My memories of the good old days come flooding back every time I try cooking canh chua (Vietnamese sweet and sour soup) with ponyfish, one of my late mother’s home-cooked recipes that are just irresistible.
An Bang fishing village, located in Cam An Ward, Hoi An City, Quang Nam Province, central Vietnam, is my hometown that boasts a host of traditional dishes of the central region.
Visitors to coastal villages in my hometown should not miss trying freshly made seafood dishes, like grouper, barracuda, and especially ponyfish.
|Ponyfish are offered for sale at affordable prices at a wet market in Vietnam. Photo: Hoa Vang / Tuoi Tre|
The ponyfish, which is small-sized, has more bones than meat yet its sweet, buttery, and strong taste is favored by lots of seafood lovers including me.
Elderly fishermen said that the ponyfish season starts from the ninth lunar month till early spring.
The fish, mainly found inhabiting the Cham island area, comes in various types and can be made into a wide range of tempting dishes that really give us a taste of home, such as sweet and sour ponyfish soup, as well as braised, fried or grilled ponyfish.
My mother used to say that each type of ponyfish had its own taste and the sweet and sour ponyfish soup was the best recipe for the fish.
|A bowl of sweet and sour ponyfish soup with tomatoes. Photo: Hoa Vang / Tuoi Tre|
For small-sized and bony ponyfish, we could also mince and form it into yummy fish balls, then fry it till golden brown before cooking the ponyfish soup with spices, tomato, pineapple, starfruit or loads of tamarind leaves.
Ponyfish soup cooked with tamarind leaves is a signature soup in my hometown as its ingredients are easily found. This dish is best served hot with chili fish sauce.
|A plate features fresh ponyfish, tamarind leaves and chili. Photo: Hoa Vang / Tuoi Tre|
However, the ponyfish soup cooked with pineapple and tomato was the best match, my mother said.
|Main ingredients for cooking sweet and sour ponyfish soup with tomatoes. Photo: Hoa Vang / Tuoi Tre|
Braised ponyfish is mouthwatering, too. To make the dish, my mother first cleaned the fish, marinated it in a sugar, fish sauce, pepper sauce for a while.
Then, she braised the fish on low heat until the sauce condensed.
Grilled ponyfish served with chili garlic fish sauce and loads of fresh veggies really goes well with rice as well.
Whenever reminiscing about the good times with my late mother and her best home cooked food, I always feel a bit regretful, wishing my youth during which my mother was still with me could last forever.
When I got a bit older, I tried cooking the sweet and sour ponynish soup following my mother’s recipe multiple times, but mine never tastes as delicious as hers.