Well-known braised fish of Vu Dai village

Vu Dai village in the Northern Province of Ha Nam is famous for its braised fish in earthenware pots fish. No one knows when the old-age cooking fish with fish sauce started but the traditional braised fish and king banana, a kind of banana, were offered to the king in the old time.

Villagers are cooking the famous braised fish (Photo: SGGP)

Villagers are cooking the famous braised fish (Photo: SGGP)

Residents in Vu Dai village spend a lot of time on details of making fish from buying pots and traditional spices before cooking. Moreover, meticulous cooking fish with fish sauce requires toil.
Households in Hoa Hau Commune in the Northern Province of Ha Nam, where many villagers are keeping handicrafts including cooking fish with fish sauce. From the end of December, a person can feel the specific smell of cooked fish giving off from houses by the roadside.
Cooks of braised fish revealed that there are various kinds of pots fluctuating from VND30,000- VND50,000; braised fish producers will normally buy all types of pots to satisfy customers’ demand. The earthenware pots and the cover are made by pottery manufacturers in the North Central Province of Thanh Hoa and the Central Province of Nghe An. Pots must be cooked with water inside during a certain time.
Black grass carp is the best for the dish, which only uses the fish’s body, not the head or tail. Each fish should be raised on natural food and be mature, weighing three to five kilograms each. Before blending fish with pepper, salt, and ginger, people must remove all fish scales so that salt, sugar, ground pepper, salt, and ginger will permeate into fish meat. Then, villagers use salt or lemon juice to remove all fish skin mucus. Experienced also to squirt fish belly with lemon juice and salt – a secret to tackle fish sickening smell.
Spices play an important factor so that the pots of braised fish smell fragrantly. Owner of braise fish business household Tran Duy Ha, who has 20 years of experience in cooking braised fish in Hoa Hau Commune said that villagers usually put around 15 kinds of natural spices including alpinia, yellow ginger, lemon juice, fermented freshwater crab sauce, chili pepper, pineapple, citronella, onion into fish pots.
Experienced cooks say that fish will be mixed with natural spices in 15 minutes so that spices can absorb into fish meat. Another secret in the job is that longan logs are used for cooking fish pots as longan wood makes a longer fire.
Presently, braised fish of Vu Dai village is well-known countrywide and it is transported to all corners in the country. For instance, Tran Duy Ha disclosed to sell thousands of braised fish pots to consumers in the capital city of Hanoi, the Central City of Da Nang, and Ho Chi Minh City every year.
The demand of Vu Dai braised fish is high in Tet holiday ( the Lunar New Year) with an average price of VND700,000 a pot of 2.5 kilogram. Nevertheless, Ha and other household business owners wished to introduce the dish to foreign countries. Food safety and preservation techniques are current barriers for transportation of the dish out of the country. Plus, some household businesses irregularly make the dish which could affect the quality of fish pots.
Chairman of the People’s Committee in Hoa Hau Commune Tran Huu Thao said that 400 households in the commune have participated in cooking traditional braised fish which helps them escape poverty. Specifically, each household can make over VND100 million from selling the dish on Tet holiday. Accordingly, local administration has supported residents to keep the traditional job encouraging them to build brand name for the dish.

By Gia Khanh - Translated by Anh Quan

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