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Binh Dinh's special food

Update: March, 04/2016 - 12:00

Binh Dinh is a province with more than mountains and beaches for visitors to see.

It is also where lots of delicious food comes from.

Nem is the most famous of these foods.

There are many different types of nem, all made from pork but prepared in different ways.

Dinner for two: A set of nem dishes.
Dinner for two: A set of nem dishes.

By Ngoc Phuong 

Binh Dinh, a central coastal province with a stunning stretch of beaches and mountain ranges as well as beautiful islands, is a seriously underrated tourist destination.

Like many other Vietnamese regions, the province has its own special cuisine and traditions that should be better known.

Dishes that deserve to be included on the tourist culinary trail include banh xeo tom nhay(fresh savoury pancakes with shrimp), banh hoi chao long (thin rice vermicelli with rice porridge), banh it la gai (glutinous rice cake with white ramie leaves) and bun song than (dual-thread vermicelli).

But it is nem (pork roll) that is the real standout dish.

A snack that can be eaten as finger food or as an appetiser to a larger meal, nem appears everywhere in Binh Dinh, from vendors' baskets to luxury banquets.

There are two kinds of nemnem tuoi (grilled fresh pork roll) and nem chua (fermented pork roll). The latter can be grilled or eaten fresh after removing the leaf covering.

Traditional nem contains either grilled or fermented pork in addition to crispy greens, peanut sauce, garlic, chili and aromatic herbs. It usually comes wrapped and rolled in rice paper.

The mixture of sweet, sour, salty and spicy flavours make your mouth salivate with each bite.

The province's speciality, Nem Cho Huyen, can be found in Tuy Phuoc's District's Phuoc Loc Commune.

The nem is named after Huyen market, which is located near a row of restaurants lining the 2km-long Highway 19 section that traverses the commune.

The restaurants' barbecues fill the street air with the aroma of grilled pork, whetting your appetite even hours before dinner time.

In the cool weather of the final days of winter, the warmth from the grills is especially welcoming.

Finding the restaurants, Vo Thi Thanh Hoa, deputy chief of the commune, however, told me that Bon Lai restaurant might be the oldest nem maker and showed me how to get there.

Upon arrival, I was pleasantly surprised to see that Bon Lai was small but airy.

Welcoming me was Nguyen thi An, 76, the owner.

"My father-in-law was the one who created nem Cho Huyen," she said. " I've been making nem since I was 17 when I married his son. Now my daughter-in-law is managing the restaurant."

The grilled nem tuoi and nem chua I ordered were served with a special sauce of peanuts, chilli, fish sauce, sugar and other spices.

I also had a side dish with fresh cucumber, dill, basil, lettuce, garlic and green mango, accompanied by rice paper for rolling the vegetables.

Some people like to eat nem tuoi fresh off the grill, but I prefer to add vegetables and roll it in rice paper as it helps to reduce the fatty taste.

A bit of fiery chilli paste from the condiment basket also adds a nice bite to the nem.

The fermented nem was covered with a guava leaf, which I like to eat. But some people take it off as it has a slightly acrid taste.

Bau Da wine, another famous speciality of the province, is often served with nem.

Handmade delicacy

Producing nem is a complicated process requiring patient, skilled workers.

Cook Le Thi Bay of Bon Lai restaurant told me that she and her workers visited the slaughterhouse each day as early as 4am to buy the best quality pork.

Only pork from the thighs of six- to eight-month-old pigs can meet the quality requirement.

To make nem, the pork is first sliced and ground with sliced pigskin, sugar, salt and garlic. For nem tuoi, the mix will be grilled over charcoal.

Fermented nem is wrapped with a guava leaf to absorb the moisture, and then covered with a banana leaf to make it look more attractive.

After three or four days, when it has a slightly sour taste, it is ready to eat. As it keeps well, it can be offered as a gift to family, friends or co-workers.

Nem is also made in other regions, especially during the Tet (Lunar New Year) season, as it is considered one of the must-have foods during the holiday.

Although nem Cho Huyen has been famous for nearly 100 years, it has yet to have a trade name.

The commune authority in Binh Dinh Province, however, has registered a copyright for nem Cho Huyen as part of its master plan to meet criteria for the national government's new rural area programme, according to Hoa, the head of the commune's people's committee.

Though each region in the country has developed its own kind of nem, using most of the same ingredients, each version is a little different - crispier there, sweeter here and sour elsewhere. But all are indeed delicious. — VNS

GLOSSARY

Binh Dinh, a central coastal province with a stunning stretch of beaches and mountain ranges as well as beautiful islands, is a seriously underrated tourist destination.

If something is underrated people do not realise how good it is.

A destination is a place to which you travel.

