Life Life

25/10/2019 - 07:32

Unique dish of black-jack fried with garlic

Black-jack (Bidens Pilosa) is commonly known as a wild flower plant found along the village paths, on the hill slopes or by the river banks. The white petals around the yellow pistil, the black-jack contributes to the color of nature and, perhaps, reminds of a memory. Therefore, I was surprised to learn that the black-jack is used as an ingredient for a special dish of natural vegetable: black-jack fried with garlic.

Unique and strange black-jack fried with garlic

While wandering in the mountainous area on a lightly rainy day, I stopped by a black-jack bush for a photo, I saw a woman picking black-jack to prepare dinner.

Excitedly introducing the unique folk dish to me, she warmly invited me to have dinner (though we have never met before). Her lovely friendliness convinced me to go to the wooden house of her family. It was a cozy dinner of fish stewed with turmeric, gourd and shrimp soup and the “strange” vegetable.

“Eat it and might get addicted to it.” I slowly enjoyed the piece of black-jack that the host served. The first impression was the pungency. In the middle of the meal, I started to get into it. The lightly pungent taste of black-jack mingled with fried garlic makes it a perfect combination.

The woman showed me the secret of making this unique dish. She highlighted that it was in the rainy season that the black-jack tastes best, and thus a season to enjoy the vegetable as the natural gift.

Black-jack is a plant that easily absorbs toxic in the habitat, so it is necessary to choose those from a clean place to pick. Unlike sweet potato leaves or water spinach that require boiling for a while, black-jack young leaves should only be dipped into boiling water. This is to make it less pungent.

It is easy to fry it with garlic: put a handful of peeled and crushed garlic into heated oil and wait until the garlic turn brown, then put the vegetable in, together with salt and fish sauce, and swing quickly. The dish of black-jack fried with garlic needs a pretty quick action. The vegetable picked in the proper season, in addition to its constant pungency, has a sweet taste after swallow.

Later, when it turns to rainy season, I go to look for some black-jack for the dish. This kind of vegetable taste good when fried with garlic. It is not delicious if boiled and served with sauces, nor does it taste good if fried with anything else. Diners can only feel the wild sweet of this ‘heaven gift’ if it is served without any mix.

People hardly think that this wild plant is edible. There are people who eat it for curiosity and then feel afraid because it is pungent, but there are others who turn addicted to it. In fact, black-jack is a benign vegetable. It is like the bitter taste of the watercress, a wild vegetable growing along the springs that makes many people addicted.

It is hard to find a dish of black-jack fried with garlic in a restaurant because no one pick it to sell at the market. Those who want to eat it go and pick it. Yet the dish will one day get out of the home kitchen and become a specialty in the restaurant, with attractive bitterness of a wild clean flower plant that mother nature has offered us.

Story and photo: YEN THUONG