Some popular dishes of Ben Tre

From a very long time ago, coconut followed the first settlers to the wild land now named Ben Tre.

Since then, the plain and rural image of coconut has gone into artistic works to greatly delight admirers. Coconut has witnessed so many ups and downs in the history of the land, and has become the very romantic symbol for Ben Tre's firm and loyal women through war times.

And now, as a food item, coconut adds flavour to lots of Ben Tre's popular dishes that in turn add more meanings to life, not only for the Ben Tre natives but also for those who come here and taste them.

Let's have a glance at some of the most popular dishes:

Coconut rice gruel is a nostalgia for Ben Tre natives being away from home. This is one of Ben Tre's traditional dishes that were brought in during the early time of reclaimation.

Coconut rice gruel is made from sticky rice cooked on medium fire until the rice grains were broken down into tiny grains. Then, coconut milk will be crushed and poured in with a pinch of salt and let boiled to condensed.

To fully enjoy the fine taste of coconut rice gruel, eaters should have it together with treacle sugar, and have it in a slow manner in order to feel its lingering sweet and fat flavours.

In the old time, coconut rice gruel was usually eaten during leisure time when there was no work to do in the rice fields. Farmers used to eat the gruel while sitting in the poon oil light chatting about everything on earth and enjoyed its delicious taste.

Then and now, coconut rice gruel has never been seen in the menu for upper-class folk, but it actually is a dish for the poor who just need the least to manage for the day. However, once tasting it, one will not be able to forget it and will love it forever.

Ca bong dua (black goby) simmered in coconut milk is another delicacy in Ben Tre.

It is well-known that locals generally dig up earthworms and string them in clusters for used as bait. When the tidal flow is up, bait clusters are dropped down to nipa axils or into ground holes under coconut roots as ca bong dua are usually moving in here for prey.

Another way to catch ca bong dua is to put some stinking bait (usually slug) in a fish trap and lay the trap along a streamline. Ca bong dua are deadly fond of the stinking smell of the bait, and are coaxed into the trap. Quite easy. And this is quite particular to Ben Tre's coconut woods, and not elsewhere.

The entrapped fish will then be rubbed away all their scales and washed carefully in clean water. Then, they are cooked in fish sauce for some minutes, and then crushed coconut milk is put in just about to fill up the fish, then cooked on simmering fire until the liquid is condensed. How delicious! This should be eaten with boiled herbs.

When newly harvested rice fields are still pervaded with straw fragrance, there's nothing better than having boiled sticky rice eaten with roasted shrimp.

Newly harvested sticky rice is boiled in cast-iron pot. The sticky rice is cooked in a special way so that it is properly glutinous and fragrant. Shrimp is mixed in salt and sugar, then roasted with crushed coconut milk until it is browned up. The fine taste of sticky rice combined with the fatness of roasted shrimp will make it incomparable.

Flour-fried coconut chrysalis is a well-known dish in Ben Tre for coconut chrysalis is a rare speciality of Ben Tre. Just how to get the chrysalis, anyway?

Because the chrysalis only lives in the coconut palm sprout, it is simple enough to split the sprout and catch it. After that, the chrysalis will be rolled in rice flour and deep-fried, and is excellently eaten with fresh herbs.

Today, this popular dish has been present in the menu of many restaurants all over Viet Nam, and is becoming a favourite among gourmet circles.

Still, there are many other popular dishes that are present in daily meals of the Ben Tre natives. If well-prepared, these dishes are some of the best of Ben Tre's cultural features and are conserved on a daily basis.

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