On the mountainous areas of central north Vietnam inhabit a community that seems to have stood up against the passage of time. Considered one of the largest ethnic minorities in Indochina and one of the oldest in the area, the Muong people are believed to be one of the most ancient and culturally unified communities ever existed.
The Muong community is divided into several villages spread all over Vietnam’s mountains. Despite the big number of people and villages, this ethnic group is extremely united and it’s based on mutual help between different villages. Characterized by a really simple life, the Muong people exploit to perfection the vast lands in their hands. Agriculture is the foundation of their economy but fishing, hunting, and breeding livestock are widely practiced within the community. In the regions along rivers and on certain mountain slopes the Muong continue the slash-and-burn cultivation while in other areas they grow rice, both sticky and dry. Cereals, vegetables, fruits, cash crops and medicinal plants are also often cultivated in order to reach the community’s necessities.
Now that you have the ingredients do you wonder what they cook? Here are 3 famous, unique and delicious Muong dishes.
Please don’t stop reading, we promise you will change your mind on it. And bear in mind that crickets, worms, and locusts are some of the favorite ingredients of Muong people.
Easy to find, a bit harder to get, the worms live inside the bamboo tree that indeed need to be chopped and open. Knives and baskets are Muong’s best friends and in a lucky day, the winner might come back home with more than 1kg of bamboo worms.
There are numerous ways to cook bamboo worms such as deep fry, steam, braise, however, one of the most common (and appetizing) is the stir fry. The worms are washed and cleaned then seasoned with salt for 15 minutes. After it, the Muongs heat the fat in a wok, add shallots and worms and stir fry. As soon as the worms become golden, they add a few lime leaves, another quick stir fry and here you are.
Worms are succulent and juicy and the sweet scent of the bamboo combines with the strong flavor of worm and the bitter flavor of the lime leaves creating a unique dish perfect for the cold winter days.
Five-Color Steamed Sticky Rice
Another unique dish that combines traditional values and the exquisiteness of the rice and other ingredients.
The five-color steamed sticky rice is made of steamed rice in different colors such as red, yellow, white, green and purple. The color is made adding various ingredients, so the red will be from the red sticky rice, the yellow from the ginger, the purple from mulberries and green from ginger leaves. After the rice is left to dry for about 10 hours is ready to be cooked, usually with grilled pork sausage.
The choice of the colors refers to local traditions and beliefs, so the red stands for ambition and dream, the purple denotes the fertile earth, the yellow indicates the affluence, the green refers to the vastness of the forest and the white reflects pure and sincere love.
Sour Slated Pork
This dish is one of the Muong people’s most simple, traditional and delicious dishes. It is a Tet specialty but, due to its popularity and simplicity can be enjoyed any other time of the year.
Sour Salted Pork is prepared with available spices such as cinnamon leaf, jackfruit leaf, betel leaf and a small amount of galangal, chili, brewed sticky rice, and salt. Once these ingredients dry, Muongs will crush them all in a bowl and add sliced pork, this way the flavor of the spices get absorbed by the tender meat. Once the process is concluded, the meat is left to brew in a warm environment for one or two weeks. Don’t worry, you won’t have to wait this long to enjoy it.
The crunchiness of the meat and the balance of the flavor of the spices make this dish unique and delightful, definitely a must-try when travelling Vietnam.
Bonus for you, here are 5 curiosities about Muong people
- Following the Muong’s tradition, children will only be named one year after the birth
- Today the Muong people are linguistically and ethnically close to the Vietnamese but culturally and socially similar to the Thai.
- The Muong population is around 1.200.000
- Muong have always stood up against the foreigners’ dominations maintaining a high level of freedom and independence.
- Muong practice their traditional ethnic religion. They worship ancestral spirits and other supernatural divinities. They also believe that non-living objects have spirits.