Vermicelli with climbing perch fish (Bún cá rô đồng), Vietnam

Vermicelli with climbing perch fish (Bún cá rô đồng), Vietnam

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There is a new dish which has already attracted many eaters’ attention despite its young appearance and also become the unique food of Hai Duong area.

It is the soft noodles with climbing perch or it is usually also known as canh bún cá rô (soup with vermicelli and climbing perch)

Not as luxurious as Phở in Ha Noi, Vermicelli with climbing perch of Hai Duong has the most typical characteristics of North Vietnam Delta with some common ingredients such as perches, celeries, cabbages, onions, dills…

At the beginning of chilly autumn, bringing a hot bowl of vermicelli and climbing perch soup, the tasty smell of perch mixed with ginger, together with the green of spinach, neptunia and the spotlessly white of soft noodles remind me of my sweet childhood. I remember I used to follow my dad and my brother to go catching perches at the front yard after each gust of rain.

Vermicelli with climbing perch is sold in almost all districts of this region, but most is still in Hai Duong City with a chain of famous foodstalls like Hoang Hiep Stall near the gate of the Placehouse (57, Pham Hong Thai), Fish Stall of Miss Dieu at 116 Nguyen Luong Bang or Mrs Loan’s Stall at Ly Thuong Kiet Street.

The materials of Vermicelli with climbing perch are very simple, add boiled perch which is removed its bones and poached, noodles or rice pancake (bánh đa), cabbage, spinach…to a bowl then pour broth into it. However, to have a really tasty noodles soup with perch, the cooking process is rather sophisticated.

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Miss Do Thi Hiep, the owner of Hoang Hiep Stall near the Placehouse said, “Perch to make soup has to be fresh and have natural living environment so that its meat is palatable. Spoiled fish or dead fish is squashy and hard to split its meat.”

Just select an average perch because if the fish is too small, it will have pulpy meat with lots of bones. Otherwise, big fish will have too much fat. After washing all fish scales, a perch needs to be tossed many times with salt before boiling. Boil water, keep medium heat, add a little salt to the pot then put that perch in. Wait about 10-15 minutes till the perch pops up, take it out to cool down and remove its bones.

Boiling process is very important because if it is boiled for too long, perch’s meat will be crushed. Vice versa, the meat is not well-done and makes it hard to split all fishbone. Perch’s meat is added spice, poached with ginger’s water and dry onions till it gets firm, then add a little brown sugary water to turn the meat brown.

It is a secret to mix perches tastily in such a way that fish is no longer fishy and having a burnt smell of burnt sugar. Plus, its meat is not broken and still remains a sweet taste of climbing perch. Some people use saffron so that fish has yellow, some use drilled ginger or drilled onion to cook sauce.

Perch’s head and bones after being removed are put back into the pot used to boil fish to make good broth. Every restaurant has its own recipe to cook delicious broth. Miss Hiep’s Stall uses a hundred percent the water of boiled fishbone in order to have fragrant and unique stock.

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Noodles to eat with climbing perch have different types: big fiber or small fiber all depends on customers’ preference, but the most delicious is still handmade noodles which is not only soft but also crisp. Vegetables served with this soup is also various, it may be cabbage, spinach, neptunia, cress based on each crop. A clever cook will choose fresh vegetables that is poached till it is well done and still keeps the specific green. The most important herbs that definitely cannot be missed are onions and dills.

Fold vermicelli in a bowl, put up a few slices of perch’s meat, herbs and vegetables then cover them in broth. Now you already have such a tasty bowl of perch soup that can make you feel full until noon.

The time perches give birth, the soup can have small yellow seeds of spawn. Similar to other soups, eaters can add chili peppers, garlic, a small piece of lemon, kumquat to fit their appetite.

From just a simple dish for breakfast, Vermicelli with climbing perch fish now follows eaters to big cities like Ha Noi, HCMC. Recently, The Vietnam Record Organization has submitted a list of 50 special dishes of Vietnam, the Vermicelli with climbing perch fish of Hai Duong ranks the eleventh. People of this city have one more special food to treat their friends when they pay a visit to this place.

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/// Written by Lop Hoc Vui Ve, Vietnam