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Cham Island cuisine

Wed, 29 Oct 2014 . Last updated Thu, 25 Jun 2015 08:54

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Located in Tan Hiep commune, Hoi An city of Quang Nam province, Cham Island has been recognized by UNESCO as one of the world biosphere reserve. Nature has granted the island abundant forest and sea resource attracting any visitors to this island.

The Cham Islands constitutes of 8 small and large islands in Quang Nam which form a part of Cu Lao Cham Marine Park, a world biosphere reserve recognized by UNESCO on May 26, 2009. Cu Lao Cham Island has unspoiled landscapes offering many stunning beaches with white sandy beaches, hills and sea. The occupation of people in the island is mainly fishing.  Besides, people on this island also picking left tree to make drink. It is becoming the traditional work over centuries.

Hai Tang pagoda is located in Lang beach of Tan Hiep commune. This pagoda is the typical wooden architectural work of this island. It is the evidence of the introduction and development of Buddhism in Cu Lao Cham Island. The pagoda is taking care of by an old couple, whoever coming to visit here would be invited a special drink. I was no exception. This drink is made from more than 30 kinds of forest leaves on this island. They include Bodhi tree leaves, ginseng, ginger… All are grown in the mountainous area. They are cut into pieces, dry and boil to make this drink.

It is so interesting to discovery this special kind of drink made from many forest leaves. Right now we are going to visit a local family who has over 20 years of experience making medicine and drink from variety of forest leaves in Cham Island. Leaves picking is a tradition on Cham Island. Nguyen Tu and over 20 other senior inhabitants usually pick wild leaves to make drink. Every day, Tu goes into forest from damp to dark. It is hard work, but passion still runs deep in the 76-year-old man. Cinnamon and star apple tree are among hundreds of medicinal trees which Nguyen Tu has brought back from forest to plant in his garden. This garden is dedicated to medicinal plants and trees. I was surprised to discover the amazing health benefits and some of them. But there are only one third of medicine trees in this garden. The rest of two third are in the forest. Therefore, Cham Island is recognized as the Biosphere Reserves by UNESCO. There are so many kinds of precious medicinal trees in the forest.

The Cham Island has over 1500 hectares of natural forest with the diverse flora of more than 500 species. Among them, there are many precious timber trees. Also, the island is home to 228 medicinal trees and plants. Local in Cu Lao Cham has long been cooking various beverage and special refresh drink. This drink contains over 20 different kinds of leaves such as ginseng, wild pineapple or citronella to make a perfect beverage and take the flavor of drink. All kinds of leaves have to be added for given proportion in recipe.

After visiting Tu’s garden, Tu took me to the forest to pick leaves. He told me the forest here is very old and vast, so maybe I can only stay round outside.  He show me that there is not necessary to go to the forest to find medicinal trees, for them grow over this island. I could not remember the names of all leaves he picks. In just one hour, we have picked nearly 100 kinds of leaves. After picking leaves from forest, we have to cut them into small pieces, because smaller pieces are easier to dry than branch. Then we mix different kinds of leaves together. The diverse flora in Cu Lao Cham Island has created precious gifts for any visitors once setting food on this island.

With the area of 165 hectares of coral and sea creatures, Cham Island is known as the kingdom of aquatic animals. The sea animals include 202 species of fish, 4 species of lobster and 84 species of molluse. Some of these species are listed in the Vietnam and the world red book of endanger species. The occupation in the island is mainly fishing.

The second gift that the Mother Nature has granted people in Cham Island is the abundant source of seafood. I have a chance to follow a local fisherman here to catch seafood for lunch. This was my second fishing trip at sea. I was joining in this trip with Mr. Tuan, a fisherman who was skill at catching seafood by diving. He took me to the sea near shore. While Tuan is diving, I found sea snails attaching into the rock. The cellana can be easily found near the stones, but it is not absolutely easy to collect them, because once you touch it, it will attach tighter to the rock.

Cellana is a gene of rare snail and has angle conical shape with a small back on the top. The cellana is black and grey on the outside and shiny on the inside. The best time to harvest these snails is between June and September under the full moon. Cellana tastes good when boiled, grilled and salad. Traveling this island, visitors can so many different sea and forest specialties of Cu Lao Cham.


Source: VTV4 -

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