Vu Dai’s signature dish: Unbeatable Northern specialty – Braised Fish

As the Tet holiday approaches, the unique taste of this special dish evokes memories of one's homeland


The origin of Vu Dai’s village braised fish is unknown, but the dish has gained notoriety over the decades and is a staple of many Hanoi families’ Tet meals. Somehow, the delectable cuisine of the countryside makes people go back to their roots.

A few weeks before Lunar New Year is the busiest time for fish stew cooks in Vu Dai, also known as Dai Hoang Village, in the northern province of Ha Nam. Thousands of clay pots filled with braised fish are ready to be delivered to gourmets at home and abroad.

It is believed that there are many places in the country where stewed fish is prepared, but the one that cooks it best is Vu Dai Village.

Nguyen Ba Toan’s household in Dai Hoang Village usually prepares hundreds of pots of braised fish every day during the Tet holiday. According to the cook, Vu Dai braised fish is made with countless ingredients, including fresh Amur fish, galangal, ginger, pork belly, shallots, chili peppers, lime juice, fish sauce, pepper, and molasses. “The best-braised fish dish must be made with the best ingredients,” he said.

“The time-consuming work takes us about 12 hours to complete a batch of braised fish of about 100 pots,” he added.

The special flavor of the dish is said to come from the aroma of longan firewood. Photos: Duy Khanh/The Hanoi Times
The branches of the longan tree, once dried, are used to make the dish.

Braised fish is cooked over a very low heat.

The specialty is cooked in a clay pot.
The herbs are ready for the Vu Dai braised fish.
Fresh Amur fish is the main ingredient of the dish.
Vu Dai braised fish is a time-consuming dish that requires great patience from local cooks.
The finished Vu Dai braised fish dish must be rich in flavor, delicious, and have the aroma of herbs and a fragrant hint of smoke.
Depending on the size of the pot, braised fish costs from VND500,000 (US$20) to VND1.2 million ($49) per serving.