Hà Nội is not only known far and wide for phở (noodle soup) and bún chả (vermicelli with grilled pork and fresh herbs), but also mắm tép chưng thịt (fermented shrimp sauce with minced pork or bacon pieces).
My nephew, Tạ Ngọc Hậu, in the northern province of Cao Bằng, phoned me to buy him a kilo of mắm tép chưng thịt.
“Uncle, you should buy the original dish in Hàng Bè Market, not others,” he told me.
|Hà Nội's Hàng Bè Market is well known far and wide for its mắm tép chưng thịt . Photo ocopmart.vn|
Hậu enjoys the dish a lot.
“I can eat as much as three bowls at lunch or dinner.”
The fermented shrimp sauce has a sweet and fragrant flavour when roasted with mixed ingredients, including minced pork, garlic and ginger, that make the dish very enjoyable, he said.
A teacher from the central coastal city of Đà Nẵng, Trần Hưng Thịnh, said he first heard of the dish last week when a former student of his presented him a bottle of mắm tép chưng thịt.
|Ingredients to make mắm tép chưng thịt include minced pork, fermented shrimp sauce, garlic, dried onions, citronella and others. Photo beptusomotvietnam.weebly.com|
“My student is right, the dish is so attractive and delicious. I will never forget its special flavour,” Thịnh said.
Hanoian Vũ Văn Tuấn, 90, remembers when the dish first became popular during the 1990s on Hàng Bè Street, in the heart of the capital.
|Fresh shrimp netted are used to make mắm tép (fermented shrimp sauce), a traditional sauce featuring Vietnamese culinary culture. Photo haisanhungcuong.com.vn|
To make a tasty dish, his wife ordered fermented shrimp sauce from the central province of Nghệ An’s Cửa Lò, where the makers use fresh shrimp cleaned with seawater and mixed with salt, grilled rice or grilled maize powder.
It is then poured into a ceramic jar and dried under sunlight for six months, said Tuấn, adding that to have tasty mắm tép, the maker has to put a certain quantity of some white wine and fresh chilli in the jar.
The perfect dish is pink-red, fragrant, sweet, and can be eaten with rice or vermicelli or used as a sauce to dip boiled bacon and grilled fish, he said.
|The dish is indispensable to many Vietnamese. Photo giadinh.net.vn|
To make mắm tép chưng thịt, shoulder pork is the most suitable because it is not too lean or too fat. The pork should be ground carefully.
To make the dish more aromatic, minced dried onions, garlic and citronella can be mixed in.
The grounded pork should be roasted in fat before being poured into fermented shrimp sauce.
“The dish can be kept for a month. It is much more enjoyable when eaten with hot rice in winter because of the buttery fat of the pork mixed with the sweetness of the mắm tép,” Tuấn said.
The dish is now available all over the country, but the best can be bought in Hà Nội’s Hàng Bè Market, between Gia Ngư and Cầu Gỗ streets. VNS