A complete serving of red jellyfish always comes with shrimp paste as dipping sauce. Photo: Nam Tran / Tuoi Tre
An affordable delight
At noon, a frequent guest of Bich paid a visit to her stall, ordering a portion of raw red jellyfish.
First things first, Bich put a tiny bowl of shrimp paste in front of him.
The tempting, funky smell plays as an introduction for the culinary feast coming next.
Grabbing a block of grilled tofu, she cut it into smaller pieces, perfect for them to be properly wrapped in perilla leaves.
Jellyfish came last as she had to choose the part that fitted his preference.
Bich’s knife is made of a piece of bamboo – a Vietnamese ancient cutting tool specialized for soft food.
As she gave her guest a basket of herbs, Bich told him to enjoy the dish slowly.
According to her, the jellyfish season comes once a year, why do not diners enjoy it to the fullest?
“The changing weather tires me out," said the guest.
"Such a comfort it is to have crunchy jellyfish with tofu, coconut and herbs.
"Having a sip of rice wine, I feel so much better.
"This dish is an affordable delight for all.”
Our ancestors ate jellyfish that way
For Do Thi Thai, a picky home cook, it has to be tentacles and bell margins which offer the best texture.
“Those parts may be not very good-looking yet the quality is top-notch,” she said while asking Bich to give her a piece of lime.
Squeezing lime juice into shrimp paste, Thai whisked the dipping mixture up to give off its signature smell then topped it with some slices of red hot chili peppers.
Thai has been addicted to red jellyfish since she was little.
Although she lives far from Mo Market, in the red jellyfish season, she has to come there many times to enjoy the dish.
Thai said the way it served was simple and witnessed no change over time.
"Our ancestors ate red jellyfish that way and we follow suit," she said.
The dish can now be found in several lanes of Hanoi’s Old Quarter or ancient fresh markets.
A red jellyfish stall in Hanoi’s Hang Chieu Street is among a few shops still offering the dish. Photo: Nam Tran / Tuoi Tre
Light and fresh, red jellyfish is a food designated for the changing weather in late spring, early summer.
It would be a pity if one of Hanoi's culinary staples only remains in memory one day.
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