Phu Yen makes a strong culinary statement

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When you are blessed with a magnificent landscape of mountains, beaches, lagoons and rock cliffs, you are bound to have a matching culinary tradition marked by nature's bounty fish from the sea, rice from the plains and herbs from the mountains.

Phu Yen Province offers strong evidence of this causal link between landscape and cuisine.

In the province capital, Tuy Hoa Town, residents will direct you to a restaurant as far as 15 kilometers a way to have breakfast.

We found that the breakfast fare at Hoa Da Restaurant, named after the village where it is located, is well worth the distance traveled.

The breakfast "special" consists of cháo lòng (rice porridge with pig's tripe), bánh hi (a kind of rice cake) and bánh tráng (rice paper).

The rice paper is soaked in water so it becomes soft enough to wrap pig's tripe cut into small pieces. The bánh hi is filled with fresh vegetables and herbs to make rolls that are dipped in pure fish sauce and served with chili and garlic.

Cháo lòng rice porridge cooked in a broth of pig's bones and sliced tripe is served with crispy roasted rice paper.

The breakfast is so fresh and filling that more often than not, one does not need to bother with lunch.

Locals say the signature breakfast dish owes much of its fame to the village's special rice paper: the Hoa Da rice paper that has become a brand name. Made from the best quality rice, it does not dissolve in water, but isn't too crispy and fragile, either.

In several communes of Tuy An and Son Hoa districts in the mountains, people make a special dish with dít leaves a plant indigenous to Phu Yen and only found here. The sour leaves are cooked with chicken and dipped in a mixture of ground salt and chili. This dish is best savored with home-made rice wine.

The brackish O Loan lagoon in Phu Yen is an abundant source of seafood and the birthplace of a local cuisine using oysters, shrimps, crabs and different kinds of fish.

The O Loan oyster has since become famous across the country, especially for the oyster soup cooked with red rice and spices.

The lagoon also has cá mai (raw fish) served with vegetables. The dish is known as gi cá mai. After the fish is caught, its fillet is soaked in salt water. Later the slices are mixed with lemon juice and roasted peanuts and served with different kinds of vegetables.

It is not surprising that Phu Yen is known in the country as the capital of ocean trout. Ocean trout can be roasted, steamed, served raw with mustard or fried with chili and citronella.

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