|A two-year-old bong fish.
The bong fish looks like a carp, but it has green scales and light red fins. The Tay raise bong fish in open ponds, often close to a spring where water below 20 degree Celsius flows out constantly.
Old people say that bong fish originated in the Chay river. Their ancestors brought the fish to raise in ponds.
“Bong fish are friendly. We feed them grass and vegetables. They are strong and easy to raise,” said Hoang Duc Cat of Lam Thuong commune.
Bong fish eat grass, vegetables, and leftovers. They grow slowly. Two-year-old bong fish are about the size of two fingers. Some live 30 to 40 years and reach about 20 kg. In the past, the Tay only cooked bong fish on special occasions like weddings and New Year celebrations.
“In the past bong fish were considered precious. Our ancestors only cooked bong fish for special guests, sick people, and women after delivery. The family prepared a bong fish as a worship offering for a dead relative to go to heaven. If a family didn’t have a bong fish, they could replace it with a carp,” said Hoang Ta Ngo of Lam Thuong commune.
|Raw bong fish mixed with herbs is the best dish.
Bong fish can be prepared in many dishes. The best one is thin sliced raw fish with lemon leaves, basil, and aromatic herbs, dipped in lemon juice, crushed galingale, and Indian ivy-rue.
Fish bones are minced and roasted and mixed with the raw fish to increase its flavor.
“Bong fish is eaten raw. Grilled bong fish is also good. It’s not difficult to cook but you must use the right aromatic herbs. Different herbs change the fish’s flavor,” said Hoang Dong Hoi.
The Tay people make grilled bong fish, fish salad, sour soup, steamed fish, and crispy fried fish scales.
“Bong fish is different from other kinds of fish. It’s not smelly. The meat is firm. I like fish salad and roasted fish,” said Do Huy from Yen Bai city.
Many Tay families raise bong fish in ponds. Hoang Khi Phach, Vice Chairman of Lam Thuong commune’s People’s Committee, said, “People raise bong fish as pets and to feed special guests. Its meat is delicious and not fishy. The local authorities teach people to raise bong fish so they can earn extra income.”