Like many other Vietnamese regions, the province has its own special cuisine and traditions that should be better known.

Cuisine means food and cooking.

Traditions are things people do to make themselves feel they belong to a culture, a religion, a nation or any other kind of community.

Dishes that deserve to be included on the tourist culinary trail include banh xeo tom nhay(fresh savoury pancakes with shrimp), banh hoi chao long (thin rice vermicelli with rice porridge), banh it la gai (glutinous rice cake with white ramie leaves) and bun song than (dual-thread vermicelli).

A tourist culinary trail is a tourist route people follow, especially for the food that is offered at different places.

But it is nem (pork roll) that is the real standout dish.

A standout dish is one that stands out from others. It will be the one that is remembered.

A snack that can be eaten as finger food or as an appetiser to a larger meal, nem appears everywhere in Binh Dinh, from vendors' baskets to luxury banquets.

A snack is a small, light dish that is not intended to be a full meal.

Finger food is food that is eaten using your fingers rather than cutlery, such as chopsticks, knives, forks or spoons.

Vendors are people who sell things in public places. When the word is spelt vendors' it refers to something that more than one vendor owns. In this case it is the baskets of many vendors.

A banquet is a fancy meal.

The latter can be grilled or eaten fresh after removing the leaf covering.

When two things are mentioned in order, the first is the former and the second is the latter. In this case, nem tuoi (grilled fresh pork roll) is the former and and nem chua (fermented pork roll) is the latter.

Traditional nem contains either grilled or fermented pork in addition to crispy greens, peanut sauce, garlic, chili and aromatic herbs.

To ferment something means to leave it so that it starts to turn to alcohol.

The mixture of sweet, sour, salty and spicy flavours make your mouth salivate with each bite.

You salivate when your mouth gets wet with saliva, especially this happens because you sense good food being around.

The nem is named after Huyen market, which is located near a row of restaurants lining the 2km-long Highway 19 section that traverses the commune.

Highway 19 runs across the commune. Therefore it traverses the commune.

The restaurants' barbecues fill the street air with the aroma of grilled pork, whetting your appetite even hours before dinner time.

Barbecues are open fires on which meat is cooked.

An aroma is a special smell.

To whet your appetite means to encourage you to want to eat.

Upon arrival, I was pleasantly surprised to see that Bon Lai was small but airy.

If a place is airy it is not stuffy and there is fresh air around.

Some people like to eat nem tuoi fresh off the grill, but I prefer to add vegetables and roll it in rice paper as it helps to reduce the fatty taste.

To reduce something means to make it less.

A bit of fiery chilli paste from the condiment basket also adds a nice bite to the nem.

Condiments are substances used to flavour food. Salt is a condiment.

But some people take it off as it has a slightly acrid taste.

Acrid means bitter.

Cook Le Thi Bay of Bon Lai restaurant told me that she and her workers visit the slaughterhouse each day as early as 4am to buy the best quality pork.

A slaughterhouse is a place where animals are killed so that they can be used for their meat.

To make nem, the pork is first sliced and ground with sliced pigskin, sugar, salt and garlic. For nem tuoi, the mix will be grilled over charcoal.

Charcoal is burnt wood that can be used to produce a glowing coal in a fire.

Fermented nem is wrapped with a guava leaf to absorb the moisture, and then covered with a banana leaf to make it look more attractive.

Absorb means take in.

Moisture means wetness.

As it keeps well, it can be offered as a gift to family, friends or co-workers.

Co-workers are people you work with.

Although nem Cho Huyen has been famous for nearly 100 years, it has yet to have a trade name.

A trade name is a name that is used in the business world to identify a product.

The commune authority in Binh Dinh Province, however, has registered a copyright for nem Cho Huyen as part of its master plan to meet criteria for the national government's new rural area programme, according to Hoa, the head of the commune's people's committee.

A copyright is the right for someone who has created or started something to use its name for business purposes.

A master plan is a big plan of action.

Criteria are things you need to have in place to qualify for something.

A rural area is a country area and not a city or town area.

Though each region in the country has developed its own kind of nem, using most of the same ingredients, each version is a little different - crispier there, sweeter here and sour elsewhere.

Ingredients are the different things that go into preparing a dish.

Each version of nem means each type of nem.

WORKSHEET

State whether the following sentences are true, or false:

1.      Guava leaf has a very sweet taste.

2.      Highway Nineteen passes through Phuoc Loc Commune.

3.      There are islands off the coast of Binh Dinh.

4.      There is no wine produced in Binh Dinh Province, so it is brought from other provinces.

5.      Garlic is an ingredient of some nems.

ANSWERS:

© Duncan Guy/Learn the News/ Viet Nam News 2016










































1. False; 2. True; 3. True; 4. False; 5. True.

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