Here are five dishes visitors to the Mekong Delta should try to get a taste of the local cuisine.
Braised fish in clay pot
Anabas and snakehead are two of the most common fishes one will see during a meal in this delta. There are many ways to cook them, including frying them in sweet and sour fish sauce or cooking with vegetables to make a soup.
However, braising is one of the most common methods of cooking them. The fish is marinated with spices in a clay pot over low heat to soften it. Once cooked, the flavorful fish is eaten with rice. Each family has its own recipe and sauces that give the dish an endless variety of tastes.
Sweet and sour catfish soup
Sweet and sour fish is another popular dish that appears on the day-to-day menu. Locals choose catfish since it has a subtle taste and just the right amount of fat.
Tamarind is used to give it a sour yet refreshing taste. Then sugar and fish sauce are added to give it a variety of flavors. Some also add chili to give the dish some heat and coriander for appearance.
The dish creates a harmony of flavors in one’s mouth.
Braised rasbora with fatty green onion
Families in the delta braise the fish with pepper or fry it until crispy and eat it with white rice. But locals also use an alternative to this traditional cooking method: braising it with fatty green onion.
The cook gives the green onion a quick fry to release its fragrance. Then the fish and seasoning are added and allowed to simmer in a clay pot for 15 minutes.
The fish is then eaten with white rice, cucumber or freshly picked vegetables.
Dien dien or sesban is a plant that commonly grows near ponds, rivers and dykes in the region and one which locals incorporate in their diet since it offers a unique aromatic texture and subtle fatty taste.
Locals make a soup with its flowers by cooking it with different kinds of fish, including catfish and perch. They add tamarind to create a slightly sour taste and greaves for texture.
The soup goes well with white rice and noodles and food adventurers can dip their fish into fish sauce or add it to the soup.
Seasoned bees from U Minh Ha forest
This is a unique dish not commonly known to outsiders but deemed by locals as a delicacy that one would bring out to treat a guest.
Baby bees from beehives in the U Minh Ha cajuput forest in the southernmost province of Ca Mau are used for this dish.
After locals harvest honey, they cook the honeycombs in boiling water to melt the wax and reveal the little bees left inside. They scoop out the cooked bees and season it with salt and thinh gao rang or powdered grilled rice which is used as a spice in Vietnam.
The dish is eaten with a variey of vegetables, including star fruit.