Before serving the dish, Nguyen Thi Thanh Thuan, chef at The Cliff Resort in Phan Thiet City, always make a short introduction to diners.
The dish is presented in a round bamboo tray filled with banana leaves, with a plate of spadefish fillets placed at its centre. The pot is surrounded with banana flower petals carrying boiled pork, fried egg, cucumber sticks, banana blossom, mango, and water spinach.
The decoration aims to create a visual appeal for diners while adding a touch of nature to the dish.
Fish is always a popular food in Binh Thuan Province, however, spadefish can produce a rich a unique taste that distinguishes it from other species.
The cook must use a sharp knife to fillet the fish and then soak the fillets in lemon juice to remove the fishy smell. The fillets are then seasoned with chopped ginger, chilli and garlic, which helps the fish become firm and rich in flavour.
There are two ways to enjoy the dish. Diners can roll all the abovementioned ingredients with noodles into a sheet of rice paper and dip the roll in sauce, made from a mixture of peanut, garlic, dried tamarind, grinded bananas, and Phan Thiet’s signature fish sauce.
They may also place all the ingredients into a bowl and then add noodles and broth, which made from shrimp, tomato and onion. The heat from the broth can turn the fish fillets medium rare and enriches the sweet and fatty taste of the spadefish.
Each family has its own recipe to make sauce and broth, depending on the cook’s experience and preference. Therefore, the cook often places bowls of sliced chilli and fish sauce so that diners can balance the flavours to their liking.