Life Life

12/03/2020 - 08:35

Hue sour and spicy tré

In my eyes, my mother is the most skillful woman. The dishes that she prepares not only are delicious, but also contain her love and affection.

Mouth-watering Hue tré

My mother rarely buys processed food. She worries about it not being clean and hygienic enough. So, no matter which dish we want to eat, my mother almost always makes it for us herself.

For example, that day, all of a sudden that I craved for the sour, spicy, crunchy taste of tré, and my mother said "just wait". I wonder if there is anyone like her, who tells someone craving for food to “just wait”. By the time I am done waiting, the craving would have probably passed already.

But for years, my mother has trained me to get used to waiting for a food that I crave. If I wanted to eat delicious tré up to the “mother’s cooking standard”, it would take time.

Making tré requires meticulousness and carefulness in each stage. The stages of boiling and slicing meat, chopping garlic, mincing galangal, roasting sesame and making roasted rice powder... are all very time consuming. It takes effort to eat a delicious and clean dish. So, naturally, I could not escape the errands of peeling garlic and galangal.

The type of pork needed to make tré is the lips, ears and skin. Mom often goes to the market early, to the familiar butcher stall. She told me that this stall butchered its own pigs. Pigs are bought in the village, which mostly eat bananas and bran. Their meat is crunchy and sweet. Now there are still old-fashioned pig farmers and the price is usually a bit higher.

My mother washed and soaked the meat in salt water for a while, and then boiled the meat with some crushed ginger pieces. Ginger was used to deodorize. The boiled meat was soaked in cold water to lock in the moisture. After draining, the meat was sliced into very thin, small strips.

My mom planted galangal and chili in the garden. So with a quick trip around the garden, all the ingredients were available. Galangal was peeled clean and then cut into small strips. Chili and garlic were finely minced. Sesame was roasted to be aromatic. Rice was roasted until it had a fragrant smell and then finely crushed.

After the ingredients were ready, my mother put them into the mixing bowl. Adding a little spicy chili (dried and crushed chili peppers) would make the dish even more delicious. She then added some pepper, salt, sugar and MSG to taste and mixed well. My mother said that she only added a little bit of sugar and MSG as eating too much is not good for your health. She said it would be better if they were not added in at all. But then the taste would not be as delicious and rich.

My mother’s homemade tré was not wrapped in cute little bundles like at the market. She said that it wasted time, despite the plentiful banana leaves in the garden. She always put tré in a glass jar, closed the lid, and left it in a cool corner in the kitchen for 2-3 days. Then, it would be ready to eat.

Before putting tré in the jar, she never forgets to put some guava leaves inside. My mother said that in addition to creating a specific aroma, the guava leaves also disinfect, dehumidify, and help tré dry.

Not to mention, eating tré with a few guava leaves makes it easier to digest. The young guava leaves have an acrid taste at the tip of the tongue, followed by a sweet, lingering aftertaste.

When tré is ready to eat, simply open the lid and the delicious aroma will rise to the tip of the nose. Tré has a sour taste from the fermentation process, hotness from the chili, spiciness from the garlic, an aromatic smell of galangal, roasted rice, and sesame seeds, and the acrid taste of guava leaves. The crunchy meat pieces are soaked in these flavors.

In Hue’s winter, no matter how cold it is, you would only need to take a bite of spicy tré to feel the warmth spreading through your body, despite the heavy rain and strong winds outside. 

Story and photo: LINH CHI