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28/02/2019 - 07:42

Sour shrimp sauce simmered with pork belly

“You guys always have the good fortune to try tasty, strange, and beautiful dishes!” cried a friend of mine on her wandering food trip with me to roads and alleys to eat Hue food. As usual, this year, after sampling the food here and there, she suddenly asked: “Is there any good Hue food off the beaten track?”

Sour shrimp sauce simmered with pork belly: a strange yet superb condiment for steamed rice

I was baffled for a while at her odd request and told myself to jot down some fine cuisines on my food list just in case someone else asked me the same question. As far as I could recalled, I once tried quite a strange dish two years ago.

Out of the 1700 Vietnamese dishes, 1300 are from Hue. The figure includes only the popular cuisines, but I often use it to boast about my homeland’s rich culinary arts. Now with sour shrimp sauce simmered with pork belly, I bet few people have ever tasted it as it was creatively improvised by a female descendant of the royal family.

The sour shrimp sauce must be homemade, with small and fresh shrimps from the local lagoon. A secret to have a tasty and suitable shrimp sauce is to add a little bit of honey when the sauce is almost ready to eat: for every 0.5kg of sauce, add 100gr honey.

Pork belly should be sliced similar in size to a finger. After marinating, add pork belly and quickly stir to render the fat as meat releases its juice to avoid grease. Continue to add sour shrimp sauce with similar or greater amount to the pan, depending on one’s likings. Simmer the mixture and stir it well while adding some honey. The dish is complete when all the ingredients become caramelized.

Sour shrimp sauce simmered with pork belly blends its unique sweet, salty, sour, and spicy flavor with aromatic smell of galangal and honey. A mixed vegetable side dish of Hue fig, starfruit, mint leaves and cilantro is a must to eat with hot steamed rice. Spare your stomach for up to three bowls of rice since even cold rice can go well with the dish. Hue locals have a variety of special sauces and pastes, including sour shrimp sauce. Now such a variation in the way we savor this sauce is a true new delight!

The dish’s origin embraces a simple principle: to avoid food waste. After every family feast on celebrations, the leftover always includes sour shrimp sauce and boiled pork. A female descendant of the royal family then turned these leftovers into a new dish that did not cloy. By accident, I had this recipe from an acquaintance when a restaurant in Ho Chi Minh city placed an order of hundreds of pots as thank-you gifts for their customers. Out of curiosity, I asked and was shared the recipe by sheer luck!

Today, the farewell meal for my friend as she left for Saigon had included sour shrimp sauce simmered with pork belly and a dish of assorted veggies and herbs from Phu Mong garden house (Kim Long ward). Such a meal solved her challenge on some strange Hue treat. She was excited and wanted to have the recipe just in case she wanted to cook for her family. Why not? The recipe will not only be a novelty for her to flaunt her master cooking skill, but also show that Hue women know how to devise new recipes to enrich their menus.

By T.Ninh

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