Brush up on your culinary knowledge before travelling to the Mekong Delta.
Here are our top 5 Mekong Delta specialities:
1. Elephant Ear Fish
Weird but wonderful, the Elephant Ear Fish is a real Mekong delicacy and absolutely delicious. The whole fish is fried to crispy perfection and served on a rack, where the succulent boneless flesh is raked off before being rolled in rice paper along with pickles and dipped in fish sauce, chilli and lemongrass. This is traditional Mekong cooking at its absolute best.
2. Ba Khia (Freshwater Crabs)
Known as Ba Khia in Vietnamese, these small, dark freshwater crabs are a speciality of the Mekong Delta. As you explore the region, you’ll often see crab fishermen one the riverbanks with their basket ‘traps’ laying in wait. They’re usually cured in salt for a week or so before being stir-fried in sugar and spices. Their pungent smell and sweet, salty and sour taste are classic hallmarks of regional Mekong cooking.
3. Lotus Plants
Blossoming lotus flowers floating on the Mekong Delta is a beautiful sight. But Vietnam’s national flower is also a staple of the local diet, and you’ll see lotus stems and seeds sold at market stalls all over the region. The seeds are usually dried with sugar and eaten during holiday periods. But the stems are used in some of Vietnam’s most famous salads like the Goi ngo sen tom thit (below) made by our reporter Celina at a recent cookery class.
4. Coconuts (and Coconut Candy!)
With Vietnam’s unquenchable thirst for fresh coconut water, cultivating coconuts is big business in the Mekong Delta. The province of Ben Tre has even earned the nickname “Coconut Island’. While nothing beats a freshly cracked Mekong coconut, the Delta locals also have sideline in delicious coconut candy – and if you have a sweet tooth you won’t want to miss this local treat.
5. Mekong Whisky
Ok, we’re cheating, but we couldn’t talk about regional specialities without mentioning the local firewater known as Mekong ‘Whisky’. It usually comes in two forms: amber-gold, which is sweet and made from honey, and black, which is made from traditional Chinese medicines. We can attest to the fact that the latter really packs a punch! Some locals swear by its cure-all-yer-ailments healing properties, although we’re yet to be convinced….
Bizarre variations on Mekong Whisky include those infused with scorpions and cobras. We’re not crazy enough to actually try these though.