Located in Vietnam’s northwestern remote mountains, Sapa is famous for not only its stunning hidden landscapes but its wide variety of unique specialties as well. However, there is a dish that could horrify everyone with its extremely unpleasant smell but as well makes you addicted to it just by taking the first bite. And that is Thắng Cố, one of the most well-known dishes in Northwestern Vietnam.
1/Traditional Food Of The H’mong:
Thắng Cố or so-called Thắng Cố Ngựa is a traditional food of the H’mong people and believed to have first appeared more than 200 years ago, when the H’mong, Tay, Nung ethnic groups migrated to Bac Ha in Lao Cai province. It is originated from the northeastern mountainous Ha Giang, and gradually gained popularity among all of the ethnic minorities in the remote northern mountains of Vietnam. People here are really proud of Thang Co dish.
In the past, the main ingredient to make a traditional Thang Co dish is horse meat, instead of buffalo meat, pork or beef like the Kinh’s cuisines. Each kind of remade recipe of Thang Co owns its featured flavor; however, Thang Co in Bac Ha ( Muong Khuong) may obtain the best flavor.
Despite its unique taste, the cooking process is quite simple with 12 traditional ingredients, for instance, cardamom, citronella, ginger, star aniseed, cinnamon twig, Thang Co plant and others.
To make the dish, firstly, meat and internal organs must be carefully cleaned by being boiled up and then sliced into pieces before marinated. After that, without any oil, it will be fried up in a big pan on a charcoal stove. Lastly, we will leave all of the spices, together with main ingredients prepared, to simmer for hours. For a tastier dish, backbones and ribs are added to make the soup more flavored and sweeter. In order to make the soup look clearer, we must strain the veggies from the broth.
It is maybe a featured characteristic of Thang Co when we use a big pot or a kind of deep-fry pan instead of a normal pot and the pot is always seethed even when customers are enjoying it. It should be eaten with fresh vegetables such as lemongrass, chayote, cabbage, chili leaf, especially special sauce of H’mong people, which is made from Muong Khuong chili.
Thang Co can also be eaten with mèn mén, grilled corn, especially aromatic corn wine. The best recommendation for you to fully experience the authentic taste is enjoying Thang Co with a little warm and aromatic ethnic corn wine of Bac Ha or San Lung wine.
4/Only on special occasions:
Previously, Thang Co was only served on the special occasions like Tet holiday, village’s big crop festivals or in the large fair like Bac Ha market, which was not held regularly. Nowadays, it is gaining more popularity and appears in the menus of many restaurants. However, to get the real and original taste of the food, you should have the dish in fairs and markets in Sapa, especially in Bac Ha market.
If you plan to travel to Sapa, you must not miss this one-of-a-kind specialty of the mountainous upland, the unique recipe of Northwest Vietnam.