Mam hen sauce is a delicacy that is only available during rainy seasons in the lunar months of June and July. It requires a sufficient amount of rain to produce the hen, and after cleaning, the Thai people let it dry before mixing it with salt to brew the sauce. Quang Thi Cuong, an experienced sauce maker from Lau village, emphasizes the importance of paying attention to the proportion of salt used. It takes 20 to 30 days to brew the hen with salt, using an average of 2 to 2.5 grams of salt for every 1 kg of hen. Mixing the sauce with chilies and brewing it for a few days may yield a less aromatic result. The final step involves mixing the hen with chopped chilies, garlic, and white wine, and allowing the mixture to brew for another 10 days before it is ready to be enjoyed. The sauce has a shelf life of up to a year when stored properly and can be used as a dipping sauce for boiled bamboo shoots, boiled pork, vegetables, or scrambled eggs. Mam hen sauce is known for its red color, dense texture, and fantastic aroma, which pairs well with sticky rice and boiled bamboo shoots, both of which are specialties of the Northwestern region. It is not only used for long-term storage but has also become a popular specialty offered to friends, guests, and relatives, even making its way onto restaurant menus. Visitors like Tran Thanh from Hanoi have praised the taste of mam hen sauce, especially when paired with boiled bamboo shoots. The next stop on our culinary journey will take us to Ha Nam Island in Quang Ninh province, where we will explore the various dishes that can be made from the ngan mollusk.

Located at the mouth of a river and along a coastline, Ha Nam Island is known for its abundance of unique seafood, including ngan, a large mollusk similar to a scallop. Ngan is not only tasty but also nutritious, providing protein, glucose, fatty acids, and vitamins. While ngan can be found in various regions of Vietnam, the Bach Dang river mouth in Ha Nam Island is renowned for the best quality ngan due to its long coastline and mangroves. Local people have traditionally used ngan in their everyday meals and during special occasions like the Tet or Lunar New Year holiday. Ngan can be prepared in various ways, including as porridge, stir-fried with noodles, or steamed with glutinous rice. The locals prefer to cook ngan simply to preserve its original flavor. Nguyen Trong Khiem, an expert in Tet meal preparations, advises choosing fresh and flat ngan and boiling it for a maximum of 3 minutes to maintain its succulence. The shell of the ngan must be cleaned and tightened with a string before boiling to prevent the loss of its nutritious liquid. Once the string is removed, the shell will open naturally, and the ngan can be enjoyed by extracting its white, salty intestine and liquid, adding spices and chili as desired. While ngan used to be readily available and affordable during Tet, it has become more scarce and expensive over time. Nowadays, it is considered a luxury food item, with a price tag of up to US$25 per kilogram. Despite its rarity, the taste of ngan remains a cherished memory for the older generation during the Tet holiday.