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Foodwise: Thác lác fish, a specialty and pride of Hậu Giang

Thursday, 01/18/2018 10:02
Nature has particularly bounteous in Hậu Giang, providing water loaded with minerals that is home to the most delicious thác lác fish (clown knife fish) compared with other regions in the country. The flesh is fragrant, firm and crisp-skinned.


Healthy dish: Thác lác fish cooked with bitter gourd is very good to cool down heat from inside the body and helps to improve weak patients.

Chả cá thác lác (fried thác lác fish), one of specialties of Hậu Giang, is a dish every visitor should try when visiting the southern province.

The dish is the pride of Hậu Giang people, according to Huỳnh Thị Phượng, 66, who has sold the fish for several decades.

"I sell several hundreds of chả cá thác lác a day to locals and visitors, including foreigners,” said Phượng.


Unusual: The special fish and its meat pounded into a pork ball.

She said that to make a good dish, she often woke up early in the morning to go to the seashore to buy fresh fish - meaning the meat is firm, the eyes look pure and green while the gills are light red. “Fish with red eyes, and soft meat is not suitable for making chả,” said Phượng.

The fish can be made into soup with bitter gourd, steamed, braised, fried and used in hotpots. Phượng said chả cá thác lác was available in restaurants and at luxury parties. It was also a good gift for relatives and friends.

 Hanoian Bùi Thu Nga told us that she was happy to join Phượng make the dish by cutting off all the lean meat and then mixing it with dried onions, garlic, peppers, MSG, sugar and salt to clear out any fishy smell for an hour. It is then placed in a stone grinder and regularly pounded until the meat is thick and pink-while before shaping it into small balls and frying them until they turn yellow.

“The dish should be eaten with rau ngổ (rice paddy) and mùi tàu (sawtooth) to add taste,” said Phượng.

Apart from chả cá, she also invited Nga to enjoy thác lác fish hotpot with bitter gourd. “It is a great dish that you should try,” she added.

Ingredients include broth stewed from pork bones, vegetables and herbs, but spinach and rau đọt choại (a local herb). They are all tossed into the broth for five minutes before eating.

The hotpot is eaten with vermicelli or noodles. The crispy and sweet fish is dipped into a bowl of fish sauce with chili. It’s unforgettable.

“I really enjoy the aroma of the broth, herbs, and crispy bitter gourd. I think all gourmets would fall for it," said Nga.

Nga is right. My family also enjoyed the dish as she gave me a package of steamed chả cả thác lác, telling me to fry it before eating.

She also taught me to cook one more dish made from the fish. It is crispy fried thác lác fish mixed with chili and sả (lemongrass). The fish cut into pieces and mixed with spices and citronella for an hour and then dry it under the sunlight for half an hour before frying. "No one can hold his/her appetite when it’s fragrant and aromatic flavored flying around," she said.

The dish is very suitable at a reception of visitors or sipping a glass of wine, Nga said.


Foodies’ favourite: Fried chả cá thác lác is so tasty and delicious that it lures all gourmets.

Herbalist Nguyễn Văn Tuất of the National Hospital of Traditional Medicine, said stewed thác lác fish with bitter gourd helped cool the heat from inside the body. He said it was good for patients with blood hypertension, diabetes, cholesterol and loss a sleep.

Because it is sweet and has no strong elements it is also very good for blood circulation and the kidneys. And, last but not least, it helps reduce pain from patients with rheumatism, and laxatives.

Minced thác lác fish is particularly good for slow growing children, pregnant women and weak elderly people.

By VNS

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