Sour pork is a specialty of the Muong ethnic minority living in Thanh Son district, Phu Tho province, in Vietnam’s northern midland. This is the mainstay of the Muong people’s Lunar New Year feast.
Sour pork of the Muong people in Thanh Son district, Phu Tho province
It’s easy to find the ingredients and make sour pork. Dinh Thi Phuong of Thanh Son district said, “I have eaten sour pork since I was little. My parents wrapped sour pork with banana and ‘dong’ leaves to enjoy during the Lunar New Year festival, which is incomplete without the dish. We now make sour pork in bamboo tubes to keep it fresh longer and give it a better flavor.”
Sour pork was born out of the need for food that would keep fresh for the extended New Year holiday. Bamboo tubes containing sour pork are hung in the kitchen and are essential for a New Year feast.
“The Muong serve sour pork to visitors during the New Year festival. It makes the meal more formal,” said Dinh Van Than.
Tasty sour pork requires careful selection of ingredients and delicate skill. Only free range pigs, fed vegetables and weighing about 20 kilograms, can produce firm pork and crispy skin. The pork is grilled until it turns yellow.
The Muong people then slice it thinly and remove the tendons. The pork is marinated with salt, garlic, and powdered grilled corn, mixed well, and put into dried bamboo tubes.
According to Sa Thi Tam of Xuan Son district, the bamboo tubes should be neither too young nor too old. Several guava leaves should be placed at the two ends of the tube to prevent mould and trigger the fermentation. The pork should be packed into the tubes tightly.
“Sour pork hung in the kitchen can last for months. It takes three days for sour pork to acquire a perfect taste. Fish can be cooked the same way and takes seven days to get ready for serving,” said Mrs. Tam.
The more tightly the pork is packed into the bamboo tubes, the better it tastes. It can stay fresh for about three months.
“We boil water, then cool it to around 45 DC to wash the pork. The pork is hung to dry naturally before being marinated and sliced into pieces five centimeters by two centimeters. The dry, thin pork absorbs the spices,” said Mr. Than.
Sour pork is usually served with fig leaves, guava leaves, and apricot leaves and dipped in chili sauce or fish sauce. The dish is a mixture of crispy pork skin, fatty pork, fragrant powdered corn, fresh herbs, and spicy sauce.
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