The Nung live at higher elevations and have a tradition of self-sufficiency. The Nung live close to nature and eat whatever they can grow or gather in the forest. Some of their dishes have become specialties of Lang Son’s tourism.
The Nung grow both regular rice and glutinous rice. Steamed rice is the main food in the daily meal, which also includes wild vegetables and beans. In the summer they often have porridge for lunch. The Nung prefer to fry vegetables and roots rather than boil them. After frying, they may add water to make soup. They eat pork, chicken, and fish, not beef or and buffalo meat. At festivals they prepare steamed glutinous rice and cakes with a special flavor for each ceremony.
Nung cuisine is well represented by their typical New Year feast, which is considered a meal to counteract risks. The year-end party of the Nung Phan Sinh in Lang Son province includes many dishes made from different kinds of meat, bamboo shoots, and vegetables. Luong Van Bach, a Nung man who lives in Lang Son, said: “The Nung Phan Sinh in Lang Son have upheld their traditional New Year celebration. They prepare various dishes that include duck. They believe eating duck will banish bad luck and they will enjoy a lucky New Year.”
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Roasted ducks is popular among ethnic groups in Lang Son Province.
Duck is part of several different dishes. The most popular dish is duck with sour bamboo shoots. Khau nhuc is a kind of braised pork belly seasoned with several kinds of herbs, such as cinnamon, anise, pepper, chili, and basil. Khau nhuc is always served to guests and at parties for weddings, funerals, and longevity celebrations.
Seasoned with leaves of “mac mat”, a local sweet and aromatic plant, roasted duck and pork are two other popular dishes of the Nung and other ethnic groups in Lang Son, Cao Bang, and Bac Can Province. Nong Van Chi of Lang Son said: “Mac mat leaves are indispensable with roasted pork and duck. The leaves are aromatic. We also stuff “mac mat” fruit inside a suckling pig to bring out its flavor.”
Rice wine is always part of a festival, wedding, funeral, or birthday party. The Tay, Nung, and Thai groups in northern provinces drink wine with their arms intertwined to show they will remain close to each other forever. Over the years, Nung culture and cuisine have become tourism trademarks of Lang Son Province.