Delicious bummalo noodles
Our uncle Phuc in Dien Hai (Phong Dien District) called Mom, telling her to wait at Truong Tien Bridge at 6 a.m. Through a neighbor of his, he sent us a box of bummalo which he had caught by himself.
Uncle Phuc is a fisherman. Knowing my family like dishes made from bummalo, he always sends us some when bummalo is in season. It has become a habit since the day he moved to live at his wife's place now. At that time, few people ate bummalo, regarding it as food for the poor. Some even fed it to pigs.
Bummalo can be processed into many good dishes. On hot days, Mom cooks sour soup with bummalo. The sour taste of pineapples and tomatoes, the hot taste of chili at the tip of tongue and the sweet taste of fish really make bummalo soup good to eat. On rainy days, Mom cooks bummalo soup with wild betel leaves, shallots and culantro. Nothing compares with a bowl of bummalo soup with wild betel leaves. Sometimes, for a change, Mom cooks fish porridge or makes hotpot, or she fries the fish, then slowly cooks it with Vietnamese cilantro, etc. But best of all is bánh canh cá khoai (bummalo noodles.)
To cook bummalo noodles, remove the head and the intestines. Carefully wash the fish then cut it into pieces. Soak it with some fish sauce and chili and let it sit for about ten minutes. Drain it, then add some broth mix, monosodium glutamate, pepper, shallots. Doing so, the fish will be in shape and the flesh becomes harder. Mom also tells us to keep the stomach because it is fatty, crisp and delicious.
Bummalo gives sweet taste, so there is no need to make bone broth. Boil noodles made from manioc roots then drain them. Fry shallots and garlic until they turn golden brown then add water. Mom pours some ruốc (paste made from small shrimps) into a small pan with a little water, then boil it. Wait until the fluid becomes transparent then pour it into the boiling soup. Wait until the soup boils again then add the fish and cook it on a small fire. When the soup gets boiled again once more time, add the noodles. Gently stir the mixture. Add some spices to your interest then take the pot off. Sprinkle in some minced spring onions and corianders to finish. The more onions and corianders, the better.
Sitting around the hot pot of bummalo noodles on cold days, we eat until sweated. We do not feel cold even when taking off warm clothes.
Every time receiving the fish from her brother, Mom calls us to come have a look so that we would learn how to choose bummalo. Mom says fresh fish have gills which are still red in color; their bodies are transparent; backs and tails are light blue; fins are naturally pink. Never buy fish with black gills because they are not fresh.
Story and photo: LINH CHI