I won't tell you the story of our character - Chí Phèo, either he's a 100% fictional or based-on-true person, but Chí Phèo's destiny is considered as the refection of the real bitter life of the poor peasants in the countryside of North Vietnam in early 20th century. His strong will to live, his desire to love really touched us, that's why his image remained unforgettable in our memory.
Back to our fish stew in clay pot from Vũ Đại village where Chí Phèo used to live is a dish for the poor, I guess, but the taste, the way people prepare is far from my imagination.
I never expect and hope there is no any exaggeration but look at how people prepare…everything surprises me: from how they select the clay pot with special lid to the wood, from the variety of ingredients, spices to the length of time they stew. The main ingredient is the black carp - one of four famous domestic fishes and has been cultivated in aquaculture in China for over a thousand years.
The fish stew is so delicious, richly tasty, perfectly seasoned, not too salty, not too sweet, not spicy, full flavour of galangal root, almost no watery in contrast to what we see in some fish stew in South. As it has been cooked for 15 hours so all bones are edible, but the most remarkable thing for me is the smell of smoke. To me, this smell is indescribable, it reminds the countryside's flavour in the old time, very hard to experience it now while living in the big city.
I learn that the fish stewed in different stocks: pork stock, freshwater crab stock mixed with some lemon extract, marinade with different spices such as galangal root, ginger, pepper...by a traditional recipe.
These day the fish stew already became a good sale product from that old village but thanks to that living in Saigon, I can taste not only the dish but also the feelings, the atmosphere that our character used to live in and I'm able to refresh my memory for our character image.
There is several video clips about this dish on Youtube, I just select this clip for your reference. Enjoy the video!