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Culinary culture of Tra Vinh province

Wed, 03 Sep 2014 . Last updated Thu, 25 Jun 2015 08:48

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Despite being a young land, Tra Vinh has diverse cultural treasures, especially intangible and tangible culture of Khmer people. In addition, the province has a unique culinary culture and traditional festivals attracting any tourists once coming here.

I am continuing my culinary journey in Tra Vinh, a Mekong Delta province of Vietnam. In the previous journey, we had the chance to explore the specialties from the land and the sea of this land. This time, we will explore food culture of Khmer people. Accounting for 30% of the Tra Vinh province’s population, the Khmer people here have enriched the local cuisine with the traditional ingredients and distinct flavor.

This book is going to help me find the useful information about the dishes of Tra Vinh. According to this book, the first Khmer dish that I should try out is “Bun nuoc leo”. I will eat breakfast with this dish. People say wherever Khmer people live, there will have “bun nuoc leo”. According to my observation, the owner of this shop is a Khmer person, so the taste of “bun nuoc leo” dish in her shop will have the traditional flavor. I see that this is well patronized shop in this area. I will try out the flavor of this dish. There are a lot of things here. There are fishes, chili, vegetables, bean sprouts, boiled bloods, spring rolls, fried shrimp cake and grilled pork.

This is the noodle broth. You can see that there are bloods, chili again and fishes. “Bun nuoc leo” dish of Tra Vinh is also eaten with other delicious fried dishes. You can order the savory dishes, but vegetables and spices are indispensable. In my opinion, there is no type of noodles soup in Vietnam does not go with vegetables. So what is the key of miss owner shop?

When visiting this area, there is a special dish you will hear about the most. That is a kind of fish paste that plays an important role in their cuisine. I am very curious to learn about how is different this fish paste from other fish sauces. As Khmer women said there is no prahok fish paste they cannot cook any dishes. I come to meet Mrs Xuan, a passionate Khmer cook in Tra Vinh province. She show me how to make this special fish sauce. Every Khmer people also know how to make the prahok fish paste. But in everywhere people have the different processing way. Here, the local people use goatfish to make the prahok.

- Do you use any other ingredients apart from fish for the fish paste?

- We also have crushed fried rice. She is frying rice until brown. Then she will start pounding the rice. For the fish, I will soak dressed ones in clean water for a day. Take out the fish and let them dry before adding salt and crushed fried rice. Now mix the fish well and place them into a box with the lid covered. After that, the box is exposed to the sunray for two or three days. The final step is to pour salty water over the fish. After months you get the prahok.

Along with noodle soups, cakes braised Khmer extraction increasingly attractive. If you have the opportunity to Tra Vinh, do not forget to try this cake okay. It was really delicious. The “somlor” soup has the many popular Khmer plants such as wild eggplant, morinda citrifolia leaves, shallot, rice patty herbs and fried rice.  Also, Khmer people usually crush spices to have the best flavor. Soups of Khmer people are called the same name “somlor” soup. Every dish is cooked from a fruit and has the name after this fruit.

After traveling and enjoying specialties in Tra Vinh, I decide to relax. Ba Om pond in Chau Thanh district is an ideal place for anyone who wants to immerse themselves in the natural atmosphere in Tra Vinh. Ba Om pond is also the only place where you can find “om chiet” cake, a Khmer traditional cake. Thach Thi Tre Ri, a Khmer woman is one of few Khmer people who still keep the recipe.

Along with “bun nuoc leo”, “om chiet” cake of Khmer people is also becoming one of the attractive dishes for tourists in Tra Vinh province. If you have the chance to travel Tra Vinh, you should not miss the chance to enjoy this cake.

Coming to Ba So village, one of the sounds you are going to hear is the sound of pounder. Local people are not pounding rice; they are making rice flakes, a specialty of the region. There are 2 steps when pounding young rice. Firstly, when the rice is hard, they pound them lightly to move the shell. Then they will pound more strongly. One of most important things in the pounding is the mortar. This is actually a tree with the length of 1.5 meters. People bury this tree under the ground creating a firm mortar. This is hard work but also fun.

I think it is enough for me. At least, I had coordination with the people here. But I do not have the strength as them. I am bathed in sweat. I cannot understand why the can do this work all day in this weather. Eating the rice flakes now is very delicious. It is the sweetness of the sugar and the softness of the rice. If you eat this dish after you work so hard, you will feel it is worth to spend the effort for this dish.

Chol Chnam Thmay is the biggest holiday of Khmer people. It is taken place in the mid of April of the calendar month every year. This holiday of Khmer people likes the Tet holiday of the Kinh people in Vietnam. This is an occasion for the family reunion, then to express the respect for the elderly and have fun after a harvesting season. If you have ever visited the Khmer region on this occasion, certainly no one wants to miss the chance to learn about the Chol Chnam Thmay Festival.  There are many activities holding in the temple from sports to worship. I am going to a Khmer temple to enjoy Chol Chnam Thamy festival.

Chol Chnam Thmay often lasts for 3 days. During that time, many activities take place in Khmer temple. In the morning, people offer food including rice and several desserts to the monks. Then they listen to the teachings and pray for good thing. It is a strange experience. All rituals are strange with me. Tet here is different from the place where I live. After the offering a formal meal that make me so nervous, I along with Khmer children participate in another ritual more comfortable. I think that I will try it because it looks fun. However, this is my biggest mistake.  

You can go straight from the beginning to the end, but local people make everything like a maze. I cannot quite understand. Indeed, to show the reverence to the Buddha, you should have the sincere.  Finally, I am able to get out here. Buddhist bathing is the important rite in the afternoon of the third day. Because the water needs for all kinds of plants and humans, Khmer people also believe the fragment water brings wishes for the longevity, good luck, happiness and prosperity in life.


Source: VTV4 –

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