When you’re roaming the streets of Hanoi, you might come across a select number of food kiosks selling ‘cà cuống essence’, a much sought-after condiment. This costly extract is made from a water bug (Lethocerus indicus), which is becoming increasingly rare these days. With its piquant aroma, cà cuống is the perfect accompaniment when you’re munching steamed rice rolls.

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Although the condiment is popularly known as a water bug “essence,” it is actually pheromone, a chemical substance emitted by male bugs khổng lồ attract females during mating season. During the labor-intensive extraction process, the pheromone is obtained by hand from a small, liquid-filled sac in the water beetle’s body. Producing 25 milliliters of its essence requires more than 2,000 of these insects. The flavoring agent — described as having a funky yet floral aroma — that comes from this process is then added lớn various Northern Vietnamese broths & soups. Because of the exorbitant price tag of the authentic version of this essence, most households just use the synthetic variant. For the purists (and those with plenty of cash to lớn spare), however, only the genuine article will do, which is reputed to lớn be a robust aphrodisiac. But here’s a word to lớn the wise: according khổng lồ some, eating too much of this condiment can make your mouth go numb, so you might want to exercise some caution before reaching out for more.


Some contend that the best use for cà cuống is to showroom it as a flavor enhancer lớn the dipping sauce for ‘bánh cuốn’, or steamed rice rolls, which are a popular street food in Hanoi. It is also a great choice as a potent flavor add-on for ‘chả cá lã vọng’, a sautéed dish that mixes fish with dill, lots of onions, and other herbs.

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The rapid disappearance of the water bug is attributed khổng lồ many causes: urban encroachment on farmland, pollution, & use of pesticides. There are those who say that this may even be a result of the biochemical effects of the Vietnam War. The silver lining to this bad combination of factors is that some Vietnamese researchers are now making a concerted effort lớn bring back the water beetle khổng lồ its natural habitat. In fact, there are already ongoing projects that train và encourage local farmers in resource-poor areas to lớn cultivate the insects in an effort lớn help these villagers earn income & revitalize a lost culinary tradition.


I Vindaloo, an Indian dish, first found its way to India when Portugese explorers introduced an early recipe to lớn the local community. It became recognized after the British colonized India in the 1800s. II Today it is known for being a traditional Goan catholic dish, regarded as an Indian curry. Many restaurants in the state prepare Vindaloo in a distinctive way to lớn attract tourists" attention. III Interestingly, even though the name "Vindaloo" contains the Hindi word for potatoes, Aloo, it does not actually contain any potatoes. The name has its roots in Portuguese culture, rather than Hindi. IV British Bangladeshi restaurants innovated the Vindaloo, known in Britain as Tindaloo, which is noticeably different from the original dish. The meat is marinated in vinegar, sugar, ginger, and spices, and is then cooked with more spices. V Traditional Goan restaurants serve Vindaloo with the original recipe, pork. A Kerala version of the recipe includes drumsticks, which are believed khổng lồ help improve digestion. VI In other parts of the country, the dish is prepared with chicken, mutton, or lamb.
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