Saturday, January 17, 2009

[Vietnamese] Seeking strange foods for lunar New Year’s Eve


VietNamNet Bridge – Many people prefer strange foods like worms, scorpions and snakes to popular food for the lunar New Year’s Eve like dog meat. They believe these “exotic” foods will help them avoid bad luck in the new year.

Lying in Dich Vong alley, Cau Giay district, Hanoi is Phuc Van Lai Restaurant, a familiar destination for those addicted to insects. The restaurant is more crowded at the year’s end.
A waitress at Phuc Van Lai, Nguyen Khanh Linh, said: “At the beginning, our restaurant provided normal food like pork, chicken, seafood but in recent years, we have had new cuisines processed from scorpions, crickets, and grasshoppers.”

Cuisines processed from insects at Phuc Van Lai are mainly fried or roasted with salt. The restaurant buys frozen insects from traders in Ha Tay.

The restaurant is very crowded at the year’s end so the restaurant has to buy insects at a higher price from the Nghia Tan wholesale market. According to Linh, the restaurant’s customers are mainly youngsters.

Located on Kim Ma road, in front of the Thu Le Zoo, Bao Lam Restaurant is always full. Many students chose the restaurant as the site of lunar New Year’s Eve parties before they return home.

The most famous cuisine at Bao Lam is sau chit, a species of worm, steamed with a special spice of the Thai ethnic group in the northwestern region. Some youngsters even like eating live chit worm.“Our class comes to this restaurant on special eves like Christmas, the Western New Year and particularly the lunar New Year’s Eve. It is quite difficult to eat chit worm but it is really nutritious,” said Le Trung Hoi, a student from the Stage and Movie University.

Bao Lam buys chit worms from ethnic minority people in northwestern provinces. This species of worm lives in ivory bamboo sections. Each section contains only one chit worm. Bao Lam charges VND40,000 per plate of 20-30 ivory bamboo joints.

The people in the southern province of Tay Ninh and some provinces near the border with Cambodia like cuisines made from crickets and spiders very much. They say these cuisines originated from Cambodia. At first, men tried these cuisines because it is said that these things can help them strengthen their “manly” power. After that, youngster tried and liked them as well.

Those who have higher incomes often go to Le Mat village, Long Bien district, Hanoi to taste cuisines made from snake. Le Mat is a famous snake-breeding village in Hanoi.

In Le Mat, dozens of restaurants lying along the village roads sell snake-made food. Popular names include Quoc Trieu, Van Duc, Xuan Chu, Trong Khach and Huong Que.

Nguyen Van Trong, 70, the owner of the Trong Khack Restaurant, said that more customers come to his restaurants at the year’s end, including foreigners.

The restaurant processes several tens of kilos of snakes per day. Trong’s daughter-in-law, Pham Thi Van, said that snake can be processed into ten major cuisines: soup, frying, grilling, grilled pie, fried snake skin, spring roll, etc. The restaurant also offers sticky glutinous rice with snake fat, snake with ginger soup.

Each customer can pay VND100,000-150,000 to taste cuisines made of coluber. Copperhead is more expensive, around VND700,000 per kilo. Customers will see restaurant staff catch live copperheads and turn them into cuisines in front of their very eyes!

“Some customers eat live copperhead heart,” Van said.

Many people choose snake for their lunar New Year’s Eve party because snake is a fatty food good for the winter.


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