Keyword suggestions: Minh Long Contest Golden Spoon Awards

Feeling with Wild Gamboge Fruits

Wednesday, 11/16/2016 09:12
There are always some delightful secrets hidden in rustic appearance in the world of wild plants. A lively example is gamboge fruit.

An Giang gamboge fruits.


The very first time I met this fruit was at Cham village, Chau Giang (also known as That Son legendary land). I had discovered the transparent taste of gamboge fruits - a light scent carried a hint of sour - from a small bowl of liquid seasoning. This compelling taste recalled the taste of tamarind fish sauce in which tamarind has to be grilled till brown then mashed with some hot bird pepper.

This type of sauce is usually used for grilled fish, such as golden catfish or rice-field climbing perch. However, it still fits on red meat. Chams also use gamboge fruit sauce with beef tenderloin. Chams community tends to consume their own products, and each home-raised cow can provide only about 400g of tenderloin.

Mrs. Cam’s daughter brought a whole chunk of beef tenderloin and placed it on heating charcoal. She coated the beef with a bit vegetable oil to protect its moisture. Without seasoning but the slice of beef was just perfectly tasty, smooth, and super tender. However, these beef slices would be monotonic if there was not a bit of gamboge fruit sauce. The transparent sourness together with particular fish sauce scent amazingly enriched the taste of grilled beef, which was served with pickled onions and ong-choy.

 Is it considered as the summit of An Giang casual delicacies? If so, we have to appreciate Chams who shared their great gamboge fruit sauce recipe to us. We should have known that gamboge shells are thick and sappy (mangosteen-like) which can cause throat-itchy but if we pick mature fruits, burn them, then collect the yellowish flour inside, we will have a very interesting seasoning.

Another type of gamboge fruits from the Middle of Viet Nam, guava-like looking.

Moreover, gamboge leaves are also a great vegetable even though their appearance is not significantly different from other wild leaves. Older from Seven-Mountains area persisted that without gamboge leaves, pancake stuffed mountain chicken would be much less delicious.

As its origin, gamboge rather consists with casual meetings than luxurious parties. A restaurant owner, who just came back from vacation, excitedly shared “Gamboge trees grow as dense as forest in Phu Quoc island. I fish a bunch of excellent black grouper but couldn’t find a piece of Giang leaves to cook a bowl of sweet and sour soup. But local people showed me how to cook it with gamboge leaves. Such an exotic soup! I wish I have enough gamboge leaf supply so that I could get big money from curious Saigon people.

The good new is that, today, fusion cuisine (combine elements of different culinary traditions) has become a rising trend among progressive chefs in Ho Chi Minh city. This is a great opportunity for young enthusiastic chefs, and hopefully also a chance for rustic gamboge fruits to step on classy dinning table.


Let’s listen to a “conference” of a dozen young chefs at a coffee shop in district 1, Ho Chi Minh City:

Floating season this year was so meager. Luckily I’ve got some Linh fish (Henicorhynchus)”, a southwest voice commented.

Have you guys had Linh fish and gamboge sour soup yet? Served with seasoned water lily stems and Dien Dien flowers (Sesbania sesban).”

Not as cool as my gamboge sauce over fresh bread”, confidently said another southern girl.

Northern gamboge, sold at Dong Xuan market (Ha Noi) and other grocery kiosks in HCM city.

It’s so amazing to see how gamboge flour blends in salty fermented soya and homemade fish sauce to rise up the taste of modern styled Linh fish in hot pot. Among those ingredients, the probiotics of fermented soya plays a role of a peacemaker, which retrains fishy smell and quietly increases the savory of main ingredients.

To be fair, gamboge fruits have an ungainly face but amazing taste. Therefore, adept chefs can easily mix it with suitable ingredients to make affective harmony out of them.

There was a time when Nga Restaurant (Dis. 1, HCM city) owner and I have a drink and social talk and he accidentally revealed his secret of making addictive Carb fish Bun Rieu, that was gamboge’s twin called “sour ears” (Garcinia cowa). This name is strange with Southern people because its origin is the North, from Ha Tinh province up to northern border. Local people there collect mature fruits, thinly slice, and sun-dry them until they’re totally dried out and ear-like. By doing that, they significantly reduced sap from shells. At Dong Xuan market, Ha Noi city, a second-class sour ears’ price is about 120,000 – 140,000 vnd per kilogram but jumps to 250,000 vnd per kilogram in Ho Chi Minh city. But best is cheapest, only a few ears about 50g can season 2 litters of broth. An 3 grade cooking expert, Ms Nguyen Thi Tuyet (Dong Da dis., Ha Noi) said “Stewed duck with Sau fruits (Dracotomelon) just uses Sau to beautify the dish because taste of Sau fruits is extremely sour. Sour ears juice is a “must have” ingredient to back it up.”

Linh fish in hot pot, precursor of fusion dish named “Linh fish in gamboge sauce, served with fresh bread.

Back to the South, it seems that working class and youngsters have rather hooked to the synthetic sour spice of Thailand instant noodles than the transparent, ardent sourness of gamboge fruits.

Just to think, the Southeast countries have shared the same spice-fruits, such as wild limes, gamboge, Quach (Limonia acidissima) in which wild lime was registered as Thai’s properties years ago and it has used in mass production. On the other hand, we have still stayed with traditional and “romantic” method of using this rustic gamboge.

By Ta Thi/Nguoi Do Thi

  • Tags:
Write Comment Send Comment
0 Comment

Hot restaurants

Latin America's 50 Best Restaurants 2018 Top 10 In 10 Dishes

Latin America's 50 Best Restaurants 2018 Top 10 In 10 Dishes

Enjoy this gallery with amazing dishes from the top 10 restaurants of Latin America's 50 Best 2018, with chef Tsumura's Maido at number 1 for the second year.


Superstar Pastry Chef's 'Food Porn' Has Instagram Drooling

Superstar Pastry Chef's 'Food Porn' Has Instagram Drooling

When Cedric Grolet takes out his pastry knife, millions of mouths water.

Cuisine & Nutrition

Sauces and Herbs to Die For

Sauces and Herbs to Die For

Vietnamese dipping sauce and a huge variety of fresh aromatic herbs are the soul of the country’s cuisine.

© 2014 / All rights & Copyrights reserved.

Golden Spoon Awards