In addition to its stunning natural landscape, the Northwest region entices travelers with its own culinary culture and a plethora of delights that can only be found here.
Pa ping top, a delicacy of the Thai ethnic group, is one of the Northwest’s most well-known meals. A stream fish is called “pa” in Thai and is prepared in one of several ways: grilled, cooked over charcoal, or folded up. Grilled fish is what pa ping top refers to. This dish demonstrates a traditional highland preparation procedure.
The best pa ping top is created from river fish, natural stream fish, or pond-raised fish. Locals prefer carp, with solid flesh that is not mushy when cooked. The chosen fish is 800g – 1kg in weight, making it simple to fold and cook evenly when grilled.
Fish after being scaled and cleaned are chopped from the spine down, along the upper body from head to tail, with belly intact. The fish will be folded in half vertically during grilling, and the soft, spineless fish belly folds effortlessly so as to thinly slice the thick flesh. Fish tails are folded over to the fish’s mouth when grilled, keeping the marinade from dripping out of the fish’s belly while also adding visual appeal and flavor to the meal.
The fish is then marinated with green onion, dill, basil, lemongrass, onion, ginger, garlic, fresh chili, spice, etc. The herb mix is coarsely smashed, pounded and well-seasoned for dipping sauce. One key element in this grilled fish meal is wild Sichuan pepper which is only found in the Northwest highlands and has a distinctive flavor and fiery taste.
Grilling at low heat ensures that the fish fat runs out iridescently, the fish skin turns into a crispy golden brown on the exterior whilst maintaining a delicious, white-colored glaze on the inside that is cooked evenly. It is advisable to allow some time for the freshly grilled fish to firm up again before it can be served, peeling off the skin prior to unloading them off the bamboo sticks is also necessary.
A fantastic method to enjoy the meal Pa pinh top is with sticky rice and corn wine. Guests will then truly experience the Northwest highlands gastronomic quintessence.
Mr. Nguyen Trung Thanh (1982) who has been providing Northwestern meals for 6 years now said the most popular speciality on the family’s menu is pa pinh top. “My restaurant can serve up to 140-150 fish right on the spot, daily. It is also delivered to consumers in adjacent provinces and Hanoi, typically 2-3 times a week, with hundreds of orders each time.”
“I really relish the taste of Pa pinh top, unlike the normal grilled fish. When my Yen Bai friends collect orders, I always order them for myself and families,” said Ms. Thanh Xuan (Ha Dong district, Hanoi) who has visited the Northwest and enjoyed the specialty.
Pa pinh top is used by Thai people as gifts or as a token of their appreciation when visiting relatives, also on wedding days. Especially every Lunar New Year, Thais, regardless of their financial situation, prepare this dish to offer to their ancestors.