They are cooked on wood fires in clay pots for 15 hours
Nguyen Ba Toan holds a black carp caught in his pond in Hoa Hau Commune in the northern province of Ha Nam. Families in the commune have started braising their special Lunar New Year treat to meet demand across the country and overseas.
Though braised fish is a very common daily dish across Vietnam that is usually served with rice, Hoa Hau’s fish pots are considered the best in the country thanks to the selection of fine big fish, use of unique ingredients like coconut water in addition to ginger and galangal, shallot, red chili, lime juice, and pork ribs. All are cooked on a wood fire in clay pots.
The fish is cooked by browning fat and adding fish sauce.
The pots are boiled first to get rid of their clay smell before large pieces of fish and other ingredients are added.
The pots are cooked for around 15 hours to soften both bones and scales. One-kilogram pots are sold for VND400,000 and 4.5 kg pots for VND1.1 million. Many families in the village earn around US$10,000 every year during Lunar New Year, which falls on February 8 this time.
Locals said the tradition dates back to the subsidy period, which lasted a decade after the Vietnam War, when everything was rationed. The commune authorities harvested fish from ponds before Tet and gave each house a kilogram, and every family learned to braise the fish so that it would keep for several days. The first orders came more than 15 years ago from war veterans.
Several hundred families in the commune deliver 30,000-40,000 pots every Tet, many to business people who use the pots as holiday gifts, and some to Viet kieu who carry them back home. Locals said orders have increased threefold this year.
You can find the original Vietnamese story here on Zing