Fish paste is a specialty with a distinctive flavor in the Mekong Delta. Locals use the special ingredient to make a unique fish paste hotpot, known locally as lẩu mắm.
Broth is a highlight of the hotpot with fish paste being main ingredient. Fish paste can be made from linh—a local fish found in the Mekong Delta especially in the flooding season—sac fish (Trichogaster pectoralis), tren fish (Kryptopterus cryptopterus), etc. Fish paste from linh fishes has fat taste while fish paste from sac fish may be tastier to diners. Two kinds of fish paste are often combined to create a delicious broth. In addition, fresh coconut water is added to enhance the broth’s sweetness. Pork or chicken bones are also used.
A fish paste hotpot must include fish, shrimp, eggplant, keo neo (Limnocharis flava) and water spinach. Herbs served with the specialty are water lily, banana flowers and water mimosa that bring the fresh taste to the hotpot and excite the taste buds.
A perfect fish paste hotpot should have seafood including fish, shrimp and squid done to a turn. Herbs should be added right after the hotpot starts boiling to keep their green color.
The combination of ingredients in the fish paste hotpot is typical for gastronomy in the Mekong Delta.
By Lam Nhu