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12/10/2017 - 10:29

Giant trevally fish porridge

More than ten years ago, in the waters of the Phu Loc zone, from Vinh Thanh to Vinh Hien, the giant trevally fish or cá vẩu (also known in some areas as cá háo, a species of Carangidae) from the open sea suddenly one day got into the fish traps of the local fishermen. From then on, this species of fish has become a "God-send" source of fisheries for fishermen living along the lagoon and coastal areas.

The seafood dish that makes people forget to talk to each other...

According to fishermen in Vinh Hien, they used to catch giant trevallies with other types of fish such as groupers, red snappers, and cobias... and ranked them as the most delicious fish. And, giant trevally porridge is just as tasty compared to groupers and cobias which are considered superior fish. After 2005, people in the Cau Hai lagoon in Phu Loc coastal area developed fish cage culture, mainly raising groupers and red snappers. In 2009, people who put traps in the natural environment to catch groupers and red snappers to farm accidentally found many baby giant trevallies in their traps. They kept on farming these giant trevallies, not expecting that their growth rate would be so fast. Even when floods made the lagoon water less salty and the groupers and the red snapper could not withstand it, the giant trevallies continued to thrive. November is the month when many baby giant trevallies from the sea drift into the river mouth. The local fishermen catch them and bring them into the cages in the lagoon to farm.

That is to say, farming giant trevallies in large numbers to serve the country's gourmets has happened only recently, but the fishermen in the coastal Phu Loc area have known about the fish for a long time. The giant trevallies taste best during the month of September, or in August of the Lunar calendar. This is the time of rain and floods when the alluvial flows to the mouth of the river, bringing more food for the fish. The giant trevally can be prepared into many delicious dishes. But the best of all is the original fish meat that has not been over-marinated with too many spices which makes it lose its flavor, but cooked by steaming or in porridge.

Steamed giant trevally is easy to make to keep its flavor. The fish must be cleaned and washed with a little white wine to get rid of the fishy smell. Use a knife to cross the fish body and then put shallots and garlic in the fish. Put a few pieces of ginger, lemon leaves on the plate to steam fish so it does not stick to the plate when steaming, and is easier to remove when done. Place fish on top, sprinkle with pepper, shallots, fish sauce and then put the dish into the steamer. When the fish is cooked, sprinkle spring onions, parsley, and Vietnamese coriander on the fish. Add a few slices of chili and then invite the whole family to enjoy. The steamed fish should be eaten with garlic lemon fish sauce. Sitting in the afternoon breeze, tasting a bite of the giant trevally fish and taking a sip of wine, time seems to move slower and space seems to go on endlessly.

But the best, and also the dish which claimed the "reputation" for the giant trevally is the porridge. In the vicinity of the seaport Tu Dung, there is a saying "Cháo cá vẩu nín khẩu mà ăn" which means that the giant trevally porridge is so good to a point guests at dinners only focus on eating that they forget to talk to each other. To make this dish, clean and slice the giant trevally fish diagonally. Then, marinate it with pepper powder, chili, and crushed shallots. Put the fish into boiling water and wait for it to boil again before taking the fish out. Use the water used for boiling fish as the broth and put in rice and soaked peeled green beans to make the porridge. When the rice and beans are soft, add the fish, seasoning, and coloring and take the pot off the heat. Prepare Vietnamese coriander, parsley, green onions, green peppers, and sliced ​​lemons. Make a small bowl of garlic lemon fish sauce for those who like a more salty taste.

Ladle the hot porridge into a bowl, sprinkle the fresh herbs on top, squeeze in a little lemon juice, and bite a little chili. The correct way to eat the giant trevally porridge is eating while it's hot, eyes watering up because of the chili, and finishing the porridge when the bowl is still hot. The sweet smell and unique texture of fish, the rich taste of the beans and rice, the flavor of the coriander, lemon, and the spicy pepper... all of them create a seafood dish so good that people forget to even talk to each other...

In early August of the Lunar calendar, the giant trevally fish are swimming outside Tu Dung waiting for customers...

Story, photos: Vu Cam