Gia Lai, the land of the Mountains, attracts tourists not only by its majestic beauty but also the wild and amazing culinary culture.
Gia Lai dried noodle
The people in the Southern part of Vietnam love the “two bowl noodle”, one is dried and the other bowl of noodle soup. However, that cuisine isn’t come from the delta, but from the mountains of Gia Lai. One of the ten best dishes in Asia, the delicious Gia Lai dried noodle is the thing you should not miss when visiting Vietnam.
Although the dish is called noodle, the noodle that is used is not looked like noodle. The fibers are smaller and tougher than the noodle fiber, which is big and soft. The dish is divided into two parts, the soup and the fried noodle.
The boiled pork bone helps to make the fresh and sweet soup water. The main ingredients are the noodle, some other herbs and spices, vegetables like sprouts, pork, mince (or ball) beef and others will create a harmonious dish.
Gia Lai dried noodle is much favored by the people in the big cities, and therefore there are many dried noodle joints everywhere. However, enjoying the dish in its place of origin is the best way to truly absord everything.
Crab sauce noodle
If there is something related to sauce, it will have a unique smell. Crab sauce noodle also has a very special smell. Although it is one of the best dishes in Gia Lai, it is also very picky. However, if you have tried and loved it, you would never forget it.
The famous Gia Lai crab sauce noodle was, however, invented by the people from Binh Dinh – a neighborhood region of Gia Lai. The soup is made from paddy fields’ crabs. Instead of serving right away like many other noodles, the soup from the boiled crab will be extracted and must be incubated for about a day until fermented, and this process will make a very “different” smell.
The dish also has some fried bacon, spices, put together with the soup. When the soup reach boiling temperature, the cook will add in some bamboo shoots. When served, the dish also has added in some porn skin or some crispy shrimp cakes, and lemon.
Nevertheless, not many people can truly appreciate the spicy, crunchy and yet salty of this meal. This is also why not so many tourists can enjoy this special dish of Gia Lai. Try this dish when you come to Gia Lai, and then you are 100% completed the Gia Lai experience.
Bep (Bago) leaves soup
Bago (in Vietnamese is Bep) is a special type of herbs in the mountains of Gia Lai. Many of the minority ethnics groups in Central Vietnam have discovered this herb for a very long time ago. This herb has have many people survived the wars.
The herb is uniquely sweet, so the locals call it with another name: seasoning leaves. Glutamate. If you are in a hurry, all you need to do is to take two Bep leaves, wash them then put them into water with some salt, and you’d have a simple bowl of soup.
Even better, you can make the Bep leaves and crab soup. The crab makes the soup even sweeter, and all of this is natural sweet. The soup is to help cool down body temperature and also has an unforgettable flavor of the jungle.
Many try this dish because of curiosity, but many people here have used it as a daily meal, to survive the harsh and brutal wars.
The soup is bucolic, yet it represents the ability to use anything in the time of hardship. It is the contrast between the fancy restaurants and the bucolic dish of the mountains.
Weather beef jerky
One-day-sunny-two-day-cloudy beef jerky is a delicious dish. It also has a very peculiar name. Not only this is a good talk-n-eat dish, this can be also a gift after a trip to the mountain region of Gia Lai.
The most important thing is to choose the right ingredients. The jerky must not be too tough to chew, so the beef has to be fresh, and the cow was not too old or too young that would make the best beef jerky.
The beef, after some prepared, will be cut into slices and then marinated with some salt, sauce, pepper, lemon grass, killer chili,… and put the beef slices under the sun. If the sun is weak, the beef will be dried by the coal fire but not a second day of sun dried.
When grilling the beef, it has to be turned many times to reach a brownish color. Too much time on the fire will make the meat dried and hard to chew. Use hand to handle the beef. There are also many type of sauces that can be used along with, especially one is the yellow-ant dip salt.
Yellow-ant dip salt
An unique type of salt that is made from the yellow jungle ant of Ayna Pa, Krong Pa region in Gia Lai. Many people don’t have the nerve to try this. However, it only needs one time to try this salt to like it.
In order to make this, the locals have to go deep into the jungle to find the yellow ant. After acquiring a net of ant, the cook will fry the ant before grinding them with a very spicy chili, some herbs, and salt. The yellow ant salt is superb to try with barbecue.
The uniqueness comes from the acid inside the bellies of the ants. The acid is like lemon combine with salt, along with the chili, and the herbs make the salt a wonderful dip.
Usually the one-sun beef jerky is served along with this dip salt. They are like bean and carrot. It also a perfect match for some fruit and boiled meat.
Catfish is a common type of fresh water fish in South East Asia. However, they are usually appearing in the delta region, not in the mountains. Travel to the mountain to have some fish is rather peculiar. However, the fish here is even better than the delta’s. Fishes in the Ba River or Ayun River areas are among the best because they have to swim upstream, which makes their body strong and solid.
The fishes are small, less than 1kg but still they are worth looking for. There are dozens of ways to make these fishes, all are equally wonderful.
The best of them all is the grilled catfish. There is no need for spices. All you need is to clean the fish, put it on the buring flame and you will have a delicious lunch or dinner.
The fish is good from the outside in. The skin is crunch after being grilled on the fire. The meat is solid and flavorful. The boiled catfish is best served with some herbs, grilled rice paper and some yellow ant salt. It is a great combination between the sweetness of the fish and the sour and salty of the salt.
The best time to come to Gia Lai and have the best catfish with the best ingredients is Lunar August or September.