Life Life

16/08/2019 - 07:09

Missing fatty ha ri

With very thin and crispy skin, eye-catching and imagination-provoking red in color, ru ri crabs living on the beach become an irresistible dish for those who have experience in catching them.


My village is located by the sea with a flat golden sand beach. It is scorching in summer and the beach is filled with swimmers. My younger brother and I now and then followed waves, running hundreds of meters away from the bustling beach to hunt for ru ri.

Ru ri are a kind of crustacean. They live along the coast and feed on plankton. They now appear, then disappear with waves. Villagers lovingly call them ha ri

Ha ri are very quick. They immediately retreat into sand when seeing a wave coming. “Ha ri hunters” must be very skillful and experienced to know where they hide.

On a flat beach, if you see a mold, as big as a tea cup, protrude, you can be sure ha ri is down there. Run there, dig up very fast, you will find a plump ha ri.

Digging up for ha ri is not easy because wet and pressed sand is hard. Some wiser hunters use a shovel to scoop a big block of sand, hoping there is a ha ri inside. It is hard to catch ha ri, but keeping them is many times harder. If you do not watch them, they will disappear out of nowhere. With eight legs, ha ri run very fast. In the blink of an eye, they are safe deep under the sand. 

Ha ri is good food granted by heaven to people living by the sea. Fry chives with peanut oil; add some pepper, sugar and fish sauce, you will have a good dish. Ha ri is delicious, sweet, and fragrant of the salty smell of the sea.

Ha ri tastes fatty and crispy by nature. Ha ri live in sand, but no sand sticks on their flesh. One can eat ha ri whole as if one were enjoying all the flavors of earth and heaven.

In other areas, ha ri are sold at a pretty high price. A good digger can obtain about 2kg of ha ri per day; 1 kg costs VND250.000 - 300.000. But in my hometown Phu Loc, ha ri, together with cum num (a kind of crab), chep (a kind of mussel) and oc gao (a kind of very small edible snail) are considered granted by heaven. One enjoys them if one can catch them; if not, they let them thrive.

In the past when life was difficult, father and sons went to the sea searching for ha ri for their poor meals lacking protein. Now life is better, ha ri becomes memories for those who live far away from home. 

Knowing we are going digging for ha ri, some children follow us. Partially they want to see by themselves how ha ri are dug up; partially they are eager to work and find food for themselves. We are very happy about that.

We did the same thing when we were small. We followed experienced men though they kept whispering: “Hush! Hush!” It was because ha ri would disappear if they heard a sound. That is why they rarely appear on beaches with many people.

Ha ri is so crispy when fried. It is best with some salt and pepper or chilli. The right recipe for ha ri is with some oil and something hot. I am now getting old. Waves keep leaving their marks on the beach year after year.

Despite all those things, ha ri keep diligently digging holes in the sand as their hideouts, making their appearance now and then, looking for food. Ha ri are still fresh in my childhood memory. They have never changed at all but I have; I am getting older.

Story and photo: MAI HUE