The Origin of Cá Mai
Cá mai, scientifically known as Escualosa thoracata, is a type of small fish found in the Dorosomatinae subfamily of the Clupeidae family. It inhabits the waters of the Indian Ocean – Pacific Ocean, ranging from northern Indian Ocean (Karachi to Rangoon) to Thailand, Indonesia (Java Sea), Philippines, Papua New Guinea, and Australia.
Morphological and Biological Characteristics of Cá Mai
Cá mai is a small fish, measuring around 8 to 10 cm in length, with a slender body. It resembles rice fish but has a stronger odor and a white striped body. The flesh is tender and firm. Cá mai usually forms schools in shallow waters, with the juveniles swimming near river mouths before moving to the open sea. It feeds on both small animals and floating vegetation. In Vietnam, cá mai can be found in various locations from the north to the south, with concentrations in Song Doc (Ca Mau), Ba Hon (Kien Giang), and Binh Dinh. It thrives in brackish water and is most abundant in O Loan lagoon.
The Fame of Cá Mai – A Specialty of Central Vietnam, Especially Phan Thiet
Cá mai is most abundant and concentrated in the coastal areas of central Vietnam. However, Phan Thiet has elevated the taste of gỏi cá mai to a whole new level.
With its sweet, fragrant, and non-fishy taste, this fish is commonly found in daily meals of the locals, cooked in various dishes such as soup, braised with pepper and sugar, sweet and sour stir-fry, hot pot, and especially the famous gỏi cá mai – a refreshing, easy-to-eat dish.
Ingredients for Making Gỏi Cá Mai
- Fresh cá mai: 200 grams
- Onion: 1 bulb (about 50 grams)
- Fresh chili: 5 pieces
- Garlic: 6 cloves
- Lemon grass: 5 stalks
- Rice paper for wrapping: 1 packet
- Fresh lime: 2 pieces
- Cucumber: 2 pieces
- Lettuce, cilantro, fish mint, and perilla leaves
How to Make Delicious Gỏi Cá Mai Like a Local
1. Prepare the Dipping Sauce for Gỏi Cá Mai
The secret behind the deliciousness of any Vietnamese dish, including gỏi cá mai, lies in the dipping sauce. Without the “magical” dipping sauce, the dish would be incomplete. Here’s how to make the perfect dipping sauce:
Step 1: Put about 30 grams of ripe tamarind and 30ml of boiling water into a bowl. Use a spoon to lightly mash the tamarind to extract the tamarind juice, then strain it to get the tamarind concentrate.
Step 2: Add half a teaspoon of minced chili, half a teaspoon of minced garlic, 1 tablespoon of good fish sauce, 1 tablespoon of crushed peanuts, 1 tablespoon of sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon of MSG (optional) to the tamarind concentrate obtained from step 1. Mix them all together in a large bowl.
This recipe, carefully crafted by the people of Phan Thiet, creates a unique flavor for gỏi cá mai with sourness from tamarind, sweetness from ripe bananas, spiciness from chili and garlic, combined with the authentic flavor of pure fish sauce and the fragrance of toasted sesame. All these ingredients create a delightful, tangy, and sweet taste that will exhilarate your taste buds.
2. Prepare Fresh Vegetables for Serving
Peel and wash the cucumber, then cut it into bite-sized pieces.
Choose fresh green lettuce and aromatic herbs, then wash them thoroughly and let them dry (optionally, you can also add green mango and Vietnamese balm).
3. Make the Gỏi Cá Mai
First, scale and wash the fish, then remove the head and tail. Place the fish on a cutting board and carefully use a knife to remove all the bones.
Put the cleaned fish in a bowl, add lime juice and mix well to let the lime cook the fish slightly.
Peel and wash the ginger, then cut it into thin julienne slices.
Peel and thinly slice the onion.
Remove the older leaves from the lemon grass, then thinly slice the fresh stalks.
Arrange the fish on a plate, then add ginger, onion, and lemon grass on top. Sprinkle with crushed peanuts and fried shallots.
When eating, follow the local way – mix the fish with onion and lemon grass, then wrap the mixture with fresh vegetables and rice paper. Dip it in the prepared delicious dipping sauce.
Garnish the gỏi cá mai by putting the mixed salad on a plate, sprinkling some crushed peanuts and fried shallots on top, and serving with various types of fresh herbs, star fruit, banana, cucumber, etc. Don’t forget to dip it in the “magical” dipping sauce and take a big bite to experience the explosion of flavors in your mouth!
Gỏi cá mai is definitely a dish that will delight your entire family. While it may require some effort to make, the taste is absolutely worth it. The combination of tartness from the shredded green mango, the freshness of the herbs, and the sweetness of the cá mai fish, all blend together to satisfy everyone’s palate, even the pickiest eaters!
Making delicious gỏi cá mai is simple and easy when you follow the concise instructions from YummyDay. With the freshness and sweetness of the fish, combined with the spiciness of the dipping sauce, why wait any longer? It’s time to make gỏi cá mai and treat yourself to this delightful Vietnamese dish!