Travel Travel

24/10/2017 - 16:20

Eating water lilies from Con field

Drinking with me one afternoon in our native village, my friend brought up a bowl of strange-looking food and asked: "Do you know what this is?" I looked closely at the bowl but could not answer his question because I had never seen that kind of food before...

Water lilies stir-fried with shrimp

After taking some glasses of beer, he revealed: "This is water lily stalk stir-fried with shrimp. They are all from the Con field.  At this time of the year, fields are full of water lilies; shrimps are caught naturally from the river. Is it yummy?" Trying for the first time the strange food made from a familiar kind of flower in the native village, along with his recommendation, I found it so delicious. Soon we finished the bowl. My friend quickly brought up another dish. This time it was water lily stir-fried with fish. "This morning while picking the flowers, I happened to see these two snakeheads in the field." From the same kind of flower and by the same cook but while water lily stalk with shrimp tasted sweet, water lily stalk with fish tasted like sour soup. The truth was that whether cooked with shrimp or fish, the fatty and crispy taste of water lily stalk was a real treat.

In our native village there is a large field by O Lau River called Con. After the summer-autumn rice crop, when alluvium from the river pours in, water lilies start to spread in the field and bloom. In our childhood, my friend and I would wade the field to pick water lilies. At that time, none of us realized that water lilies were edible. "Once I visited a relative in the western part of the South; he treated me to hotpot with lots of water lilies. Since then, when water lilies are in season, I have always cooked these dishes.

According to him, one needs delicacy to make good dishes with water lilies. First, the flowers must be fresh to keep its crispness. Their stalks and roots contact mud so they must be carefully cleaned. Cut the stalks into pieces as long as a finger, then split them in half or into quarters. Add a teaspoonful of salt, a little sugar, some lime juice, mix them up and let them sit for a while. After squeezing, stir-fry them with boiled shrimp or flesh of fish.

Besides stir-fried dishes and hotpot, there is water lily salad (with pork). The salad dish looks even more inviting when sprinkled with pounded peanuts, coriander, basil, and a few slices of chili.

Another rainy season is flooding my Con field. Water lilies have started to take root and are spreading all over the field with flowers. Thanks to my friend for introducing me to the new dish of the countryside so that every rainy season, I would go there to enjoy...

Story and photo: PHI TÂN