Salted white radish (locally known as xá bấu) is a popular dish that Sóc Trăng residents eat daily. Mixing it with sugar gives it a special flavour that none can forget.
My relative, Nguyễn Thị Tuyết from the southern province, recently sent us two kilograms of xá bấu, saying the dish is more enjoyable when eaten with rice porridge.
Following her advice, I mixed the salted radish with vinegar, sugar, garlic, chilli and soy sauce, and cooked a pot of rice porridge, inviting all of my six family members to try it.
|'Xá bấu', or salted white radish, is a specialty of Sóc Trăng, which helps to lure mass visitors to the province. Photos courtesy of mia.vn|
Tuyết was right. The xá bấu was crunchy with the taste of white radish and the salty, sweet-and-sour of these ingredients, making eaters more enjoyable.
My grandmother said it was the first time she had tried the dish.
“I’ve eaten many specialties from the country’s three regions, but this dish is special for me because, after one bowl of porridge, I still wanted more, even though I was already full,” she said.
|White radish are salted and sun-dried to make 'xá bấu'.|
Meanwhile, my 14-year-old nephew said he usually hated porridge, but this time he enjoyed it because of the salted radish.
“Mom, you should cook the dish every day as breakfast. I like it so much,” he said.
Tour guide Bùi Thu Hà, a Sóc Trăng native, said for visitors and travellers from the north and the central regions, the name xá bấu may be strange or unheard of before. Still, it has been very popular among southwestern people since the early 19th century.
|Apart from being eaten with rice porridge and fried with pork belly, 'xá bấu' can be cut into pieces to fry with eggs to become another tasty dish.|
It was supposedly first brought by Chinese people migrants to Việt Nam's southwestern provinces including Sóc Trăng, Hà said.
Ingredients include white radish, salt and sugar. The radish should not be too big or too small. It must be cleaned, cut out 8cm each, and cut into four pieces before being mixed with salt and dried in the sun.
|Fresh white radishs which are not too big or too small are chosen to make quality 'xá bấu'.|
Salted radish is light yellow and crunchy with a special flavour, Hà said.
The radish has been widely planted in Sóc Trăng, but the most famous is in Vĩnh Châu Town, Hà said. "Many households making salted radish to sell in local markets, while several big companies process high-quality salted radish to export it to Hong Kong, Singapore and the Chinese mainland, earning a higher price.
Apart from being eaten with porridge, xá bấu can be eaten with sticky rice, fried with eggs or pork belly.
“If you wish to sample these dishes, you can visit Sóc Trăng restaurants,” Hà advised.
Trần Thị Lệ in Vĩnh Châu Town said a tonne of fresh white radish after processing would give 120-130kg xá bấu with prices ranging from VNĐ70,000-100,000/kilo.
The dish is packed in boxes so that visitors to Sóc Trăng can buy it as a gift for their families and friends,” Lệ said, adding that over the recent Tết (Lunar New Year holiday) several overseas Vietnamese from the US, Europe and the UK brought 10 kilos each.
Lệ sold several hundred kilograms of xá bấu during Tết.
It is an indispensable dish for local people at big parties such as weddings or anniversaries of death, Lệ said. VNS