Chau Doc Town's 6 distinctive dishes

By Phong Vinh   October 13, 2019 | 09:15 am GMT+7

If you want to eat like a local when visiting Chau Doc, a Mekong Delta town bordering Cambodia, you can't go wrong with these foods

Chau Doc fish noodle soup

A bowl of Chau Doc fish noodle soup is served with a plate of roasted pork and a bowl of fish sauce on the side. Photo by VnExpress/Phong Vinh.

A bowl of Chau Doc fish noodle soup is served along with a plate of roasted pork and a bowl of fish sauce. Photo by VnExpress/Phong Vinh.

Bun ca Chau Doc, or Chau Doc fish noodle soup, originated in Cambodia before people in the Mekong Delta tweaked it to fit their taste. Now it can be found almost everywhere in Chau Doc Town of An Giang Province, 250 km west of Ho Chi Minh City.

The main ingredients are snakehead fish, broth and noodles. After cleaning and boiling the fish, the chef fillets it, marinates it with spices and fries it briefly on a pan with turmeric to give it a golden color and nice aroma.

The success of the dish lies in the broth that is made from fermented carp, shrimp paste and livestock bones. It also has a pale yellow color from crushed turmeric and fried fish is added to enhance its flavor.

The dish is served with a plate of roasted pork (heo quay) and dien dien or sesban leaves from a plant that grows abundantly in the region and has a unique aromatic texture and subtle fatty taste.

It costs VND10,000-20,000 ($0.43-0.86).

Broken rice

A plate of broken rice and roasted pork and other toppings. Photo by VnExpress/Phong Vinh.

A plate of broken rice and roasted pork and other toppings. Photo by VnExpress/Phong Vinh.

Son Nam, a famous Vietnamese writer and cultural researcher, said broken rice was a popular dish among the working class in the Mekong Delta. When workers migrated to urban areas, they took the dish with them, modifying it over the years. But its basic ingredient, fragments of rice grains broken by milling or during drying, has remained unchanged.

Com tam is mainly paired with suon nuong (grilled pork ribs) and bi (shredded pig's skin and meat). However, cha (a Vietnamese meatloaf with steamed pork, egg and other ingredients inside) is another popular topping.

The dish is garnished with fatty onion and pickled vegetables like daikon radish and carrot, and served with a dash of fish sauce.

First-time visitors can easily find this dish on Le Loi and Thu Khoa Huan streets and around Chau Doc Market.

A plate of suon bi cha here costs VND25,000-30,000 ($1.08-1.29).

Beef intestine sausage

A Cham woman is drying tung lo mo on a rack. Photo by VnExpress/Vy Thai.

A Cham ethnic woman is drying tung lo mo on a rack. Photo by VnExpress/Vy Thai.

Tung lo mo, or cow gut, is a regional dish of the Cham ethnic people living in Chau Doc. Visitors can see strings of sausages hung to dry up everywhere along the streets on the outskirts.

The Cham around Chau Doc, who practice a form of Islam, abstain from pork. So tung lo mo has become a staple beef dish during religious ceremonies.

Locals cut it into small slices and grill on a charcoal stove until it gives off a fragrance. When it is cooked, they chop it up into desirable size.

There are two versions of this dish, sour and non-sour. Locals dip it in soy sauce and eat with rice.

On bite into it sets off an explosion of tastes and flavors. There is the aroma and fattiness of the grilled beef and the slight sour, sweet, salty, and spicy tastes coming from the soy sauce, basil and pepper.

A kilogram of tung lo mo costs VND150,000-250,000 ($6.47-10.78).

Fine rice vermicelli sheets with grilled pork

A bowl of of banh hoi thit nuong with sweet and sour fish sauce on the side. Photo by VnExpress/Phong Vinh.

A bowl of banh hoi thit nuong served with sweet and sour fish sauce. Photo by VnExpress/Phong Vinh.

Banh hoi is similar to rice vermicelli and made from rice flour into very fine sheets. The dish is most delicious when it is soft and covered with a thin layer of oil to get rid of the raw flour flavor.

Locals eat banh hoi with pieces of marinated and fragrant pork that are grilled over charcoal.

The dish is topped with fatty onion and crushed peanuts. Some stalls add spring rolls (cha gio) and fish cakes (cha ca) to the dish. Every element comes together when eaten with sweet and sour fish sauce. It can be dipped into the sauce or the sauce can be added to the dish.

A bowl of banh hoi thit nuong costs VND25,000 ($1.08).

Beef meatball noodle soup

A bowl of meatball noodle soup with fresh herbs on top. Photo by VnExpress/Phong Vinh.

A bowl of meatball noodle soup with fresh herbs on top. Photo by VnExpress/Phong Vinh.

Hu tieu bo vien, or beef meatball noodle soup, can be seen everywhere in the downtown area with locals eating it in the morning and evening.

In Chau Doc the hu tieu, a rice-based noodle, is distinctive with the strands being smaller, soft and chewy.

The cook puts the noodles to a bowl and adds the broth made from bones and small pieces of bo vien (beef meatballs). Fresh herbs are also available for people who like their taste.

A bowl costs around VND20,000 ($0.86).

Fermented seafood

Buckes of different mam on displayed. Photo by VnExpress/Phong Vinh.

Tubs of various mam on display. Photo by VnExpress/Phong Vinh.

Chau Doc is known as the capital of fermentation, or mam in Vietnamese, and locals use many spices to preserve various kinds of seafood.

Vietnamese usually eat mam with rice. It tastes slightly sweet at first, but has a salty aftertaste.

Mam is so iconic here that even tourists buy it to gift. The best place to find and try this dish is Chau Doc Market.

 
 
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