To make its way into the palace, the food must maintain high nutritional value and its flavor must be extraordinarily rare. One might say the dishes that enter such a prestigious venue are entitled the “kings” of food specialties.
For centuries, Vietnam has concocted an array of mouth-watering cuisine, mixing flavors in a unique blend that leave most all craving more. Some such dishes have been known for such high quality, they have been given a rank above all else, and brought into the palace to be served only to the kings.
Below are the most well-known specialty dishes, reserved only for the kings:
1. Đình Bảng’s Phu Thê Cakes (Man and Wife Cake)
Đình Bảng (Bắc Ninh Province), where the Ly Dynasty began, was often called the “Land of Kings.” This is the home to the most famous Vietnamese cake, known as “Phu The Cakes,” which were brought to the far Hue palace for only the king to enjoy. Under layers of banana leaves lies sticky, beautiful yellow cakes.
The stuffing of the cakes is made of crushed green beans mixed with sugar and coconut. And, like their name implies, these cakes must come in pairs. Naturally, they taste just as sweet as the life of a happy marriage couple.
2. Tây Lake’s black coot
Tây Lake’s black coot is a very popular water bird that has appeared in a well-known folk-verse of the once Thăng Long citadel: “Dưa La, húng Láng, ngổ Đầm/Cá rô Đầm Sét, sâm cầm Hồ Tây” (“La’s sour vegetable, Láng’s basil, Đầm’s rice paddy herb, Sét lake’s anabas, Tây Lake’s black coot”). In Vietnam, it is rumoured that this bird eats ginsengs (“Sâm cầm” in Vietnamese), which contains very healthy ingrediants, from the highest mountains of China and Korea.
In the past, it was said to be one of the favorite dishes of the local ruler, King Tự Đức. In fact, the king liked it so much, people who lived in the Nghi Tàm village, located near Tây Lake, were made to hunt and gift 40-50 birds a year to the King, or they were heavily punished.
3. Anh Vũ Fish in Việt Trì
If the black coots are the pride of Tây Lake, Anh Vũ Fish is the equivalent to that of Bạch Hạc (today known as Việt Trì, Phú Thọ Province). With its white, thick meat, and crunchy lips of cartilage, Anh Vũ Fish is considered by gourmet chefs to be more delicious than any other freshwater fish.
Naturally, this dish was presented only to the kings. Sadly, like the black coots in Tây Lake, Anh Vũ Fish have not survived to the present day.
4. Chè long nhãn hạt sen Hưng Yên (Dragon Eyes and Lotus Seed Sweet Tea)
After a meal, what was it that the kings of Vietnam typically ate for dessert? One of the most popular delicacies is this dish – Dragon Eyes and Lotus Seed Sweet Tea. The recipe for this special dessert is simple; it consists of the sweetest and thickest longans of Hung Yen.
(To be continued)…