333’s cheers for Vietnam’s Elephant Ear Fish on the Mekong Delta

Elephant ear fish by Richard Weinstein

Triple 333 cheers for an exotic lunch of elephant ear fish rolled in rice paper wraps with lime, chilli and lemongrass dipping sauce, but be warned that you wont want to stop. Vietnam Airlines and IT@T hosted a unique lunch set in a pagoda pond style restaurant on the Mekong Delta. Surrounded by lotus and koy we enjoyed local beer and entree’s in anticipation of  the arrival of Osphronemus Exodon or Elephant ear fish as its commonly known. A renowned sweet and succulent flesh which is meaty and soft, this fish is gutted and deep fried, then propped up on a platter between wooden chopsticks. The flesh is then picked off and layered with local herbs such as mint, cilantro and basil, and noodles and cucumber are placed in wafer thin rice pancakes which are tightly rolled and dipped into nuoc cham fish sauce.

A  quick demonstration by our host and we were on our way to another mouth watering feast washed down with 333’s and sides of steamed  bok choy and Cantonese fried rice.

Our group of travel writers spent a week of adventure discovering new destinations and flavours of Vietnam
Elephant Ear fish wraps and dipping sauce photography by Richard Weinstein on location in Vietnam

I found this prep video on utube , little windy but gives you the idea and recipe to follow , but a short trip on Vietnam Airlines to the Mekong Delta will get you the real thing. Bass can be a good substitute, enjoy

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p5FR2tqhvIA

or try an easy recipe by Victoria Allman

2 kg tilapia (flaky white fish) ,2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 lime, juiced, ¾ teaspoon sea salt

¼ teaspoon black pepper. 1 package of rice vermicelli noodles (250 grams)

1 tablespoon sea salt, 1 cup mint

1 cup Thai or regular basil, 1 cup cilantro

16 rice paper wrappers, (have extra on hand incase you rip some)

Combine fish, olive oil, lime juice, salt and pepper.  Marinate 10 minutes.  Pre-heat oven to 350.  Heat a frying pan (or grill pan, if you have one) over high heat and sear fish for 30 seconds on each side.  Place in oven and bake for 10 minutes until cooked through.  Cool and flake the fish.

In a soup pot, boil 1 litre of water with 1 tablespoon sea salt.  Add rice noodles, stirring to separate.  Cook for 3-5 minutes until soft.  Drain.  Rinse with cold water and drain again.  Using scissors, cut into 5-inch lengths.  Set aside.

Slice herbs into thin strips and mix together. Place 2 rice paper sheets in the soup pot and cover with 6 inches of lukewarm water to soften for 20 seconds.  When soft and pliable remove one carefully and place on a paper towel in front of you.  Place 1 tablespoon of the herbs in the centre of the circle 1/3 of the way from the bottom in a rectangular shape (6 inches long by 2 inches high).  Place 2 tablespoons flaked fish on top and 2 tablespoons vermicelli noodles on top of that.  Roll the bottom of the rice paper up and over the filling, tucking the ends in to close, like rolling a cigar.  Fold both right and left flaps into the centre, creating blunt ends of a roll.  Be careful not to roll too tightly or the rice paper will rip (which happens often until you get the hang of it).  Roll the filling gently towards the top of the circle, taking care to tuck the filling in to make a snug package.

Repeat with next sheet of rice paper and add 2 more to the soup pot to soften.Serve with a ramekin of Nuoc Cham for dipping.

Nuoc Cham

1/3 cup fresh lime juice

½ cup fish sauce

¼ cup sugar

1 clove garlic, minced

1 teaspoon sambal olek

½ cup water

Combine all ingredients together and stir.  Taste and adjust flavours until you achieve a balance of sweet, tart, and salty.Makes 1 ¼ cups http://www.victoriaallman.com

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