Viet Nam News
By Hà Nguyễn
Come summer, and we look for food and drinks that are not heavy, and have a cooling effect – different kinds of salads, lemonade made with kudzu powder (bột sắn dây) and so on.
One food that has emerged as a gourmet favourite for summer is the jellyfish, which is appreciated not only for its taste, but also for its medicinal properties. Herbalists say jellyfish is good medicine for hypertension.
This seafood lends itself to many dishes, including nộm sứa (jellyfish salad) and sứa muối (salted sứa) and many others.
In fact, on hot summer days, sứa should be a must in every household menu.
My friend, Vi Hồng Nhân, a native of Tĩnh Gia District in the coastal province of Thanh Hóa, is prone to get wistful during summer about the days she and her friends rushed to the immense sandy beaches.
“Despite the heat, under the sunlight, we could enjoy a mass carpet of very beautiful and colourful jellyfish pushed to the shore by waves. They looked like the moon during a mid-lunar month.
“I liked the jellyfish a lot, and would often select several big ones to bring home for my mother to make nộm sứa,” Nhân said.
Nhân’s mother, Nguyễn Thị Toàn, said choosing fresh sứa was very important to ensure a tasty dish. “The jellyfish should have been pushed fresh to the seashore and they have to be cleaned very carefully because their tentacles have a lot of sand in them.”
To make sứa more tasty and crispy, Toàn said she would wrap it with tender guava leaves for 30 minutes and re-clean it with strong tea before mixing it with pieces of cucumber, young fresh mango, banana slices and some homemade shrimp paste.
This salad is often had with rau mùi (cilantro), rau răm (fragrant knotweed), marjoram, young cassava and đinh lăng (polyscias fruticosa) leaves, said Toàn, adding that her grandparents always asked her to have rau má (centella) while enjoying jellyfish salad.
A relative in Thái Bình Province, Vũ Văn Tám, recently sent us several kilos of salted sứa, coloured dark red.
I cleaned the sứa with cool, boiled water and then cut it into pieces. My husband, a native of Nghệ An Province, enjoyed it, saying the most tasty and crispy part of sứa was its tentacles.
I immediately remembered Toàn saying that salted sứa should be had with a salad of rau mùi, rau răm, marjoram, young cassava and đinh lăng leaves and fried groundnuts.
The dish gets even more tasty when it is dipped in Cát Hải fish sauce that comes from Hải Phòng City or fish sauce from Phú Quốc Island in Kiên Giang Province. A bit of lemon juice, crushed garlic and red chilli should be added to the fish sauce.
My Thái Bình relative said there were many varieties of jellyfish, including sứa sen, which locals choose as good food. The sứa sen season lasts from the fourth to the eighth lunar month every year.
After catching this jellyfish, fishermen rub it repeatedly on the spot to remove the slime. Then it is cut into pieces and put into a large glazed terracotta jar that has guava leaves, alum and salt. The jellyfish is kept in the jar till it shrinks..
Tám said his family earned between VNĐ80-100 million from last year’s sứa season by exporting it to mainland China and Taiwan, where it is a specialty food that commands a high price.
“Sipping salted sứa with locally made wine, known as rượu cuốc lủi, is so good that no man can refuse,” said Tám, adding that he and his fellow fishermen often celebrate a bumper sứa catch with a party.
Apart from being good food in summer, sứa sen is very good medicine for patients with high triglyceride, constipation, pneumonia and many other ailments, according to herbalist Hồ Văn Sinh of the Nghệ An Centre of Traditional Medicine
“It is also very effective for treating children with prickly heat and other skin disorders. Boil sứa and salt, and wash the skin with the water,” he said. — VNS