Indulge in the delights of Thai minority group in Pu Luong

By Xuan Manh   July 8, 2023 | 03:00 am PT
Embark on a culinary adventure in Pu Luong and savor the flavors of Thai cuisine. Each dish reflects the region's rich natural resources and the creativity of the local people.

Pu Luong, nestled in the northwest province of Thanh Hoa, about 150 kilometers from Hanoi, captivates visitors with its natural landscapes. Exploring this region is an opportunity to immerse oneself in the local culinary wonders that should not be missed. Let's explore the must-try specialties for visitors during their vacation in Pu Luong.

Mâm cơm của người Thái ở Pù Luông.

A Thai food tray in Pu Luong features various dishes, from grilled fish to wild vegetables. Photo by VnExpress/Xuan Manh

Co Lung Duck

Co Lung duck is a specialty exclusive to Co Lung Commune in Ba Thuoc District. These ducks have a distinctive appearance, with a tucked neck, short legs, and sparrow-like feathers adorned with a white band around the neck.

Raised in the heart of Pu Luong, where the climate is fresh and cool, the Co Lung ducks benefit from a diverse natural food source. As a result, their meat possesses a distinct flavor profile. When boiled, the meat becomes tender, sweet, fragrant, and firm. Visitors have the opportunity to enjoy Co Lung duck in various preparations, such as boiled, roasted, or grilled, available at most restaurants, homestays, and resorts throughout the region.

Vịt quay.

The shiny, brownish soft skin of grilled Co Lung duck. Photo by VnExpress/Xuan Manh

Mountain snail

Living in rock crevices and caves within the forest, mountain snails have a unique diet of moss, weeds, and forest herbs. Their meat is firm, fragrant, and nutritious. In Pu Luong, locals prepare these snails by boiling, steaming with ginger, or using them in salads and stir-fries.

In contrast to the traditional sweet and sour fish sauce with ginger and lemongrass, the Thai people of Pu Luong have their own unique dipping sauce called cham cheo, made from a blend of chili, garlic, salt, and mac khen (wild pepper). Cham cheo is frequently served alongside snail dishes, elevating their tastes.

Ốc đá.

Mountain snails stand out with their larger size and lighter-color shells when compared to typical snails. Photo by VnExpress/Xuan Anh

Com lam (Rice cooked in bamboo tubes)

Com lam, a simple yet flavorful dish, embodies the essence of Pu Luong's nature. This dish involves stuffing sticky rice into bamboo tubes that are wrapped in banana leaves. As the tubes are grilled over a wood stove, the rice absorbs the smoky aroma. To elevate the taste, diners have the option to dip the rice in sesame salt. Com lam also pairs well with grilled dishes and forest vegetables. Visitors can also participate in cooking classes offered by homestays and resorts to learn how to make com lam themselves.

Thit gac bep (Dried meat)

Thịt gác bếp.

Dried meat is shredded into smaller pieces when being ordered. Photo by VnExpress/Xuan Anh

Thit gac bep is a specialty of the Thai ethnic people in Quan Hoa and Ba Thuoc districts. It is often prepared during the beginning of the year to celebrate the Lunar New Year holiday and welcome guests. The meat, which can be buffalo meat or pork belly, is smoked and slow-dried to achieve a dry exterior and a soft, sweet, and dark pink interior. The flavors are enhanced by spices such as mac khen, chili, and ginger. This specialty makes for an excellent gift for tourists to take home.

Bamboo shoots

During the spring season, Thai people venture into the forest to collect bamboo shoots. Although initially bitter when boiled, they gradually reveal their natural sweetness. In addition to boiled bamboo shoots, the Thai people also make fermented sour bamboo shoots, which can be cooked with fish soup and enjoyed throughout the year.

Grilled fish

Cá nướng.

Served with a salad and a bamboo soup, the grilled fish is adorned with a generous topping of peanuts and fried shallots. Photo by VnExpress/Xuan Anh

In Pu Luong, it is a common practice for locals to prepare fish by either cooking it with sour bamboo shoots or grilling it with wild pepper. The fish is marinated with a combination of onions, fish sauce, salt, and pepper, resulting in a bowl of fish soup.

When grilled, the fish releases the aromatic essence of pepper, chili, and lemongrass. One can relish the grilled fish by wrapping it with a combination of wild vegetables, vermicelli, cucumbers, and carrots. This dish is often served with a side of sweet and sour fish sauce.

Wild vegetables

No Thai food tray is complete without a selection of wild vegetables. From banana flower salad and wild vegetable salad to male papaya flower salad and green chiretta soup cooked with pork intestines and blood jelly, these vegetable dishes encapsulate the freshness and vitality of Pu Luong.

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