Seven culinary highs from northern Vietnam mountains

Vietnam's northwestern region spices up its spectacular vistas with some unique culinary delights. Here are seven delightful examples.


Grilled chicken in bamboo tube

A famous dish of the Thai ethnic minority people in several northwestern provinces, the dish features chicken that is marinated with mac khen, a signature pepper used in the region, for about an hour and then placed in a hollow bamboo section.

The chef closes the section with dong leaves (phrynium placentarium) for added flavor before grilling the tube. The meat comes out tender in a golden color with a blend of aromas imparted to it by the bamboo and the leaves.



Minced pork grilled in dong leaves

The meat is marinated with several spices including the mac khen pepper, wrapped in layers of dong leaves and grilled on a charcoal stove or placed inside wooden embers of a stove.

The chef has to be very skillful and careful to ensure that the meat is cooked evenly and comes out golden while the leaves are only lightly burned on the outside. The leaves moisturize and add their aroma to the meat. The fragrance the dish exudes when the leaves are peeled off to reveal the tasty, tender meat is an appetizer on its own.



Steamed barbs

Large barbs are caught from the Da River and cut into small pieces before they are marinated with minced ginger, onions, and spices. The cook collects pebbles from local streams and heats them before placing them at the bottom of the pot to cook the fish with aromatic leaves, lemongrass, ginger, wine.

“The fish is delicious, fresh and firm because it is steamed right at the table for eaters, ”said Bui Quy, a Muong chef in the northern province of Hoa Binh.



Purple sticky rice

This eye-catching and delicious sticky rice dish requires time and meticulousness. The cook dyes the rice with khau cam, a leafy plant that can only be found in the mountains. The leaves are boiled for more than one hour, turning the water purple.

The rice will then be soaked in this water for about 8-10 hours. When the rice has changed color, the cook can now cook it. The rice can be served with salt or pork.



Veal with fermented tofu sauce

A must try for every visitor to Moc Chau Town in the northwest, the veal is served with a sour sauce made from fermented tofu. The meat taken out almost immediately after it is dipped and stirred in boiling oil to ensure that it remains tender and does not get chewy.



Bamboo shoots

Bamboo shoots are steamed, grilled or stir-fried with garlic. They are good to eat on their own as a healthy snack or a tasty side dish for a main course.



Pork rolled in wild leaves

The use of wild herbs and leaves is a common practice among the mostly ethnic minority communities who have originally populated the region. The herbs and leaves are used as food and as medicine. Pork wrapped in wild leaves and grilled and served with other leaves and herbs never fails to earn the appreciation of visitors.

Phuong Thao, a visitor from Hanoi, said: "The northwestern region cuisine is delicious. I like the food as it is usually served on fresh, green banana leaves. The dishes are simple and close to nature.”