Braised fish – the specialty of Vu Dai Village has long been the top dishes in Northern Vietnam, especially every Tet holiday. In the past, it was a precious gift for the ancestor. Nowadays, this dish has been famous throughout the four regions of the country, even other countries.

Dai Hoang Village (now Nhan Hau Village, Hoa Hau Commune, Ly Nhan District, Ha Nam Province) is not only known as “Vu Dai Village” in the book “Chi Pheo” by Nam Cao but also famous for its long history of braised fish.

Visiting Vu Dai Village the days near Tet, you can easily see people working from day till night. On these days, the whole village is full of the aroma of braised fish with smoke everywhere. The kitchens are always on fire to give out the delicious braised fish to meet the huge needs of customers along the country.

Vu Dai Villagers are busy with braised fish

Vu Dai Villagers are busy with braised fish

Every year, from the lunar December, Dai Hoang Village is busy with this job of cooking braised fish for sale to customers from Northern to Southern Vietnam. This is also the time when tourists visit this village to enjoy braised fish – the must-eat specialty in Vietnam of Ba Kien and Chi Pheo’s hometown.

Learning about this special dish, it is known that it does not originate from a tradition, custom or story but from the hunger and the poverty. When Lunar New Year arrived, because of the lack of meat, villagers had come up with an idea to make Tet better than usual. With the available source of fish in the area, local people chose the freshest and the most delicious ones, added some local spices to create this special Vietnam food.

Vu Dai braised fish

Vu Dai braised fish

In order to have a pot of Vu Dai braised fish with traditional flavor, it is necessary to prepare through many complicated stages, from selecting, choosing firewood, fish, spices, etc. to processing.

Fishing pots must be imported from Nghe An Province, but the lids are taken from Thanh Hoa Province because the dome design of the lids here will keep heat longer. In terms of choosing fish, it must be 2-to-3-year-old black carp with a weight of 3-5 kg. The most important factor to create the unique flavor of Vu Dai braised fish is the traditional spices, including galangal, ginger, lemon juice, bitter candy, etc. All of them are prepared and mixed in a particular proportion.

Ingredients for braised fish

Ingredients for braised fish

About the cooking process, first, the clay pot must be thoroughly cleaned. Before putting the fish inside, people must have a moderate layer of raisins to prevent the fish from burning, then add the spices. To cook this dish, it is required to use the special firewood – “cui nhan” so that the aroma from this kind of wood will degrade that of the clay pot and make the fish more attractive.

During this process, there is always someone looking to keep the heat in a boiling state in about 10-12 hours. The finished fish is dark brown, fragrant and has sweet meat. Thus, when eating, you do not have to waste any parts of it.

Cooking process

Cooking process

A pot of Vu Dai braised fish ranges from 500,000 to 1 million VND, depending on the weight of the black carp. Braised fish in Vu Dai Village is a popular Vietnam culinary that has enriched the Tet holiday meals with its own unique flavor.