The tastiness of simplicity

By Dieu Hien, Thanh Nien News

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A dish of tom huu, a specialty of Tra Que Village in Hoi An Town / PHOTO: DIEU HIEN
Located three kilometers northeast of central Hoi An, Tra Que Village is famous for growing organic and delicious leafy vegetables with the use of river algae as fertilizers.
It’s these ingredients that make the area’s tasty specialty, tom huu or tam huu (literally translated as “prawns’ friends” or “three friends”), so delicious.
The vegetables play an important role in the dish: leaves are wrapped around the prawns and pork and, the rolls are then held together by slim green spring onions.
It is said that the dish got its name because of the way the ingredients are tied together, or the “friendship” of flavors the medley brings to the tongue.
According to locals, the prawns must be caught in the village’s rivers and lagoons or in nearby villages, because they are medium in size (about an adult’s pinky finger), have crispy skins, and sweet meat.
The prawns are washed clean and have their heads and tails removed before being seasoned with salt, sodium glutamate, chili powder, and fish sauce.
They are quickly stir-fried in a pan that is already heated with peanut oil. Once they are done, the prawns are bright red in color.
The pork can be lean meat or rib meat, but must be from pigs that are raised on vegetables, locals said.
The meat is boiled in seasoned water and then cut into strips that are as long as the prawns.
Vegetables for the dish are water mint leaves and rau e – a species of leaf vegetable that is only available in Tra Que and looks like basil but has a stronger fragrance.
The dish is eaten with fish sauce mixed with vinegar or lime juice, sugar, garlic and chili pepper.
Since all the ingredients come from sources in the village, the dish is an important offering that Tra Que people present to their ancestors during traditional ceremonies.
They also serve the dish at parties with their friends and relatives.
As Tra Que has become popular among foreign tourists who visit mainly for farming and cooking tours, tom huu has become a big part of local cooking classes for travelers.
So, if you have a chance to visit the village, take on a cooking challenge and learn to make the special dish.
Even if you don’t bother with cooking, you can still enjoy the dish at local eateries.

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