Fresh and wild ingredients from the Mekong Delta make for delicious dishes
Dien dien (Sesbania sesban), a wild yellow flower, and the tiny, white freshwater fish linh are a perfect combination for a monsoon hot pot as the ingredients are only available during the flood season between September and November. The fish is sweet and soft with edible bones and the flowers, which grow along rivers, are slightly bitter.
Keo (Pseudapocryptes elongatus), a small Asian mud fish that in Vietnam is common in the Mekong Delta, makes a perfect hot pot when combined with the sour giang (Aganonerion) leaves, thin strings of banana flower and water spinach, bean sprouts, and common knotgrass or rau dang, which literally means bitter vegetable. The hot pot comes with fish sauce mixed with tamarind juice.
Eel hot pot uses the sour taste of fermented rice or green tamarind. Locals usually have it with banana flowers, water spinach, mung bean sprouts, yellow sawah lettuce or keo neo, and the stalks of giant elephant ears, which are called doc mung in northern Vietnam and bac ha in the south of Vietnam, the same name as for mint.
Hot pot with duck and fermented tofu requires more preparation. Pieces of duck have to be marinated in rice wine, slices of ginger and fermented tofu for four hours before put in the pot. Common ingredients for the pot are taro, water spinach, and mustard greens.
Fermented hot pot is cooked with fermented fish. Common knotgrass or dien dien, hummingbird flowers (so dua), water lily stalks, and yellow sawah lettuce make the strong taste and smell just perfect.
Crab pot is a porridge pot with small fresh water crabs. It needs a good chef to make the pot fragrant and not stinky. It is served with common knotgrass, pennywort, sweet leaf, and vine spinach.
Another choice of porridge hot pot is one with snakehead fish. People also add duck eggs with embryos and eat it with a variety of vegetables like the other ones.
You can find the original Vietnamese story here on Zing