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Saturday, September 30, 2023

A must-taste noodle soup in An Giang

By Quynh Han

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Chau Doc fish noodle soup presents a harmonious fusion of several rustic ingredients, encapsulating the quintessential essence of southwestern Vietnamese cuisine that leaves a profound imprint on the palates of diners.

The essential components for crafting Chau Doc fish noodle soup encompass snakehead fish, autumn crocus, Vietnamese fermented shrimp paste, and fresh turmeric. These ingredients are deeply ingrained and readily available within An Giang Province, demanding rigorous selection to ensure their utmost freshness.

The cook deliberately opts for snakehead fish dwelling in wet paddy fields due to their robust flesh and inherent sweet undertones. After meticulous cleaning and boiling, the flesh is delicately separated from the bones, then marinated with fresh turmeric and an array of spices, and finally stir-fried. High-quality slices of snakehead fish exhibit the characteristic yellow hue of turmeric, exuding a fragrant aroma while maintaining their firm texture.

Autumn crocus holds an essential role in various dishes across southwestern Vietnam, including Chau Doc fish noodle soup. Its subtle fragrance aids in diminishing the fishiness of the dish, contributing a distinctive flavor profile.

Chau Doc fish noodle soup entices diners with its vivid yellow hue originating from turmeric, the signature aroma of Vietnamese fermented shrimp paste, and the depth of sweetness derived from simmering pork bones and boiled fish broth for around 45 minutes. This intricate process demands considerable effort and the meticulous attention of the cook, who meticulously skims the broth to achieve clarity.

Fresh rice noodles are lightly parboiled and arranged in a bowl, adorned by layers of fish slices. Some variations even introduce fresh shrimp, roast pork, and fried fish cakes to enhance the dish’s complexity. The crowning touch is the introduction of the broth, poured into the bowl. A steaming bowl of Chau Doc fish noodle soup arrives alongside a plate of herbs, sesbania sesban flowers, and finely shredded banana blossoms—a distinctive hallmark of southwestern-style dishes.

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