Cream fish soup
For hundreds of years, people in the coastal districts of Tien Hai and Thai Thuy have subsisted on wet rice cultivation and fishing. The locals get much of their food from the river and the sea.
In the sea, there are a lot of jellyfish, which the locals use to make jellyfish salads. The main jellyfish season is April and May. It’s a complicated process to make jellyfish salad.
First, the jellyfish need to be cleaned and soaked in salt or alum solution. Then, they are boiled and mixed with onions, sliced chicken, squid or dried beef, peanuts, shredded coconut, lemon leaves, herbs, chili, salt, and fish sauce. Jellyfish salad is one of the specialty foods of Thai Binh province.
Nguyen Van Hai, a Thai Binh native said “Along Vietnam’s coast, there are many regions that have jellyfish but Thai Binh is the only place that has delicious jellyfish salad, which is gently spicy, hot, and sour. I eat jellyfish salad whenever I come back to my home province. It’s delicious, tasty, and nutritious.”
Thai Binh is also famous for cream fish which are plentiful from October to March. Thai Binh, Nam Dinh, Quang Ninh, and Thanh Hoa province all have plenty of cream fish but the way Thai Binh people cook the fish is unique. Elsewhere, people make cream fish porridge or cook cream fish with water dropwort.
But in Thai Binh cream fish soup is made with pennywort and gamboges, vegetables not used elsewhere. Cream fish soup should be eaten hot otherwise it will taste fishy. It is a favorite food of the locals on cold winter days.
Vu Thu Thao, a Thai Binh local said “Cream fish is not as fishy as other types of fish. It’s quite soft and gelatinous. You should not cook it for long otherwise it will shrive up.”
Fried fish is a popular food in Thai Binh. Local people fillet the fish and season it with fish sauce and ground turmeric. Then they clamp the fillet pieces between bamboo sticks and fry them over charcoal. It takes 4 to 5 hours to fry the fish.
Le Thi Hop from Tien Hai district said “We use bamboo strings to remove the fish from the bamboo clamps. This prevents the fish pieces from being broken. Fried fish pieces are shining yellow and sweet-smelling. They are very tasty.”