The Red River Delta province of Thái Bình is home to many traditional specialities such as the popular dish bún bung hoa chuối (rice vermicelli soup with pork ribs and banana flowers) that is a favourite of locals and visitors.
Thái Bình native Nguyễn Thị Út, 64, who has been selling the dish for 30 years, said different from other bún bung soup in the north with main ingredients such as dọc mùng (Indian taro), the dish in Thái Bình has hoa chuối (banana flowers) that have made it beloved.
Út said the main ingredients of bún bung hoa chuối include rice vermicelli, pig's trotters, pig ribs or marrowbone, lá lốt (wild betel leaf), minced pork and banana flowers. The minced pork is soaked with fish sauce, onions and several spices before being wrapped in the lá lốt and boiled in the broth pot for a while then taken out to be eaten with the soup.
"To have a good broth pot, I have to simmer the pig's ribs or its marrowbone for almost two hours while boiling the pig's trotters for half an hour to ensure the meat is soft but still crispy," said Út.
The banana flowers should be cut into pieces and soaked in rice water for about 20 minutes to reduce the resin and tartness before being put in the broth pot to boil for 10 minutes, she said, adding that she has her own secrets to ensure the broth remains pure but still sweet and fragrant.
Út said she often sells between 25-30kg of rice vermicelli a day.
Eater Hà Văn Mừng and his wife have been Út's regular customers for years. They said they are addicted to Út's bún bung hoa chuối as their breakfast.
"Every morning we often stand in a long queue to have our favourite food. We enjoy it so much,” said Mừng.
Mừng's wife Bùi Thị Lợi said she likes a bowl of bún bung not only for its taste and delicious but also its colours, with the white bún , red tomato and chilli, green fresh herbs and betel leaf rolls, brown boiled pig's trotters and banana flowers and the light yellow colour of the broth.
Asked why the broth has a yellow colour, Út said she uses several pieces of turmeric and pounds it as bran then puts it in the broth.
"The yellow colour helps give the dish its special taste that attracts diners," she said.
Nguyễn Thị Huấn from Quảng Ninh Province said she was a big fan of Út's bún bung hoa chuối .
"I often come to Út's shop to enjoy the dish when I have a business trip to Thái Bình. Although have asked Út for a recipe to cook the dish at home its taste is not the same as Ut's,” she said.
"I will never forget the broth’s sweetness, the meaty and delicious taste of pig's trotters and betel leaf rolls and particularly the light tartness and crispiness of banana flowers. Although the dish is simple its rich characteristics and aromatic flavour have made many people, particularly those who live far from their Thái Bình homeland, miss it so much," said Huấn. — VNS
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