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14/11/2019 - 07:39

Grilled herring cooked with ginger

Many dishes in Hue use simple ingredients such as cheap sea fish; but they have their own alluring flavors.

Good smell of grilled herring cooked with ginger

My aunt married a man living by the sea. All their children are attached to fishing career. When I was small, every time I followed my Mom to visit her, I was free to play with cool sea waves. 

But the most interesting thing of the trip was being treated to special and simple dishes of the sea and presented with seafoods granted by nature that she had put aside for us after her fishing trips.

Many dishes use simple ingredients such as cheap sea fish, but they become attractive and delicious by her skillful hands. Her strength is cooking dishes from ingredients from the sea. Among them, I am really impressed with her grilled herring cooked with ginger. 

Herring can be found all year round. It is wholesome and has much protein. Herring is easily processed into many good dishes such as fried herring wrapped in rice paper and dipped in fish sauce, herring cooked until tender, herring soup with melon, grilled herring with salt and chilli; it can also be dried, then cooked with sugar or with melon or gourd pickles, etc.

In my aunt’s experience, in order to have a “standard” pot of grilled herring cooked with ginger, we need fresh herrings with clear eyes and sparkling blue scales. After cleaning them, leaving their scales, grill them on a charcoal fire and wait until their scales on both sides turn brown. 

Grilled herring is then put in a pot; add some cooking oil, salt, fish sauce, sugar, chilli, pepper and sliced shallots and put the pot on a fire, pouring in some water. My aunt then picks up a ginger root from inside hot ash and clean it. The ginger is then cut into small pieces then beaten. Add the ginger into the pot and cook the mixture on a small fire. Wait until the water is dried up then cut in some chive leaves to add flavor to the dish.

Visiting her on cold days, I am always treated to this dish. The aroma of freshly-harvested rice combined with the good smell of grilled herring cooked with ginger pervades and warms up the house. That flavor is always in my mind. 

Only those who are deeply attached with their “salty” sea can make such delicious dishes, I think.

Story and photo: An Khoi

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