April 12, 2023
HANOI – Foodies from all over have been flocking to try mangosteen chicken salad (gỏi gà măng cụt), a speciality of Bình Dương’s Lái Thiêu Ward, which is considered the biggest and most tasty mangosteen hub in Việt Nam.
Locals call it ‘salad king’ for its special fragrance and deliciousness.
They say the dish is best in Bình Dương between April to June. As a long national holiday (Reunification Day on April 30 and Labour Day on May 1) approaches, many families are planning to visit Bình Dương’s famed mangosteen groves to take in the stunning scenery and sample the region’s famous mangosteen chicken salad.
Years ago, before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, I had the pleasure of enjoying this delectable dish prepared by my aunt Nguyễn Lam Kiều in Lái Thiêu.
According to Kiều, the dish is made with chicken, fresh herbs such as cilantro, purple onions and large shallots, roasted peanuts, and mangosteen. It is often served alongside hot porridge or as an appetizer at parties.
The most important thing is to use mangosteen that is not too young or too ripe because this stage decides 80 per cent of the dish’s special flavour, Kiều said. She often chooses green mangosteen, which turns light yellow, as it is less sour but still sweet and easy to peel off its cover.
The peeled mangosteen was cut into pieces, each looking like a blossoming flower. Apart from mixing with chicken, the fruit can be mixed with shrimp and boiled bacon cut into thin threads.
It needs 3-4 kilos of mangosteen to get one kilo of peeled mangosteen priced at VNĐ500,000 in the opening season and VNĐ300,000-350,000/ kilo in mid-season.
Gourmets like to enjoy the dish with fried prawn crackers, said Kiều.
“I often buy free-range chicken from Phú Giáo District, where chicken is raised in natural hills and sleeps on tree branches, so its meat is solid and sweet with tough skin compared with others,” she said.
Before making the salad, the chicken should be deboned and put into bamboo tubes bought from Bến Cát District’s Phú An bamboo village to steam it to keep its natural sweetness, said Kiều.
“In combining such of our special produces, I wish to offer you a great experience with our dish,” she told me.
She was right. I enjoyed the dish so much for its tough mangosteen slices of light cool, lightly sour and light sweet mix of tough chicken, carrot and big onion threads, dipping in minced chilli, garlic fish sauce topped with roasted peanuts, cilantro and fried onions.
The dish’s aromatic flavour brings an unforgettable feeling.
To celebrate the National Reunification Day, we plan to visit some southern provinces, including Bình Dương.
My priority is to travel to Lái Thiêu to enjoy the mangosteen chicken salad and a thatched roof tent among the natural cool atmosphere of fruit trees. VNS