Why carp hotpot sells like hot cakes in Vietnam
A carp hotpot set served at the Quan An Ngon restaurant chain. (Photo: VNA)
In all major Vietnamese cities, one dish becomes
ubiquitous after emerging as a new trend a decade or so ago – the hotpot.
variety of hotpot dishes are many, and one “imported” from Thailand, using tom
yum as the broth to cook various vegetables and meat in, has achieved great
there is one that stands out from all the hotpots, not just for its taste, but
for its cultural, even religious significance.
carp hotpot — a specialty from the north of the country, is one that people
look forward most to sharing with loved ones, particularly during the Lunar New
Year, because it is believed to bring good luck.
if you have never had a lau rieu ca chep (carp sour soup hotpot), now, Spring,
is the time.
Vietnamese-Canadian woman, Tran Le Hang, who was visiting her native county
with her family, recounted her experience of having a sour soup carp hotpot at
the famous Quan An Ngon Restaurant in Hanoi’s Phan Boi Chau street.
we arrived, the restaurant was already crowded with both locals and foreigners,
and many of them had opted for the carp hotpot to warm themselves in the
slightly chilly spring weather.
ordered one, too. It was such a great feeling to sit together and enjoy the
broth with tomatoes, dill and many other ingredients, most importantly the
fatty, fresh carp pieces. The aromas that came out of the hotpot woke up our
taste buds,” Hang said.
Kim Chi, who runs Quan An Ngon, told the Canadian guests that her restaurant
serves hundreds of dishes from the country’s three regions, but the carp hotpot
is the most wanted at this time of the year.
believe that eating a carp with eggs in its belly at the Lunar New Year brings
them good luck, Chi said.
was guided to dip the first piece of fatty carp eggs into the yellow colour of
saffron-flavoured broth, which everyone, children and adults, find attractive.
hotpot will be less tasty if it lacks the carp eggs,” Chi said as she advised
the diners to let the carp pieces cook in the broth for several minutes while
soaking fresh dill and removing it much sooner, just enough time for the broth
to get its fragrance, flavour and light sweetness.
this is superb. I could feel the soft texture and fragrance of the carp, and
taste the flavours of banana inflorescense, Indian taro and celery stems,” Hang
hot, sour-sweet broth with the added flavour of fresh fennel was tasty beyond
anything she’s ever tried since her family resettled in Canada more than 30
years ago, she added.
Nguyen Van Tuat, 62, who runs a traditional medicine centre in Hanoi, said carp
is a nutritious dish cooked regularly by housewives, but a carp hotpot is the
most delicious that can be made with it.
said his 90-year-old mother can make 12 different dishes with carp, but her
best was the rieu ca chep (carp sour soup) as well. All the ingredients were
made at home, he said. Carp was caught from her own pond, fresh dills and taro
stems from her garden and homemade me (fermented rice, a key ingredient, made
with rice kept in a corner of the kitchen for at least three months to
organic, raw vegetables and naturally fermented me is the secret of many tasty
dishes made in the north, and the carp sour soup was an unforgettable dish, Tuat
still remember the taste of the dish my mother cooked in the kitchen with straw
dish has been cooked in Vietnam for hundreds of years in both rural and urban
areas. Vietnamese housewives like Tuat’s mother who cooked the soup very well,
made family meal special during war time, when the country was very poor.
said that to cook a hotpot like Tuat’s mother, housewives should know how to
choose a carp naturally raised without industrial feed.
naturally-raised carp is fragrant, sweet and crispy, unlike that raised with
industrial-feed, which often as starchy meat, Chi said.
naturally-raised carp not easy to get these days, gourmets and those harking
for a taste of the old days can visit one of the Quan An Ngon restaurants in Hanoi.
reasonable price – just 399,000 VND (17.5 USD) per set for four persons,
including four cups of suong sa hat luu (mixed pudding), a popular dessert –
makes this hotpot a bestseller.-VNA