ClockTuesday, 16/01/2024 15:31

The foggy Khuyet season

TTH.VN - In these days in Hue, the foggy weather immediately brings to my mind the menu of stir-fried khuyet (Sergestid shrimps) with tomato accompanied by raw vegetables. This experience was passed down by my mother.

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I remember those days, sipping tea while gazing at the misty fog covering the garden in front of the courtyard, my mother used to say, "Going to the market on such foggy days, there is bound to be fresh khuyet." After the morning tea, she would go to market, and sure enough, that noon my mother would cook the stir-fried khuyet with tomato, served with raw vegetables – a delicious and healthy dish, true to the tasty-nutritious-affordable standard of Hue mothers.

 Khuyet season

Sometimes, the children who remember their mothers recall ordinary sayings from daily life, memories of the dishes their mothers cooked, and the life experiences passed down by them. Following my mother's example, I have learned for many years to read the market by observing the sky.

This morning, while going to the market, I noticed many vendors selling fish from Thuan An. Besides various sea fish, there were also large round baskets containing “gift from the sea”, as the locals often call it – reserved for small, pink khuyet. A basket full of pink khuyet looked like a pink cloud descending on the fish market when it was still empty. As soon as she saw me, the familiar fish seller immediately invited, “Buy some khuyet, dear, they're so fresh”.

The khuyet season usually lasts from September to the December of the lunar calendar, especially appearing on foggy days. Mr. Trong, an elderly fisherman in Thuan An, told me, “People here often call the khuyet season the season of gifts from the sea. During the season of rough waters, the sea god bestows fortune to nurture the poor. Khuyet often come in waves, and the waves wash them up close to the shore. People use thick nets to scrape the khuyet when going to the sea. Those lucky enough to encounter a khuyet wave can harvest a whole basket in a day, sometimes making two trips. People in coastal areas enjoy the heavenly gift for generations and are grateful for it”.

For Hue women, encountering fresh khuyet in the market means buying them to prepare for the whole family. While fish and shrimp are available every day, khuyet are seasonal, making them a rare and exotic dish. Additionally, khuyet are soft, fresh, easy to cook, gentle on the palate, and affordable, so every mother chooses them.

My mother's favorite dish to make with fresh khuyet was stir-fried khuyet. After washing the khuyet once, marinate them with scallions, pepper, and fish sauce. Heat oil in a pan, sauté the onions until fragrant, add the khuyet, then add sliced tomatoes. Season to taste, add scallions and a bit of pepper, and reduce the heat. The aroma of the stir-fried khuyet dish wafts through the kitchen along with the white smoke.

My mother used to say, “This dish is easy to cook; khuyet are naturally sweet, no need to add seasoning (MSG). Pay attention while marinating the khuyet, as they can easily become salty”. However, stir-fried khuyet tastes even better when served with fresh lettuce, aromatic herbs, and cilantro.

In addition to stir-fried khuyet, a khuyet soup cooked with tamarind is also incredibly delicious. The sweet and fresh taste of khuyet blends with the sourness of tamarind, making the hot khuyet soup look simple yet colorful: the pink and white color of khuyet, the moss green of tamarind, the fresh green of scallions, and the red of sliced chili. Besides the soup bowl is a plate of fresh raw vegetables.

I always cook in my mother's way – dishes whose ingredients are already naturally sweet do not need additional seasoning. Both stir-fried khuyet and khuyet soup are prepared in this way. Maintaining the natural flavor of home-cooked dishes allows one to truly appreciate how delicious the food is, how sweet it is.

Nowadays, there are many newly processed dishes, and imported dishes from abroad are increasingly available. Our palate has gained many more taste standards, but preserving the natural flavors of traditional dishes is a way to keep the old taste under each roof, maintaining the love of children for their parents and grandparents. For me, this is how I preserve the image of my mother each day, whether the weather is sunny, rainy, or foggy through the dishes she taught me to cook with the motto of cooking what is in season.

"If you cook dishes using seasonal ingredients, once again, you get to enjoy the blessings of heaven, blessings of the land, naturally making it delicious without the need for anything extra."

By Xuan An
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