Can Tho specialties

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Flavorful Southern Mứt Tết (candied fruits for Tet)
Date: 21/02/2019

The Southern region is blessed by nature for its beautiful landscapes, fragrant flowers and sweet fruits all year round. Therefore, the types of “mứt” (jam or candied fruits) of the Southerners are very diverse and colorful. A little chilly on the first day of spring makes Northerners want some dry candied fruits, while Southerners prefer soft ones. The candied fruits which are skillfully made by housewives have become must-to-have snacks in every family during Tet holiday. Depending on each locality, these candied fruits can be made from coconut, ginger, banana, tamarind or pineapple.

Candied coconut ribbon (Mứt dừa)

For Southerners, candied coconut ribbons must be the most familiar candied fruit because this place is blessed by nature for its abundant coconuts. However, the most delicious candied coconut ribbons must necessarily be made from coconut grown in the fertile islet of Ben Tre. Candied coconut ribbons are made from hard coconut meat. The meat is thinly sliced, washed, drained and marinated with sugar for one to two hours, then stirred continuously on the pan and take it out when it is dry. In addition to the buttery taste of coconut, people also add durian to the dish so it can be more flavorful, showing the uniqueness of the Southern candied coconut ribbons.

Today, people think of many ways to make candied coconut ribbons more colorful from the white of coconut, the yellow of durian to the green of pineapple leaves, the light purple of magenta plant leaves and the red of Gac fruit, which make candied coconut ribbons more beautiful and eye-catching.

Candied ginger (Mứt Gừng)

After every lunar December 23rd, the Tet markets in the Southern region are bustling with women buying ginger for making “mứt”. Southern candied ginger is like a kind of soft candy. It is not too spicy and not too sweet, just enough to give people get an exciting, shivering and tingling taste.

Candied ginger is fragrant because the main ingredient is Vietnamese ginger which is smaller but richer in flavor and tougher than other types of gingers. After slicing, people soaked ginger in alum water to make its color clearer. After soaking, people dry ginger slices under the sun for a day. In a large pan over medium-low heat, add the sugar and lime juice. Next, add the ginger slices and stir them as the sugar begins to melt. In order to know the ginger slices are well-cooked, use your fingers to touch the syrup mixture in the pan, and stretch it out to see the whether it can make strings or not. Peanuts are fried, peeled and pounded, and then people sprinkle it on the candied gingers to neutralize the sweetness as well as enhancing the flavor.

Crystalized (candied) tamarind (Mứt me)

The candied tamarind is not only slightly sour but also sweet and fragrant, making it popular with Tet of the Southern people. Candied tamarind is made from big unripe tamarind with straight pods and thick pulp. The process of making candied tamarind is more scrupulous than other kind of candied fruits. Tamarinds are picked from the tree or bought from the market; then cut the stalks till they are only at the size of the knuckle. Remove the shell of tamarind, soak thoroughly to reduce the acidity and then carefully remove the seeds for the pulp not to be crushed. When the tamarind is less sour, take it out to drain and begin to simmer.

Normally, every 3 kg of freshly peeled tamarind must use up to 1.5 kg of sugar. The tamarind is patiently simmered until it turns purely yellow and smooth; then wrap it in plastic wrap for long-term preservation. The time from collecting tamarinds to making the snack is a week so candied tamarind is classified as a precious dish. “Mứt me” is not too valuable or fancy, but it shows a deep intimacy between homeowners and guests in the early days of the year.

Candied custard apple (Mứt mãng cầu)

Candied custard apple is also sweet and sour just like candied tamarind. However, making it is slightly easier. Southerners are humble and simple, but in cuisine, they are also extremely delicate. To make the delicious candied custard apple, you must first choose a good quality custard apple. The most delicious Southern custard apple is the Siamese one which is sweet, fragrant have has thick pulp.

Candied custard apple in beautiful cellophane is soft and chewy. The mix of sweet and sour taste of this dish is delicious and not cloying. Children are eating some pieces of candy while adults are laughing happily have created a warm atmosphere of the early Tet.

Candied pineapple (Mứt khóm)

Candied pineapple is made from pineapple that is just ripe and not overripe. The pineapple is peeled, washed, remove the crown and cut into four parts. Then continue to slice the four parts into thin, triangle-shape pieces. Similar to making candied ginger, pineapples pieces are put into a pan when the sugar has melted. Generally, to know when candied pineapple is ready to be eaten, people put a little bit of the candied mixture in a glass of water. If it becomes viscous in the water, the dish is successful and ready to be eaten.

Candied pineapple also has the soft type and the dry type. All types are attractively gold and have a unique sweet scent that enchant people.

Candied lotus seed (Mứt sen) 

“Mứt sen” is not only familiar with the traditional Tet of the Northern people but it is also a very popular dish to the Southern people. The immense lotus fields in the garden land have been giving people a simple yet luxurious snack. Lotus seeds are a kind of expensive and valuable gift, so everyone wants to have some candied lotus seeds to express their sincerity to visitors in the New Year.

To make candied lotus seed, you need to choose the large seed type. Dry the seeds and soak them in water for a few hours to expand. Then dip the lotus seeds in boiling water about twice to be moderately soft and soak them in cold water to be a little bit firm. The process of making “mứt” begins afterwards. The sugar must be white and smooth. Simmer sugar in moderately small fire so that the sugar can be absorbed gradually into lotus seeds. Then stir evenly and carefully so that lotus seeds are not broken. In order to have delicious candied lotus seeds, it is common for people to sprinkle more Citrus Maxima (Pomelo) Flower Oil to make lotus seeds more fragrant and slightly sweet.

Source: - Translated by Hoang Dat

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