of savoury taste and buttery fat from the mussels mixed with the special fish sauce, fresh ginger and green pepper.

But unlike other places, “Here I can prepare the dish by myself to fit my taste. When I arrive at a shop to order the dish, a waiter brings me a bowl of white rice vermicelli topped with fried mussels, a bowl of hot broth with delicious smell flying out and a plate of fresh chilli and minced ginger and fresh herbs.

Apart from 'bún hến' with sweet broth, fried mussels eaten with crispy rice paper is also a favourite dish. 

“The waiter told me that with these ingredients, I can make a bowl to my taste for myself,” Thai said, noting that she likes this way of self-service very much because dinners can use more or less ingredients for a bowl. 

Thai said she likes to put several teaspoon of chilli juice (instead of one or two tsp) into the dish because the mix helps her feel healthier and enjoyable.

Thai said apart from bún hến with broth, she also likes stir-fried mussels wrapped up in rice paper. 

“The dish gives me an unforgettable sense of tasty mussel meat mixed with crispy rice paper.” 

Source: Vietnam News

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