Ba Khia is a crab from the Sesarma family that lives in the southern regions of Vietnam; it is commonly known as the mangrove crab. In the local dialect, Ba Khía means “three lines”, referring to the three stripes that are visible on the crab’s carapace. Fermented salted Ba Khía has become a specialty of the Mekong River delta region and a popular food of the people in Ca Mau Province.
To make Ba Khia, the crabs are carefully selected and then soaked in salt water. Special consideration is taken to the amount of salt in the water, neither too much nor too little. After five to seven days of fermentation the Mam Ba Khia is edible and can be processed into a variety of dishes. To enhance the dish’s sweet delicious flavor, people add spices, herbs, and fruits.
Grilled snakehead wrapped in lotus leaves
Grilled snakehead wrapped in lotus leaves is a specialty dish which visitors could not miss in Ca Mau. Main ingredients of the dish are snakehead caught in the wild (rice paddies, lakes, swamps, etc.) and lotus leaves. After being caught, it will be washed with unrefined salt, and drained off. Before grilling the fish, the cook put a lemongrass stalk through it to remove fishy odor and add flavor as well as smell to the grilled fish.
Locals do not grill the fish on charcoal but with rice straws. The grilled fish meat must be well-done and tender inside, not too dry, not too burnt outside and very fragrant. The cook removes dust and burnt parts of the grilled snakehead, pour green onion oil and sprinkle some crushed peanuts onto it.
The grilled snakehead is served with lotus leaves, various vegetables and herbs. The dipping sauce is an important part of this specialty. The dip is made from fish sauce, ripe tamarind, garlic, chili pepper so that it has sweet, salty, sour and hot tastes and viscous texture.
Dua bon bon (Salted cattails)
Dua bon bon is a unique speciality in Ca Mau. Dua bon bon is made from cattails grown in the mangrove lowlands. Cattails are peeled and soaked in rice water seasoned with salt. After a week, salted cattails are ready to serve. Dua bon bon is usually served with fish cooked with sauce or caramelized pork. Furthermore, cattails can also be cooked into cattails salad with pork ear or stir-fried cattails with lemongrass and chili.
Lau mam (Salted fish hotpot)
Lau mam is a southern specialty and an amazing combination of preserved fish and hot-pot. Guests are certain to love it at the first sight due to the eye-catching beauty of large dishes of colourful vegetables and the favour of the broth, made from salted fish that is cooked until its meat and bone are separated, greasy and sweet-smelling.
The broth is seasoned with sugar, spices; a little of coconut milk added is the secret for a more fatty, scented and viscid hotpot sauce. Red chili and chopped citronella are dispensable parts for the fragrant taste. Fresh fish meat, water crab meat, snails, eel, slices of pork, silver shrimp accompanied with various kinds of vegetables, such as eggplant, bitter melon, water dropwort, “dien dien” flower, bean sprouts, water lily, straw mushroom will be dipped into the boiled sauce until well-done. Enjoying the winter bitter cold with a hot salted fish hotpot, a medley of flavors, spicy, bitter, salty, sweet and greasy is not a bad idea.
Mantis shrimp flesh
Mantis shrimp flesh is sweet and salty, comfort and seductively fragrant. It is called mantis shrimp because it looks like both mantis and shrimp. The simplest and quickest way to eat mantis shrimp is to boil and dip it in a mix of salt, ground black pepper, lime juice and eating with aromatic herbs. Other recipes are steamed mantis shrimp with beer, steamed mantis shrimp with coconut water, Steamed mantis shrimp with lemongrass, etc. They also make dry mantis shrimp to store it longer. Dishes from mantis shrimp and dry mantis shrimp pair well with beer/wine.