If you have a chance to visit Vietnam, do not miss the opportunity to visit Ha Tien (Kien Giang province – southern Vietnam), if you are a gourmet, Here is where you will discover a lot of things, I am sure you will be surprised by a lot of dishes that you have not known before. First, do you know anything about LINGULA (Hà Tiên-Vietnamese: Con cà xỉu)? For more information about LINGULA here. Now let’s explore this shellfish and dishes made from them in Ha Tien!
Cà Xỉu or Lingula lives in burrows in barren sandy coastal seafloor and feeds by filtering detritus from the water. It can be detected by a short row of three openings through which it takes in water (sides) and expels it again (middle). There are a lot of Cà Xỉu in Đông Hồ dam, Hà Tiên town (Kien Giang province-Vietnam). Cà Xỉu harvest season starts from June to August yearly. Cà xỉu are catched by hand or a tool by dig under sand (about 50cm depth). After catching, Cà xỉu are washed carefully, then blanched quickly in boiling water and drained, dried under sunlight about one day (or 5 to 6 hours), and start to make MẮM CÀ XỈU by soak in a liquid mixture of salt, sugar and fish sauce or by layers of salt/rock salt, sugar and Cà Xỉu. It can be flavored with chili, garlic, … This processing is need experience by each mắm’s maker. The mắm’s quality is good or not depending on how this processing is done. If salt is not enough, Cà Xỉu will be spoiled, if too much salt, Cà xỉu will be dark in color (not good in appearance).
Salt-fermented Lingula (Vietnamese Mắm cà xỉu) can be consumed after one day fermented. Some local people said: This dish is made in the morning and consumed in afternoon is the best, but it can be kept in airtight jar for a week or more. In the past, fisherman went to the sea for fishing, they always had this dish and steamed rice for their meals. This traditional dish is a speciality of Hà Tiên.
Cà Xỉu (or Lingula) can be cooked fresh after catching or salt-fermentation depending how the people like. But most of customers like fermented Cà Xỉu because tasty and keeping longer than fresh one.
There are some common cooking from fermented Lingula as:
- Fermented Lingula with steamed rice (Local people favourite)
- Wash fermented lingula with water (make them less salty), then saute with garlic and seasoning some sugar and pepper, with steamed rice.
- Make salad: Wash fermented lingula by blanching in boiling water quickly, make them less salty, then mix with young mango julienne, sliced red onion, Vietnamese coriander leaves (Rau răm), dress with NƯỚC MẮM CHANH (known as Vietnamese dressing or dip – a liquid mixture of: fish sauce, sugar, chili, garlic, water lime juice/or organic vinegar), some crushed peanuts and fried shallots, enjoy as an appetizer (with a shot of Rượu Đế – Vietnamese rice wine- is so beautiful!)
If you have any other ways to make with this dish, please post a comment to share!