Eel porridge, braised eel and eel rice vermicelli are the unique and delicious dishes made from eel in Thanh Hoa Province. The eel is so good that you want to stay here forever.
During the rainy season in August, when the summer rains start to fall on the green rice paddies is also the sign of the eel season. The rice eels, thanks to the Great Water (the water with nutrition in the dirt), are fat. Some of them are big, but they usually hide themselves in the cave. It is hard to distinguish the eel cave, the snake cave, or the crab cave. Only the professional with years of experiences can tell the difference.
The colors of the eels are yellow and black, and the bolder the colors are, the tastier the eels. The eel can be made into many dishes such as salad, grilled, fried, bologna, steamed, soup… But the best are these followings:
The Vietnamese traditional porridge is more liquid than Thanh Hoa’s eel porridge. The eel porridge is more like soup with the clear porridge water, the rice has not broken, and there is a lot of eel meat.
(The delicious and nutritious eel porridge should be eaten when it’s hot. The porridge is best suited for sick people. The porridge, eaten along with pepper or chili, will help the sicks sweat, therefore will help them recover.)
The locals believe that the clearer the water and the more water it has, the better the porridge because the eel porridge’s most nutritious part is the soup. A delicious bowl of porridge will have a lot of fresh fried eels, which will increase the bold flavors. The rice is not broken. There are also a lot of fried onions, and the porridge is usually decorated with cilantro, fried tofu.
Thanh Hoa eel porridge is served with sesame pancake, like the people in Hanoi having their own porridge with quẩy, a special type of donut in rolled-shape. You can enjoy the traditional eel porridge shop in Nguyen Chich Street, Truong Thi, Ba Trieu Street, Le Hoan, or Dinh Huong Street.
Eels inside banana leaves:
This sophisticated dish requires the chef to be skillful and very clever in choosing materials. The eels have to have to distinguish parts: the yellow bellies and the velvet black backs. They have to be big and long. After removing the slime of the eels by using ash, the chef will prepare the meal by cutting the eels into 3 to 5 cm pieces, rolling them in banana leaves. The exterior of the leaves is removed, then, the leaves will be submerged in salt water to remove the latex. After the process, the leaves will be rolled with the eels, and other ingredients like shrimp sauce, cilantro, chili, marinated for 20 minutes and then cooked on medium fire.
After that, the dish is cooked in low heat, but for a very long period of time so that the flavors can intermingle together. When the banana leaves are tendered, the soup will be viscous, and the dish is ready. Sprinkled with cilantro on the top and the dish is ready to serve.
The fat of the eel mixes with the sweetness of the banana, along with the sour of Mẻ (batch), a traditional spice from the north of Vietnam, which is using rice and fermented it with the batch, create a unique cuisine. The dish also served with tangerine and chili. If you want to find the right dish, go to Ha Trung, Dong Son, and Thieu Hoa during the rain season.
Eel rice vermicelli:
The eel rice vermicelli has a special taste. The main ingredients are the vermicelli and the eels. First, vermicelli should be washed clean from any dirt, then dipped into hot eel broth water. The vermicelli will expand and the same time has the flavor of the eel, then put into a separate bowl. The eel, after removing the bone, is marinated with pepper, salt, and then quickly fried in big fire so that the meat can be tougher and has a beautiful yellow.
The secret of the dish is the broth. The flavorful broth has to be made from pig’s bone, chicken bone, and eel’s bone. All has to be cooked for a long time, continuously removing the foam so that the broth can be clear and fat.
When you enjoy yourself, you can also have some fried bean, or some sprouts, which are important complements. The tough vermicelli, the fat eel’s meat, the bold broth along with the herbs such as oregano, Perilla, or basil will make you never forget such a wonderful dish.