Ninh Bình Province is well-known for its virgin and beautiful landscape sites, such as Tràng An and Bích Động, but also giò trứng (egg pork paste) made by Nộn Khê Villagers.
Last week I was invited to visit the village by my friend Đặng Ánh Tuyết.
When we arrived at the village gate, we could smell the sweet and fragrant giò trứng, which residents also call giò trứng Nộn Khê. Tuyết said it is a characteristic smell in the village.
|Giò trứng (egg pork paste) can be found in Nộn Khê Village in Ninh Bình. Photos mia.vn|
"Giò trứng is also at our villagers' weddings, engagements and Tết parties. It helps put the village on the map as one of Việt Nam's best cuisine centres," Tuyết's mother, Hoàng Thị Thịnh, 65.
Thịnh said no one in the village knows exactly when the dish came into being, but her mother related that the dish had been existing since she was a little girl.
In the past, the dish was only being made to welcome big anniversaries such as village festivals and Tết holidays, but now it is being produced year-round to meet increasing demands, Thịnh said.
|Fishing line is used to cut the eggs cleanly.|
Ingredients to make the dish include ham, bacon, chicken egg, banana leaf, bamboo string, fish sauce and salt.
Thịnh said she has a contract with the butchers in the village to buy the ham when it is still warm.
The pork is ground into a paste before being covered by a layer of eggs and bacon. She said they are stacked on top of each other, adding that she can arrange these ingredients to make the dish look like a flower when it is being cut.
|Each layer of pork paste is covered by eggs and several slices of bacon.|
"I have to use a fishing line to cut the eggs along its lengthwise. A knife can't be used as it breaks the eggs. Each paste needs 10-16 eggs, according to the size of each pork paste ordered by customers. The normal size of each giò trứng is between 1.5-2 kilogrammes," Thịnh said.
Giò trứng should be boiled for two and a half hours before being immediately pressed into a square by four flat wooden sticks. It takes about 4-5 hours until the dish becomes cool, she said, noting that in the past, it was cooked over a wood fire but now is usually boiled.
The solidity of the dish depends on how hard it is pressed.
The dish is often enjoyed with pickled onions dipped in Phú Quốc fish sauce.
|It takes two and a half hours to boil giò trứng.|
The completed dish is a beautiful mix of light pink pork paste, bacon and bright yellow eggs.
I was so impressed with the dish because it stimulated all my senses since the first bite from the mix of buttery fat from the bacon, lean pork paste, greasy chicken eggs, and very comfortable fragrant from fresh banana. They all create the dish's characteristics that even gourmets feel unforgettable.
Different from other pork paste, which is available in the country's three regions, giò trứng only exists in Nộn Khê Village. It must be used within a week.
Thịnh said her family often produces 100 kilogrammes of giò trứng daily and triple and more during Tết (Lunar New Year) to supply customers inside and outside the country. VNS