Au Tau Gruel - from a Toxic Buld to a Specialty
There is something called Ha Giang interest containing enjoying au tau gruel, contemplating imposing mountains and chatting excitedly with the beautiful Mong girl in the market. The person who has not experienced this interest yet is considered never to visit this mountainous region before.
Ha Giang has a specialty that none of other places can have: au tau (ấu tẩu) gruel. Au tau is a type of wild bulb, looks similar to bulb of caltrop in the delta region that has hard, black, sharp cover.
Some people said that au tau bulb came from another side of boundary; some said that the Mong has grown it on the high mountains for a long time. Au tau bulb contains toxic, which is usually used for medicine. However, like other types of herbal medicine, after being treated in a special process, au tau becomes a tasty dish and has special effect.
Au tau bulb is cooked quite sophisticatedly. Firstly, it must be soaked in solid water of rice then steamed well so that the bulb spreads into solid powder. This kind of powder is put in the pot containing pig's trotters and rice; sometimes there is also sticky rice in order to make the dish viscous and good-smelling. The fire is kept smoldering on the cooker, the pot of gruel is boiled spreading the water breath.
To enjoy the dish, people scoop out the gruel into the bowl; put more chicken egg, minced pork, and spices including chili, pepper, onion and specially perilla. The bowl looks like chitterling gruel in the delta region but the taste is totally different. The dish’s taste is greasy, good-smelling, spicy and especially bitter that is the typical feature of it. Its bitter- buttery taste makes people feel not interesting at the first but after several spoons of gruel, they will feel sweet in mouth. Eating the dish frequently, people will become addicted in it.
Au tau gruel is a kind of gruel that should be enjoyed in night. In addition, people just sell it in night. When the small central commune becomes red because of the lights, in every several streets, there is a stall selling au tau gruel where people bustlingly come in and out. Young people going out late, traders, even a whole family of wife, husband, and children who is about to go to bed…all come to the stall to enjoy au tau gruel.
Seeing from the outside, the steam water breath spreads smolderingly from the stall. The air feels like to be in Hanoi night pho stalls. Au tau gruel is also a kind of remedy for the cold, being good for the bones and improving the health. In the cold fog of the mountainous region, enjoying a hot bowl of au tau gruel and a cup of wine is a fairy treatment for persons who are tired of a long day passing mountains.
Ha Giang residents are addicted in au tau gruel; consider it a specialty of their hometown. All guests from far coming to Ha Giang will be welcomed with au tau gruel. There is something called Ha Giang interest containing enjoying au tau gruel, contemplating imposing mountains and chatting excitedly with the beautiful Mong girl in the market. The person who has not experienced this interest yet is considered never to visit this mountainous region before.
Nowadays, there is a stall selling au tau gruel on the street along West Lake in the middle of Hanoi capital. The owner of the stall is a Ha Giang resident who has settled in Hanoi. Missing the mountainous region, she has opened a stall selling this specialty; au tau bulbs for the ingredient are sent from her hometown. However, besides pig's trotters, she uses chicken to serve specific customers who don’t want to eat pig's trotters. In the winter, West Lake is also cold like the high mountainous region.
Translated by Vu Thuy Duong
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