Hanoi is known for a number of traditional exotic dishes which reflect local people’s unique and sophisticated cultural lifestyle.

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Canh bong tha is one of the many well-known dishes of Hanoi. The soup is specifically made during festivals such as Lunar New Year, or when hosts invite guests to a special meal.

These days, the soup is less popular in Hanoian families because it requires very complicated and painstaking steps to create. Not many people know where the name canh bong tha comes from. Perhaps it is from the main ingredient – dried pork rind in order to make the dish look like bubbles afloat on water.

Pork rind must be carefully picked. Hairs are erased by boiling water and the remaining fat must be cut off by a knife. The more the skin layer is scaled, the more transparent it will become. In order to brighten the rind and get rid of the distinct odor, it is washed with ginger juice mixed with a little vinegar. After that, the rind is hung in the sun and then roasted so that bubbles can arise. If all the steps are carefully done, the final dried pork rind will grow bigger and clearer.

Canh bong tha is usually cooked with vegetables, especially root ones. Ground meat, pork chops or dried shrimp can also be added to enhance the taste.

A common way to make the soup is by adding sliced carrot, kohlrabi and mushrooms to a stock made of pork or chicken. Cook the mixture until it boils and after that, keep it on a low heat.

The rind is then cut to the same size as a matchbox. It is seasoned with ginger, green onions, pepper and fish sauce. Shallots are first sautéed in fat and pork rind is then added. You then cook the rind in the oil in a low heat until it turns soft and tough, present the soup in a bowl and top it with the cooked rind. Finally, the dish is ready to be served.

The pork rind floats on the soup with all the trimmings. It is better to have the dish when you are hungry because of the smoothness, softness and toughness of the rind in combination with other ingredients for a taste treat. The ingredients are simple for what is a very sophisticated and exotic dish.

SGT