Vietnam’s southernmost province of Ca Mau boasts a cuisine based on seafood specialties made possible by its extensive mangrove ecosystem.
Ca Mau crabs taste very different from the farm-bred variety. These crabs thrive in a mangrove ecosystem with an abundant food source, making their meat firm, delicious and flavorful. They are boiled, stewed, steamed, grilled or roasted with tamarind for an array of delicious dishes.
The mudskipper, which locals say resembles a frog, is another specialty of Ca Mau. The fish live in swampy conditions, can cling to mangrove trunks and is virtually amphibious. It is grilled with salt, fried or used as the main ingredient in a sour soup. It also makes for a great stew.
The horn shell, also known as the mud creeper, are commonly found in mangrove forests. These are found on tree trunks, feeding on algae or organic detritus.
To get rid of the slime on its shell, it must be soaked in rice water for one to two hours before being stirred with oil. When the meat is cooked, its red color turns into an eye-catching turquoise color. The chefs often cut off the tail so visitors can suck the meat from the bottom without the need for a tool to pluck the meat out.
This crustacean is also cooked in many ways, but one of the best horn shell dishes is a stir-fry with coconut.
Grilled geloina shellfish (Geloina coaxans) is a signature dish of Ca Mau. This shellfish is shaped like a clam but larger in size and often lives in mudflats, estuaries and mangroves.
The ones found in Ca Mau’s mangroves have a crunchier, sweeter meat, locals claim. It can also be steamed, grilled with onions or be part of a sour soup.
Bullrush, also known as cattail, is a grass-like plant that grows in wet locations like ponds, marshes and lakes. Found on the edge of lagoons and ponds in Ca Mau, it is also a local specialty, mostly made into a pickle and then cooked with other ingredients. The inside of its stem is white, soft, crispy and sweetish.
Ca Mau Town, the capital of Ca Mau Province, is 360 km southwest of Ho Chi Minh City. It has several tourism attractions including some wild bird parks, the southernmost tip of Vietnam, called Mui Ca Mau, and a number of Khmer pagodas.
Near Ca Mau is the U Minh area with its famous mangrove forest and swamp fed cuisine. Fish hot pots, Vietnamese, Chinese, and Khmer dishes can be enjoyed here.
By Khuong Nha @ VNExpress