Viet Nam News
QUẢNG BÌNH — Every morning at around 8am, when the sun is high over his head, Võ Sỹ Triển heads to the Nhật Lệ River to begin his working day.
Triển, a resident of Phú Bình Hamlet, Quán Hàu Town, Quảng Ninh District, Quảng Bình Province, makes his living by diving for oysters.
Oysters caught in the Nhật Lệ River are known to be tasty and nutritious. Catching them is the main source of income for many locals.
Every morning, Đào, Triển’s wife, gets busy making breakfast and preparing the diving suit and equipment for her husband. This has been an unchanging schedule for almost 10 years.
No matter what the weather, rainy, cold or sunny, a diver groping for oysters in the river always wears five layers of clothing: a raincoat, two sets of professional diving suits, glasses, gloves, diving cap and more than ten kg of lead to counter the water’s buoyant force, Đào says.
“Even if it is hot outside, under the river, the temperature is always cold so we have to wear lots of layers to withstand the low temperatures, especially when we spend five to six hours diving.
“Hunting for oysters is hard, whether or not we use breathing equipment. Divers must be highly skilled and work fast because there are plenty of risks," Triển says.
Triển takes his boat to the middle of the river, anchors it, and jumps into the water with a breathing pipe. He goes down several dozen metres and comes up an hour later with a basketful of oysters
“Oysters are very rare now. It used to take me just 10 minutes before to catch a full basket, but now it takes up to one hour,” Triển says before diving again.
On the boat, his wife says diving for oysters has become less common among locals because the oysters are rare and it is very hard work. She says divers are “gambling with fate.”
Earlier, when oysters were abundant, locals over-exploited the resource, dragging rakes with their boats to harvest them. Since then, their numbers have dwindled, and only divers can get them, using bare hands. This is a risky job, but it helps locals earn a living.
Đòan Xảo of Trúc Ly Hamlet, Võ Ninh Commune, Quảng Ninh District, says he earns more than VNĐ30 million (US$1,330) each season from the hunt. The money has helped him raise his family with four children.
The section of Nhật Lệ River flowing for over 20km through Quán Hàu Town has special geographical and geological conditions that give oysters a taste that those caught in other areas can’t match, many people say.
Visitors to Quảng Bình Province tend to agree after trying the signature dish of restaurants in the area - oyster porridge
Porridge is not the only way oysters are cooked. After collecting them, locals open their shells, wash the inner part with water, and stir fry them with onions and tomatoes or tamarind. This dish, usually served with rice paper, is another local speciality.
The oysters can be eaten fresh, adding just lemon, salt, pepper and some herbs. — VNS