Savor Quy Nhon’s Tantalizing Tuna Eyes Braised With Green Pepper

The tuna eye is as large as a plump chicken egg, with a hint of spiciness from the green pepper, a subtle aroma of ginger as tiny as a toothpick, the sharp fragrance of green mustard, the sweetness of onions, and a fiery kick from chili pepper... When combined, these ingredients create a gastronomic masterpiece that is unique to Quy Nhon, Binh Dinh.

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During the final days of March, as Quy Nhon’s summer was approaching, a sudden rain shower accompanied by a cool breeze swept through the city, caused by a tropical depression. If you happen to visit Nguyen Trung Tin Street, Nguyen Van Cu Ward, Quy Nhon City, Binh Dinh Province, and inquire about the signature dishes of the region, you will undoubtedly be introduced to the tantalizing tuna eyes braised with green pepper at the local restaurant, which is known to warm the hearts of its patrons.

Chef Nguyen Quang Vu proudly presents his exquisite creation – tuna eyes braised with green pepper (Photo: Dinh Hoa).

After a wait of approximately 30 to 40 minutes, the tuna eyes braised with green pepper are finally ready to be savored. Served in an eye-catching blue ceramic bowl, the dish is kept steaming hot throughout the meal. As the lid is lifted, one is greeted by a rush of hot steam and a heavenly aroma, guaranteeing a truly delightful dining experience.

Nguyen Quang Vu, the 29-year-old head chef of Hoai Huong restaurant, shares his childhood memories, saying, “Being born and raised in Binh Dinh, I grew up feasting on tuna eyes lovingly prepared by my grandmother and mother. Back then, due to limited access to various spices and inexperience in cooking techniques, the dish often retained a fishy scent. However, over time, it has been refined into a national delicacy that adheres to the highest culinary standards. Locals, as well as tourists and international visitors alike, flock to Binh Dinh specifically to indulge in this savory delight.”

To achieve the perfect harmony of flavors in the tuna eyes braised with green pepper, the chef employs over 10 carefully selected spices, including ginger, chili, red onion, green pepper, and celery. Complementing the dish are two side dishes, consisting of spicy mustard greens and finely chopped perilla leaves.

In Quy Nhon, tuna eyes are incorporated into a variety of dishes, such as braised with green pepper, stewed with traditional Chinese herbs, cooked with river-leaf creeper, or featured in a delectable fish eye hotpot. Each preparation method, with its unique combination of spices, together with the captivating aroma of the fish eyes, intertwines to create a symphony of flavors, leaving diners absolutely delighted. The tantalizing scent of the fish eyes, infused with the fragrance of herbs and spices, permeates every bite, enhanced by the tantalizing fish broth. The dish is steaming hot, yet utterly satisfying.

A selection of spices used in making the famous tuna eyes braised with green pepper (Photo: Dinh Hoa).

According to a chef with 9 years of experience in preparing tuna eyes, the key to eliminating any undesirable fishy odors lies in the use of fresh ingredients and the addition of ginger and white wine during the cooking process. To further enhance the dish, large grains of pure sea salt are added, imparting a subtle sweetness without any bitter undertones.

At present, several restaurants in Quy Nhon serve this exquisite dish, with prices ranging from VND 80,000 to 100,000 per bowl. Meanwhile, for those who prefer the freshest fish eyes available, prices start from VND 120,000 and can go as high as VND 250,000, depending on the size of the tuna eyes. With its reasonable price, exceptional nutritional value, and relative ease of preparation, this culinary masterpiece has captivated the hearts of both local and international tourists.

A special serving bowl for the tantalizing tuna eyes (Photo: Dinh Hoa).

Ms. Thu Sang, a restaurant manager in Quy Nhon, Binh Dinh, shares her insight, “The tradition of featuring tuna eyes in various dishes originates from Phu Yen. Nevertheless, in Quy Nhon, you can also sample a multitude of scrumptious tuna dishes, as the Binh Dinh sea and Tam Quan area are renowned for their abundant supply of high-quality tuna. The tuna eyes found in Quy Nhon possess a unique culinary allure. Typically, each customer enjoys a single bowl of tuna eyes (equivalent to 1 tuna eye), which proves to be sufficiently satisfying. However, there are some individuals who are so enthralled by this dish that they opt for a second fish eye.”

The delectable tuna eye braised with green pepper is not only a local favorite but also a hit among tourists (Photo: Dinh Hoa).

Thu Sang elaborates, “Occasionally, larger tour groups or banquet attendees may order several hundred tuna eyes to cater to their dining needs. On the other hand, for individual customers, the ratio generally stands at 3 to 4 individuals enjoying the ocean tuna eyes for every 5 to 6 people who visit the restaurant.”

The tuna found in the sea of Phu Yen and Binh Dinh is the yellowfin migratory species, boasting tender, succulent, and fragrant flesh, accompanied by extraordinary large eyes. Consequently, ocean tuna eyes have become an exceptionally unique, novel, and distinctive culinary delight that every visitor yearns to try when exploring these two locales. The tuna eyes found here, in particular, are the largest, fattest, and most flavorful of all tuna species.
Hai Dang