Central Vietnam may be a barren land but it has given the country many delectable food items. Among them are fermented fish intestine and fermented squid.
Fermented fish intestine
There are some kinds of fish whose intestines too are delicious. Tuna, for instance. But normally you would expect the intestine to be cooked and eaten just like the flesh. But, strangely, the intestine is turned into a delightful paste in Binh Dinh Province.
To make it, get the intestine of triggerfish or tuna, ensuring it is large and fresh.
It is not necessary to wash it because it is not dirty and does not contain any toxic substance. But remove the gall bladder to make sure the paste is not bitter. With a sharp knife make a delicate cut to drain the viscous substance inside.
Then cut it into small pieces, put in a container or glass jar, and add salt, with one portion of salt for two portions of intestine. Cover the jar tightly and put it in the sun for three to seven days. The intestine shrinks and becomes a paste.
Fifteen days later, after soaking up the salt, it produces a dark liquid. It takes another two to three months to get the extract, which no longer smells fishy. Throw away the intestine and use only the thick sauce.
It is tasty and fragrant, delicious when eaten with hot rice, vermicelli, bánh hỏi (fine rice vermicelli), or bánh cuốn (steamed rice rolls).
To make it even tastier, put a pan over low heat, add some oil and chopped garlic for fragrance, and then the sauce. Stir it well and add some sugar and seasoning to get a greasy dark sauce that smells good. You can add chilli to make it spicier.
Cuttlefish paste is made in a similar manner. Choose fresh fish with firm flesh, and wash but not clean its intestine.
To prepare the paste, a specialty of Quang Ngai Province, mix one bowl of salt with three bowls of the intestine, mix well, and put in a container.
It ferments and usually turns black because of the internal ink bag. It is advisable not to discard the bag because locals think it is the extract of the squid. If it is removed, the fermented squid turns lighter but also less tasty.
The fermented squid can be eaten raw, but the texture is somewhat tough. So people often chop it into small pieces and put it in a bowl of chopped ginger, chili, and garlic. Then, add some chopped pineapple and one will have delicious sauce. It is eaten with hot rice and herbs and vegetables.
If you don’t fancy raw fermented fish intestine or fermented squid, add pork belly and braise to get a delicious dish.
Mix the pork belly with the paste, add some seasoning and sugar, then put in a pan over low heat. Braise until the meat soaks much of the paste and the latter turns thicker.