Besides an idyllic rural scene that could easily charm you into staying longer than intended, Mai Chau Alley also attracts tourists for a large number of food specialties.
Muong pork (Lợn Mán – lợn cắp nách)
Muong pork (Source: Internet)
Unlike the factory-raised fellows, Muong pigs also called as lon cap nach, lon man or lon nit, which are raised naturally by the minors in Mai Chau and are allowed to run free in the hills, are more muscular and lean. Raised in natural conditions and grazed in the forest, Muong pigs are a special breed of pigs that only live in the highlands of Mai Chau. Not eating industrial food but trees and grass, Muong pigs are not only delicious but also healthy, lean and low in fat.
There are various different ways to process Muong pork into different attractive and mouthwatering dishes such as fry, roast, steam or grill but grilling is always the best choice. This is one of the highland-flavored dishes and indispensable part of every meal treating the guest of Muong People. Muong pork is best served with a wide range of seasonally wild vegetables such as cai meo (bitter lettuce), bo khai (sainat) or tam bop (cut leaf ground cherry). If you have a chance to visit Mai Chau on a winter day, do not miss to enjoy grilled Muong pork with few shots of ethnic herbal wines. Such a unique experience to remember!
Five-colored sticky rice (xôi ngũ sắc)
Five color sticky rice (Source: Internet)
This kind of sticky rice dish earns its name for the five colors of black, red, yellow, purple, orange of the five different types of sticky rice, which are its main ingredients. Depending on the type of leaves used to dye the rice and the preparation, this dish, which is made from sticky rice mixed with forest leaves to replace white with other colors, may have five different colors. These five separate colors are believed to symbolize five basic elements including red fire, white of metal, green of wood, yellow of earth and black of water. The existence of these five elements is thought to create the well-being of the heaven, the earth the human.
Five-color glutinous rice is one of the most popular dishes of almost all ethnic minorities in the mountainous regions of Northern Vietnam, each of which has its own way to call this dish. For example, the Nung ethnic group call it Dam Deng Sticky Rice, the Tay ethnic group calls it Five-color Sticky Rice while the Muong and White Thai ethnic groups call as what it is Multi-color Sticky Rice; etc. On the festival days or other special occasion, women find the leaves which produce different colors to make this special and interesting cuisine.
Unlike the simplicity its name suggests, the process of cooking five-color sticky rice is pretty complicated and time-consuming with many steps. Only the soft and good-smelling glutinous rice with grains at the same size is selected. After being washed carefully, the rice is soaked in water in 6-8 hours to ensure that it rises enough. After that, the rice is divided into five parts, each of which is compatible with a color. Some kinds of wild leaves used to dye the glutinous rice are co khau, khau den, nuc nac, etc. After the dying part, the next step is rice water-bath steaming, which requires the maker’s skillfulness to generate the ideal product. To protect these five colors, the cook has to steam each colored part in a separate steamer.
With the attractive appearance, vivid colorfulness and delicious taste, five-color sticky rice have all elements to be one of the must-eat dishes in Mai Chau and even in Vietnamese cuisine.
Rice in bamboo (Cơm lam)
Rice in bamboo (Source: Internet)
Rice, often glutinous rice, cooked in a bamboo shoot, served with salted roasted sesame, grilled pork or chicken skewers, com lam is a specialty of Thai minors and of course, a must-eat dish in Mai Chau. Made from gao nep nuong (a high-quality kind of glutinous rice) and cooked inside the fresh and young bamboo which has the new membrane inside to wrap the rice, com lam is naturally sweet, fragrant and viscid with a special flavor. You only can feel the complete taste of Com Lam when combining it with a traditional spice of Thai ethnic called “cham cheo”.
From the impressive scenery, hospitable ethnic people to mouthwatering dishes, Mai Chau has all ingredients to become a tourist destination in Vietnam.