Fresh Fish From Vinh Long Market

Posted on October 13, 2010

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A market in the village of Ving Long, alongside the mighty Mekong River, similar to wet markets found from one end of Vietnam to another.

Fresh produce laid on mats or presented in plastic buckets. Umbrellas, conical hats and long-sleeved overshirts to protect the ba tam (market ladies) from the sun. Plastic slippers and ao ba bas (nylon pyjama-like outfits). Friendly smiles. Bargaining. Men sitting around doing nothing much, apart from commentating on the action.

I was quietly proud to have been able to negotiate the purchase of this ca loc (snake-head fish) in Vietnamese. Notice the eels in the bucket in front of the ba tam (market lady). Other vendors had toads and snakes for sale.

As with many items available in Vietnamese wet markets, the seller prepares the item for cooking. In this case, the fish was beheaded, gutted and scaled before being ensconced in a series of artfully knotted plastic bags.

Canh chua cá lóc (Sour soup with snake-head fish)

A bowl of sour soup with the flavours of the countryside

(serves 4)

Ingredients:

– 1 fresh snake head fish, cleaned and scaled

– 4 large okra or lady fingers

– half a pineapple

– 2 ripe tomatoes

– tamarind paste

– saw-tooth herb, rice paddie herb, green/spring onion, red onions, spices to taste (salt, pepper, chicken powder, sugar), bean sprouts, chillies

Clean the fish, cut it into pieces and put it in a dish with sliced shallots, a pinch of pepper, a pinch of salt, 1 teaspoon of chicken powder (powdered chicken stock), 2 teaspoons of sugar

Cut the taro stems into 5cm segments, peel the stems. cut each tomato into 6 or 8 pieces. Cut the pineapple into bite-size pieces. If the tamarind paste contains seeds, place 100 grams into 1 litre of hot water and stir until the seeds break free. Remove the seeds.

Fry the sliced red onion until tender and fragrant. Add the pineapple, tomato and the fish pieces to the pan. Add the tamarind water and bring to the boil. Skim any scum that rises to the top to ensure the broth is clear. Add the stems, okra and bean sprouts. Add seasonings and spices to taste.

When the vegetables are tender and the fish is cooked through (about 15 minutes), pour the soup into a bowl and top with long coriander and some slices of chilli. Remove the fish pieces from the soup, place on a separate serving bowl and add a dash of fish sauce, extra slices of chilli.

– recipe based on http://vnexpress.net/Vietnam/Doi-song/Kheo-tay-Hay-lam/2001/05/3B9B0CE6/

(Google Translate helpfully translated one section of this recipe as: “Fish cleaning and departed into small pieces, marinated fish with onions spices and a little old man answered the permeability.” I gave up and waited for darling man to help me.)

Halfway through translating this recipe I stumbled across another version of the recipe at http://pwmf.blogspot.com/2006/02/canh-chua-sour-soup.html

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