Update: 11:53 | 24/11/2020
Phan Thi Thuan recently returned to Vietnam from Germany and visited her friend’s home in the central province of Quang Binh where she was invited to eat Lau ca khoai (Bombay duck fish) hotpot.
The hotpot is one of Vietnam’s top 100 outstanding specialities announced by the Vietnam Records Organisation in 2017.
Thuan was lucky to visit the province during the season of Bombay duck fish, which runs from the ninth lunar month to the first lunar month of next year.
A tasty and delicious bombay duck (known as ca khoai or khoai fish) hotpot in Quang Binh.
“My mother in Hanoi has cooked us hundreds of traditional tasty dishes but this was the first time I enjoyed such a speciality,” Thuan said.
Her friend’s mother Nguyen Thi Ha said the most important step for the dish is choosing a fish which is fresh with a thick body.
“I often wake up very early in the morning to go to the beach to wait for fishermen to return from the high sea to buy the freshest fish sized from 15-18cm.
“After being washed clean, each fish is cut into two parts, then soaked with spices such as salt, pepper, chilli and cu nen (a kind of small onion, locally known as hanh tam, available in the central region) which is cut into pieces, for half an hour before cooking.
The fish should be soaked with fish sauce, pepper, chilli and cu nen (small fragrant onion in the central region) for half an hour before cooking.
“This kind of onion has its own flavour that it helps the dish have a special taste compared with other onions in the north,” said Ha.
The ingredients for the hotpot’s broth include pork bones, which should be stewed for one hour before putting tomato, tamarind, sour starfruit, pickled mustard greens, sour bamboo and mushroom in.
"When it is boiled, put the fish in for several minutes and enjoy it hot,” she said.
“The broth is so rich in flavour. It is a bit sour from these above-mentioned ingredients but sweet and fragrant from the fish. It’s much more enjoyable when dipping the hot and crispy fish in chilli fish sauce and eaten with young mustard greens or sprouts and fresh vermicelli," Thuan said, noting that the dish was so impressed her that she asked Hà to buy her two kilos of the fish to bring home to the capital to cook Lau ca khoai.
A tray of khoai fish hotpot to be ready to serve family members at weekend.
Ha said apart from hotpot, the fish can be cooked other dishes such as canh cá khoai rau cần (soup with water dropwort), cháo cá khoai (porridge) and canh chua cá khoai (sour soup).
Quảng Bình is severely hot in the summer so local people often cook these dishes to cool down and treat ailments such as sore throat, cold and constipation, he said, adding that the Bombay duck fish porridge really helps weak patients, the elderly, and children with malnutrition.