Lẩu cù lao is top of the hotpots in the Mekong Delta

August 31, 2022 - 12:14

Quý Dương

Visitors to the Mekong Delta region often rave about the rich and tasty hotpots, with lẩu cù lao being a particular favourite.

“Lẩu cù lao (island hotpot) is one of my favourite dishes I’ve enjoyed during my tour to Mekong Delta provinces such as Cần Thơ and Cà Mau,” Nguyễn Thu Phương said.

Phương, who lives in Germany, said she was unable to come home for the last three years because of the COVID-19 pandemic, even though she missed her parents in Hà Nội.

Lẩu cù lao (island hotpot) is loved not only for its tasty, aromatic flavour but also its colourful decoration. Photo travel.com.vn

After arriving at home in Tây Hồ District, Phương’s mother told her that she booked tickets for a trip to the Mekong Delta to visit family while enjoying the area's natural beauty and special dishes.

“I was very happy to have this trip so I could enjoy time with my parents, brothers and sisters as well as our nieces and nephews and enjoy tasty dishes in these provinces,” Phương said.

When the family arrived in Cần Thơ, they tried the first dish: lẩu cù lao.

Different from hotpots in the north, the dish here includes more ingredients.


Pig's bones are one of the main ingredients that make the hotpot broth sweet and fragrant. Photo mekong.pro

They include pig’s heart, liver and marrow, grilled Thát lát fish (a kind of fragrant and sweet fish from the region), duck egg, a piece of dried pork skin, dried squid, dried shrimp, pork paste, cabbage, carrot, cassava, white radish, coriander, salt, sugar, pepper, broth, quality Phú Quốc fish sauce and chili.

Phương said one of her relatives in Cần Thơ, Huỳnh Thị Minh, knows how to cook the dish, and taught Phương the recipe so that she can make it at home in Germany.

To make the dish, you first clean the bones, parboil them and pour the water out before pouring two litres of water into the pot and continue to cook for two hours.

Fresh herbs and vegetables are vital ingredients of the hotpot. Photo duananlacriverside.com

When the broth is finished, dried shrimp, squid and white radish are added, then salt, sugar, and broth mix, said Minh.

The pig's heart and liver is chopped into thin slices then parboiled. It is mixed with the fish paste and fresh onion, pepper, and fish sauce. The duck egg is stirred then fried, covered with fish paste, rolled it and cut it into thin threads after steaming.

“We should soak the dried pig skin for an hour, then add ginger before frying it,” Minh said, adding that the next step is to parboil the cabbage and fresh onion, spread pork paste on the cabbage and roll it, using the parboiled onion to tie it before steaming it for 10 minutes. 

Minh said to have an attractive hotpot, she often uses broccoli and makes carrot and cassava into a flower shapes as a garnish.

Lẩu cù lao is popular among visitors and travellers to the Mekong Delta. Photo@onghoangtrasua.

The last step is to put all ingredients into the pot and wait until it boils. The hotpot is enjoyed with vermicelli or noodles.

Phương said it was the first time she has enjoyed such a popular but tasty and delicious dish. “The pig's heart and liver are soft but still tough while the broth is sweet and fragrant."

Minh said the dish was enjoyed by big groups of friends and family. “I still remember that the dish played an important role at my wedding party, 40 years ago, when all the guests enjoyed.”

Nowadays, the hotpot is often eaten with pork skin threads and fresh herbs wrapped up in rice paper and many others.

“The hotpot now can be enjoyed year round but the cooking method is different because it depends on each locality and family. For example in An Giang and Đồng Tháp provinces, fish is often added, but in Cà Mau, Bạc Liêu and Kiên Giang provinces, the broth uses shrimp and fresh squid,” Minh said, adding that locals are very proud when visitors and travelers, including foreigners, call lẩu cù lao a specialty they would never forget. VNS