Viet Nam News
The fantastic landscapes that Hoàng Su Phì District treats visitors to also yield some delicious ingredients that make the local cuisine a special feast to savour, Lương Thu Hương discovers
It is well known that a trip to Hà Giang Province is a feast for the eyes.
But it was a feast for the stomach that my friends and I were craving after the long drive from Hà Nội to the northern mountainous province.
We were tired and hungry, and needed a nutritional, tasty boost to prepare us for the next day’s outings. Following a local friend’s recommendation, we set off for the 666 Restaurant, where we are assured of “truly authentic mountain food”.
666 is located in the heart of the district, but it’s not easy to find. Not only is it tucked into a secluded corner next to the Sông Chảy Hotel, there is nothing about it that attracts notice. We did found that it does attract a lot of customers, thanks to the distinctive dishes it serves and the variety of options it offers.
The restaurant is a two-storey stilt house typical of the area. A huge ancient tree stood right in the centre of the restaurant growing form a central pillar of the building.
Unlike other restaurants, guests at 666 have to wait at a “welcoming” table, order their food and wait for it to be cooked before they are seated. In fact, this seems to be normal for all eateries in Hà Giang, because there are not many customers all year round. Most restaurants begin cooking only after orders are placed.
However, we were okay with the “delay” because we were going to get freshly cooked food. One of my friends joked that the hungrier we were, the tastier our food would get.
The menu at 666 lists many local specialties with most of the dishes cooked with free range black pigs or black chicken, stream fish and carps from the famed terrace paddy fields.
As soon as we were seated on the second floor, our bellies growled with joy as the steaming hot dishes arrived at our table.
Continuing to follow my friend’s recommendation, we picked fried stream fish, boiled black chicken, fried catfish, sour fish soup, fried buffalo meat, rice crust, boiled chayotes, steamed mustard greens and another local specialty: Nàng Đôn rice liquor.
My friend picked for me a yellowish stream fish, reiterating that fried stream fish was a must-try dish at this restaurant.
With a dip made of fish sauce, a little chili, onion and lime juice, the crispy fish with its tasty flesh seemed to melt in my mouth. I could eat even its bones, I felt. Accompanying the fish are salads, coriander leaves and basil freshly picked that evening from the garden.
Black chicken is part of almost every meal in Hà Giang. Because they are allowed to roam freely and eat natural food, the meat of this chicken is very lean and delicious and does not have a fishy smell like others meat.
Taking advantage of abundant water logged in the terrace fields, ethnic minorities in Hoàng Su Phì raise a variety of fish, especially carp. However, the fish is pretty small in comparison with those in the lowlands, and is not gutted before cooking. This explained the slightly bitter taste of the fish we ate. The gall had not been removed.
Dishes with a bitter taste, including soups, seem to be a characteristic of ethnic cuisine in the northern mountainous areas of Việt Nam. The bitter taste of the fish might not suit every palate, but the sour soup cooked with its meat is very tasty and combines perfectly with a bowl of hot rice.
Meanwhile, the rice crust is a perfect dish to nibble at while chatting with your friends and taking a short break from meat and rice. Our crust was crispy and carried with it the special flavour of the rice that had just been harvested in the terraced fields.
Apart from tasty rice and fish, the terraced fields also provide locals with another special product, the Nàng Đôn rice liquor.
Processed with yeast made from special leaves and pure natural water located 1,000m above the sea level, the liquor, which is named after the commune that produces it, is becoming a favoured specialty of Hoàng Su Phì.
The aroma of Nàng Đôn liquor was pleasant and soothing. After a few sips, there was a sweet taste on the tip of my tongue, as also a certain numbness. A special feature of this liquor is that no matter how much you drink, you will not have a headache or a hangover, locals told us proudly.
All said and done, we were in high spirits as we left 666. VNS
Address: Vinh Quang Town, Hoàng Su Phì District, Hà Giang Province
Tel: 0901 597 666
Comment: Delicious ethnic cuisine.
Price range: VNĐ120,000 (US$5,5) to 300,000++ ($14)