Food & Drinks
Coming to Son La, the most memorable not only me but also most of tourists is Son La cuisine. It is special about spices and way of processing only from daily foods. You just feel the special flavor when you are directly enjoyed them.
My favorite is eating so though I have been travelled to many places, local dishes is always the frist exploration. And coming to northwest mountain specially Son La province, I just realize that the reason why Son La cuisine is attractive tourists who have gone here.
Not be professional chefs without having luxurious and rare foods, with rustic hand, how to cook and some own spices of local people here make a wonderful dishes that any word can express it, according to my opinion is not only delicious but only familiar.
1. Buffalo meat upstairs kitchen
Dried food is a popular food storage way of Thai people. Dried buffalo meat is one of the reserves ways but special taste to make it famous with most of tourists. Not always Thai people in Son La can also cook the dried buffalo meat, only when special occasions like holidays Thais, Tet or weddings, .... you have to come here at the right time, you just can buy a little kitchen upstairs buffalo meat as a gift for relatives.
I am learned how to cook this dish by local people. To have good dish Thai people always have to choose muscle meat of healthy buffaloes, beautiful and red muscle. Buffalo meat stripped off the ribs, cut into slices approximately 15cm, width about 7 - 8 cm, thickness about 2-3 cm, and bring to mix spices as: salt, sugar, chili, lemon, garlic, ginger and indispensable "Mac khen" and hung upstairs kitchen.
Smoke from kitchen will be cooked slowly, helping the sweetener in dry pieces of meat together and wonderful. About a year after we will have a very attractive and delicious dried buffalo meat to eat slowly.
It will become harder so when eating them, you may roasted on charcoal or steamed to have a soft meat. This dish has attracted special flavor, spicy of peppers, the concentration of garlic, the sweetness of the meat and the most special smell of the smoke in kitchen, also implies a long day so unforgettable flavor.
I certainly will make this dish for my family in next Tet holiday. Perhaps it will not a perfect dish as original taste of Thai people but I believe that it will have the nearly similar taste. Son La is very more wonderful then what I have thought.
2. Pa Pinh Top (grilled fish) in Mong Village
I have eaten the grilled fish in many place such as: Ba Vi, Bac Giang, Ha Giang, Sapa,... but coming to Son La and are enjoyed this dish which gives really impressive taste. Mong village is away about 6km from Son La city, it is famous not only hot mineral water source but also ethnic cuisine. And i am the most interesting with grilled fish with how different grill.
The most delicious fish often use to be crab, just a few pounds. Fish spine surgery, leaving honey and adding spices like ginger, lemongrass, fresh chili, coriander, herbs, green onions, basil, especially "Mac khen" has increased charming flavor and reduced fishy.
And then this is just a special, fish are soaked, who doubled, used bamboo to clamp and grilled fish on charcoal instead of obliquity or grilling the body fish like the other place. According to this processing, the fish will keep a longer scent of fish, taste of "Mac khen" will make you feel a fresh sweet, fragrant hot, charming, gently spicy taste on each cell of tongue.
3. Nam Pia
Mentioning Son La province, all tourists think to "Nam Pia" – a characteristic dish of Thai people so coming here, don’t forget to enjoy it.
I was introduced about Nam Pia by many my friends but there are some reasons that i have not had a chance to enjoy them. But I will introduce this specially, you must remember to eat them if going to Son La!
To cook this dish needs of the small intestine buffaloes, cows and goats. You have stripping inside section of gut, use a cotton cloth to filter water from the small intestine and then mixing ginger, lemongrass, "Mac khen", chili, lime leaves and adding little fresh blood, tail, stomach, heart stalk ... of cows or goats for the pot to boil for 5 minutes. And finally creating a viscous dish – "Nam Pia".
Hot Nam Pia will make a more delicious. The first time Guests are enjoyed them, you will feel a bitter taste in the throat, but finding slightly sweet and aroma of "Mac Khen" and spices like lemongrass, lime leaves, ginger, chilies later. You just enjoy them once, i believe that you will never forget this special taste. Moreover, this dish is very safe for those whose stomach condition is not good.
4. Com Lam in Moc Chau
My first stop place is Moc Chau and "Com Lam" is also the first dish that i have been enjoyed. Rice is traditional and main dish in Vietnam’s family meal, Com Lam is also cooked from this daily foods with the following special processing: Rice to add a little salt, ginger is soaked overnight, wash in water and pour into a bamboo tube, add a little water and tide a top of bamboo tube by banana leaves, then give up the kitchen fire.
When eating, you gently separate the outer shell (bamboo tube), you will see steamed rice with the attractive aroma of new glutinous rice which mixed with a little taste of bamboo, the kitchen smoke. And nothing is more wonderful than pieces of "Com Lam" contains really taste of the mountains. To it is more delicous if you eat "Com Lam" with sesame salt – is a traditional spice of Vietnamese.
I am extremely impression in the first time eating them so I bought 50 Lam rice tube as gift for my relatives. It is easy to carry and storage so "Com Lam" is a special goods in Son La to give your friends and relatives.
5. Boiled bamboo shoots eat with "Cham Cheo" in Muong La
Muong La district is a longest stop place during my trip in Son La. Coming to Muong La, eat with my friend family, I were attractive with a unique spice with a difficult name of “ Cham Cheo” that i have not seen before. I am introduced by local people that it was a traditional dish of Thai people and is considered the "soul of the Northwest cuisine".
Cham Cheo’s processing is quite simple with a lots of familiar ingredients such as: garlic, fresh chilies, some fresh garlic leaves, coriander, fish sauce, sugar,... and especially indispensable "Mac Khen" - spices characteristic of people Thai. All create a strange feeling for tourists when enjoying them.
Local people use "Cham cheo" as a daily dish in each their meals. The first time eating boiled bamboo shoots with "Cham cheo", the pure sweetness of bamboo shoots mixed characteristic taste of "Cham cheo" make me impressive. I really like the simple, rustic and familiar dishes here.
6. Cassava rice in Song Ho village
It takes about 1km from Ong town, Muong La district to Song Ho village where is a quite poor village, growing corn and cassava is mainly work of people here. The major topographic is high hills and mountains so rice is grown a little here. Although daily meals in Vietnam include steamed rice and other dishes, the reason is not enough rice to eat, they have to cook rice with cassava. But with my feeling, this dish is the most delicious rice that I have been eaten. Mixing the fragrant and friable cassava with soft steamed rice create a unique dish. You have to try to it, you just feel it delicious taste.
Coming to Song Ho village, I have a chance to enjoy a meal of a poor family here who are very friendly and helpful, ready to invite any tourist to want to eat with them. Eating cassava rice with green vegetable and dried spring fish – the simple dishes – will make me unforgettable.