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19/12/2019 - 07:37

Boiled rau tau bay dipped in shrimp sauce

Coming home from work for lunch, I saw a bundle of rau tau bay (literally meaning plane greens) at the door, I guessed it was my friend who dropped by while I was out.

The bundle of rau tau bay looked so fresh. I thought they had just been picked the day before. She wrapped the greens with care in banana leaves with a note inside. 

She said on her way downtown, she brought me some rau tau bay to eat with shrimp sauce. She is among very few people who refuse to use telephones. She uses pen and paper instead.

Rau tau bay can often be found on hill slopes. It is rarely sold in the market. I eat rau tau bay when I come home in the countryside, or when my friend brings me some like today.

Looking at the bundle of tender greens, I recall the old days when my friend and I went picking rau tau bay on the hill. My mom liked making soup with a little bit of shrimp paste. When we felt fed up with soup, she boiled or stir-fried it with some garlic. Boiled rau tau bay were dipped in the sauce made from shrimp paste. 

I liked rau tau bay dipped in shrimp sauce best. It was so delicious. My mom made this dish only when my dad was lucky enough to catch about 10 shrimps. We even ate it instead of rice. 

In the old days when rice was not enough, eating greens instead of rice was so popular. Now one is as happy to find some rau tau bay at the market as he happens to find gold. It reminds him of his native village.

Boiled rau tau bay dipped in shrimp sauce is so simple to make. Tender leaves and buds are chosen. Remember to throw in the greens only when water gets boiled. 

My mom’s secret is adding just some leaves at a time; wait until the water gets boiled again to add some others. In that way, rau tau bay will keep its color and its original sweet taste.

How to make the sauce for boiled rau tau bay? Shrimps are washed, peeled, then minced. Marinade the shrimp with pepper, shallot, salt, and monosodium glutamate. Put a pan on the fire, pour in some cooking oil then add minced shallot, then shrimp. Next, pour in about a bowl of water. When the sauce gets boiled, add a little bit of shrimp paste.

Mom’s shrimp sauce looks colorful thanks to shrimp roe. Tomatoes or chili powder is thus not needed. Just a red chilli suffices. 

When boiled, rau tau bay is tender and sweet. It is the sweet taste of a wild plant on the hill. It grows with dewdrops, winds, heaven and earth without fertilizers, chemicals or human tending hands. Its taste is thus so mild and natural.

How delicious it is to chew crunchy aromatic and sweet rau tau bay. Shrimp sauce is hot with chilli, sweet of shrimp and spicy with Hue shrimp paste.

Nothing can compare with hot rice with boiled rau tau bay dipped in shrimp sauce.

Story and photo: LINH CHI

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