Four rustic yet impressive specialties in Tra Vinh
Tra Vinh is a province with cultural interference from the Khmer people, leading to a rustic but unique regional cuisine. When being in this land, you should definitely try these following unique dishes:
Macapuno coconut has an abnormal development of the endosperm, which results in a soft translucent jelly-like flesh that fills almost the entire central cavity of coconuts, with little or no coconut water. The best macapuno coconuts are in Cau Ke district, and Tra Vinh province is the only place where this kind of coconut is grown.
Macapuno coconut is special because its copra is as sticky as wax. Photo: tintucvietnam.vn
Some documents indicated that Macapuno coconut trees appeared in Cau Ke district in 1942 after a Khmer monk paid a visit to Cambodia. He planted 2 Macapuno coconut trees in the pagoda campus, but until 1960, this special coconut variety was planted outside. A special feature of Macapuno coconuts is that only the fruits without copra have the ability to become seedlings, while the one with copra cannot germinate.
Each bunch of Macapuno coconut usually has only a few fruits with copra, accounting for about 20-25%, while the rest are fruits having the same commercial value as other types of coconuts. Based on the colour and shape of the coconut, there are currently 5 varieties of Macapuno coconuts in Tra Vinh, which are the round coconut, long coconut, coconut with edges, green coconut, and yellow coconut.
The fruits with copra account for about 20-25% of each bunch of Macapuno coconut. Photo: aloduasap
Macapuno coconut can be enjoyed directly or processed into a smoothie to make it less greasy. The method is extremely simple: you just need to put copra, coconut water, shaved ice - and maybe some sugar and milk - into the blender. After only a few minutes, you will have a cup of thick and fragrant coconut smoothie, which is both nutritious and tasty.
As it is very difficult to grow Macapuno coconut, coupled with the fact that the proportion of fruits to copra is low, its price is high, ranging from VND 120,000 - 200,000/each fruit.
Tasty Macapuno coconut smoothie. Photo: @huongtrang4791
Nuoc Leo Noodle Soup (Bun Nuoc Leo)
Tra Vinh is a land of interference among many cultures, especially with a large number of Khmer people living here, Nuoc Leo Noodle Soup has become one of the typical dishes of this land. This dish is different from other types of noodle soups due to one special ingredient called “Bo Hoc” fish sauce, which is a typical feature of Khmer cuisine.
An attractive bowl of Nuoc Leo Noodle Soup in Tra Vinh. Photo: news.zing.vn
The ingredients for making this dish include fresh vermicelli, fried spring rolls, pork, pork bones, snakehead fish, banana flowers and herbs. It is important to note that the noodles used for this dish must have small and thin fibers to soak up the broth. The deep-fried spring rolls are made from pork mince, wood ear, vermicelli and eggs. For the snakehead fish, you have to steam them before getting the meat and stir-frying it with shallots. Regarding the broth, first, stew fish bones and pork bones, then add the stir-fried fish meat in this stewing pot. While bacon is roasted to make it crispy, banana flowers are thinly sliced.
A bowl of Nuoc Leo Noodle Soup includes rice noodles, a broth with a strong aroma of “Bo Hoc” fish sauce, some mung bean sprouts and sliced banana flowers, served with fried spring rolls and bite-sized sliced roasted pork wrapped in eye-catching banana leaves. Right from the first bite, you can feel the rich taste of the broth mixed with the freshness of banana flowers, crispy fried spring rolls and greasy roasted bacon. This is definitely a noodle dish that you should try when coming to Tra Vinh.
The price of each bowl of Nuoc Leo Noodle Soup is quite low, only ranging from VND 15,000 - 20,000.
A bowl of Nuoc Leo Noodle Soup with full toppings. Photo: Thanh Nien Newspaper
Chu U roasted with tamarind
The name of the dish sounds strange but the taste is wonderful. Photo: dantocmiennui.vn
Chu U is a type of crustacean with a shape quite similar to freshwater crabs or sesarmidae - but it is more tasty - and there are some patterns on its back. Chu U lives in alluvial areas, where the river and the sea meet, so in Tra Vinh, this species is very abundant in coastal districts. Chu U can be processed into many dishes by means of boiling, steaming with beer or grilling, but the dish that is favoured by most visitors is Chu U roasted with tamarind. It is likely that you will only be able to enjoy this dish in Tra Vinh.
After cleaning Chu U, stir-fry them with shallots and garlic, then add tamarind sauce and wait until you can smell the aroma. The dish has a sweet and sour taste, while Chu U meat is chewy, fragrant and naturally a little sweet. It should be noted that you can eat the whole crispy shell of Chu U as it is very tasty.
From VND 60,000, you can enjoy this specialty of Tra Vinh.
Chu U roasted with tamarind. Photo: songmoi
Tra Cuon cylindrical sticky rice cake
Besides Chung Cake, Tet Cake (cylindrical sticky rice cake) is also a traditional Vietnamese cake, and the one in Tra Cuon (Tra Vinh) is more special than those in other regions.
Tra Cuon cylindrical sticky rice cake. Photo: Meta
Tra Cuon cake is produced all year round due to the huge demand: there are stalls selling up to 200 cakes a day. To make delicious cylindrical sticky rice cakes, it needs the meticulousness and skill of experienced cooks. Ingredients for making Tra Cuon cake include sticky rice, mung beans, salted eggs, bacon and katuk juice. Notably, the green colour of the sticky rice is created from the vegetable juice. This kind of cylindrical sticky rice cake is also coloured from the magenta leaf plant to make it more eye-catching with purple. In addition to mung beans and bacon like Chung Cake, salted eggs are added to make the flavour richer. Tet Cake is wrapped in banana leaves without molds, so people have to meticulously roll the cake to make it tight without tearing the banana leaves. The cake will be boiled in a large cast iron pot for about 8 hours to be well-cooked.
The green of Tet Cake is created by the colour of katuk juice. Photo: Bloganchoi
When you cut the cake, each slice is mixed with an eye-catching layer of mung bean, making you immediately attracted. The sticky rice with mung beans, rich salted eggs and greasy pork contribute to the characteristic flavour of the cake in Tra Cuon.
Tra Cuon Tet Cake also has purple colour from the magenta leaf plant. Photo: banhtet2ly
The price of Tra Cuon Tet Cake usually ranges from VND 50,000 - 60,000/big cake. The cake should be eaten within 3-5 days after the date of being made.
Tra Vinh is not only famous for Macapuno coconuts, but it also attracts visitors by unique dishes such as Tra Cuon Tet Cake, Chu U roasted with tamarind or Nuoc Leo Noodle Soup. You will definitely be surprised by the unique taste of these dishes, possibly allowing you to remember them forever.