Raw red jellyfish: An elaborate Vietnamese salad
The appearance of raw jellyfish and shrimp paste may cause diners to hesitate to try at first, but its delicate combination of the aromas and flavours of the paste, copra, grilled tofu, cumquat and herbs will definitely make them go back for more.
In Vietnam, there are two kinds of jellyfish: white and red. While the white jellyfish is quite popular and available all year round, the red variety can only be found in the mangrove forests of Hai Phong and Nam Dinh.
Red jellyfish do not have a very long shelf-life, so, if you want to give it a try, only use it when it is in season, from March to July. The dish originated in Hai Phong but quickly won the hearts of Hanoians.
To make it edible, the red jellyfish has to undergo a complex preparation process.
First, it must be soaked in water together with the roots and bark of the bruguiera, a kind of mangrove tree, until it turns a deep red and the flesh becomes translucent and soft.
Then the jellyfish needs be steeped in clean water with lemons and cumquats to add aroma and flavour.
To complete the dish, you can place some herbs, tofu, copra and jellyfish on a large tia to (perilla) leaf, roll it, and dip it in fermented shrimp paste (mam tom).
The taste is light and cool, and when combined with the strong flavour of shrimp paste along with the herbs and copra it is truly a taste sensation.
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