Critter fritter: Hanoi’s winter worm cakes delight diners
Based on fried worms, “cha ruoi” cakes, offered in many street stalls in Hanoi, have for generations been the delights of the inhabitants of the Vietnamese capital.
These worms are mixed with pork, eggs, fresh dill and citrus zest, before being thrown in a large pan full of oil.
Fried worms are placed in a bowl to prepare “cha ruoi” cakes at a booth in Hanoi’s Old Quarter on December 2018
Then, the patties are served, for about a dollar each, in the street stalls. They are also consumed in homes throughout northern Vietnam.
Small worms, dubbed nereids, live in the sand and are picked up in the fields when the temperature drops from October.
Their appearance unattractive and unappetizing could put off the uninitiated.
“It’s very ugly, but do not be afraid, the guts are delicious and high in protein,” says Bui Thi Nga, whose family in Hanoi’s Old Quarter has a booth that has been serving this specialty for 30 years.
These patties, made for generations, are also known to bring luck to married couples.
Although their use in “cha ruoi” is by far the most common, nereids can also be used in Vietnam to make condiments. They are then mixed in a caramel sauce with herbs or peppers.
The Vietnamese culinary art is best known outside the country for noodle soup “pho” and “banh mi” (deformation of “sandwich bread”), sandwiches inherited from the colonial era, but the country has a long tradition of eating insects or other crawling.
Paris chefs in Sao Paulo are beginning to adhere to this trend, offering locusts or scorpions in their menus.