Thang Co is a specialty recipe of the H’Mong ethnic minority. The traditional main ingredient of the dish is horsemeat.
Sapa’s temperature dropped below freezing the day we arrived. After walking about the town, we stopped in a small restaurant called “Eat Thang Co, Drink Corn Liquor”.
The décor is quaint with a small stage displaying traditional Sapanese instruments. The owner presents us a large pot of a yellow soup filled with horsemeat and its entrails.
Thang Co should be eaten with fresh vegetables such as lemongrass, chayote, cabbage, chili leaf, said Manager Mr. Toan. Its special sauce has a spice and a bitter zing.
“This is a specialty of the H’Mong people, there is no other taste like it,” said Toan.
The dish appeared as a traditional feast due to the abundance of horsemeat. Before modernization, the H’Mong only walked or rode horseback. These horses were eaten after getting sick or old to work.
After butchering and washing, the meat is stewed. The taste extremely pungent in the beginning but is neutralized with various spices. The meat is then chopped into small pieces and tossed with spices in a big pot. Water is added to stew the meat and bones for hours.
The words “Thang Co” in the H’Mong language translates as “big pot of water”. The traditional meat used is horsemeat however local cooks will use buffalo, cow or pork. The phrase “Cheer Thang Co” was celebrated 200 years ago among the H’Mong in the local markets.