Roast pork belly, a must-try dish from Duong Lam ancient village

Hanoi is home to many famous specialities but few are as mouthwatering as thịt quay đòn (roast port belly) in the ancient village of Duong Lam, about 44km from the city centre.

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It is said that King Ngo Quyen (939-944), whose native village is in Duong Lam, after defeating the Southern Han invaders from China ordered chefs to make roast pork belly to give a feast to his troops.

The dish was so tasty and delicious that troops said they couldn’t get enough, according to legend.

Roast pork belly, a must-try dish from Duong Lam ancient village
Kicker: A tasty and crispy roast pork belly made by people in Hanoi’s Duong Lam ancient village. Photo vov2.vov.vn

The dish has been the village’s claim to fame since then, said Nguyen Dang Thao, head of Duong Lam Ancient Village’s management board.

Nguyen Thi Huong, a famous roaster in the village, said she has to order fresh pork belly from prestigious butchers. “It is to ensure that the roasted pork is crispy but fragrant.”

The pork belly should be carefully soaked with hung liu (flavouring powder with five ingredients including cinnamon, anise and sweet basil), pepper, fresh onion, fish sauce and salt, said Huong, adding that the most important ingredient is the guava leaves.

Roast pork belly, a must-try dish from Duong Lam ancient village
Kicker: The fresh pork belly soaked with many ingredients including guava leaves help to make the dish much more enjoyable. Photo vov2.vov.vn

The young guava leaves are ground to cover the inside and outside of the pork belly while half-young guava leaves are used to wrap the meat before it is roasted.

She said the guava leaves should be grown naturally without being sprayed with pesticides to ensure the roast pork has a natural fragrance.

The raw meat should be soaked for at least two hours before roasting.

“Apart from guava leaves, we have to use a bamboo tube which is about two metres long to roast the meat. It needs between five and six hours to roast it over charcoal,” said Huong, noting that while roasting, the chef has to use a bamboo spit to make holes on the pork skin until it becomes brown and crispy.

Roast pork belly, a must-try dish from Duong Lam ancient village
Kicker: A cook is roasting the pork belly on charcoal. Photo vov2.vov.vn
 

The dish is more delicious when dipped in fermented soybean locally made in Duong Lam or lime with salt, said Huong, adding that apart from locals and visitors to the village, many customers in Hanoi and provinces such as Hai Duong, Hai Phong and Quang Ninh have ordered her dish.

The dish is a must-have for big parties such as Tet (Lunar New Year) or wedding parties.

“I sold several hundred kilogrammes of such dish a day at the recent Tet holiday,” Huong said, adding that she and her husband are teaching their descendants about the trade.

“The technique of making pork belly roast is rather difficult, it requires a cook to have the mind to invest his/her self in the job,” she said.

Roast pork belly, a must-try dish from Duong Lam ancient village
Kicker: Cooks are preparing to roast pork belly. Photo vov2.vov.vn

Pham Tuan Hai, a former judge of Vietnam’s Master Chef TV programme, said he has never missed a chance to enjoy the dish when visiting Duong Lam.

“I will never forget the roast pork belly for its savoury, soft, crispy taste and particularly the special fragrance of guava leaves.  

“This year, I plan to learn the roasting technique to apply it to my restaurant chains across the country to serve locals and foreign guests,” said Hai.

VNS