The jellyfish season has arrived

TTH.VN – A few days ago when I went to the market, I saw jellyfish on sale. The blue-footed jellyfish are wrapped in seawater by aunties at the market. The blue jellyfish and red chilli look so colorful.

Appealing Hue jellyfish
Sitting at the corner of the market, a seller invited me to “buy some Cau Hai jellyfish. They have just come in season”. I held the jellyfish she gave me; the blue color reminded me of my mother.

In the past, I often heard from my mother that Cau Hai jellyfish was the best. Cau Hai’s jellyfish body is as small and round as a buffalo’s eye cup, its legs are blue, and it is crunchy. Shoppers just need to hear that the jellyfish is from Cau Hai and they would buy them right away because they know the jellyfish are delicious no matter what.

I once asked why the jellyfish’s feet are blue, and my mother replied stammeringly “because it is Cau Hai jellyfish…”. And it’s true that whatever Mom says is always right. And that afternoon, the whole family had delicious jellyfish noodle soup.

The seller is from Cau Hai. After she got married, she moved to Hue City and started selling products from her hometown. No wonder she talked to me so passionately about Cau Hai’s jellyfish, fish, and shrimp. I saw her gently cherishing each pack of jellyfish, gently lifting the dia, day fish. I read the nostalgia for the homeland in her eyes. As for the jellyfish alone, she said: “It is a gift from the lagoon, a gift from heaven. When God gives, only then can you receive!”.

Around the last month of spring, when the weather begins to turn hot, the people working in the lagoon in her hometown often look at the floating scum on the surface of the lagoon to know that they are ready to enter the jellyfish season, “the season to go to pick the treasures of the lagoon”.

The sunnier it is, the more jellyfish float. On the surface of the lagoon, jellyfish float in large groups, people only need to stretch the net and use a racket to pick up the jellyfish or run the boat on the lagoon and pick the jellyfish.

The jellyfish season usually lasts for only two months. Only on hot days does the market have jellyfish. Those who love this dish, every time they go to the market, they will buy it right away because they know that if they leave it for another day, the jellyfish season might have passed before they could make a good pot of jellyfish noodle.

I bought two packs of jellyfish, one for myself and one for my neighbor. The seller told me: ” It looks so simple, but since the jellyfish are picked from the lagoon, we still had to work hard to get them out of the water like that. The jellyfish must be soaked in the sun for a few hours and then stirred vigorously in a circular motion until the jellyfish which started out as big as a large bowl, shrinks down to the size of a buffalo eye cup. A bag of jellyfish looks small but at first it was a lot.”

For Hue people, the jellyfish dish is a dish that is easy to become addicted to. The jellyfish, after “squeezing” out of all the water, only has a tiny body but still retains the scent and taste of the lagoon. The smell of fresh seafood and the brackish taste of the lagoon is delicious when one is used to it but can feel a bit unsafe to eat if one’s not accustomed to.

The Hue women came up with a way to overcome this issue, which is to go to the garden to pick a few guava leaves and then soak the jellyfish in water with guava leaves. The jellyfish is both crispy and crunchy, while the smell of fresh seafood is eliminated.

Jellyfish is “crystallization of water”, so it will release water if left for a long time. I remember my mother used to use a bowl upside down on a large plate with a fairly deep bottom and then put jellyfish around. As long as the water runs down the plate, the jellyfish is still dry and crispy. To make it beautiful, she added toppings of herbs and red chilli peppers.

In the summer of Hue, it is hot and sunny, looking at the plate of fresh jellyfish, it feels like there is a lagoon breeze blowing across, cooling the soul, the eyes, and the whole mouth. These mouths are ready for jellyfish noodle soup made by Hue’s women who know how to make this dish for their whole family, for their friend and guests.

Simpler than the jellyfish noodle soup is jellyfish dipped in shrimp paste. This dish is easy to make but requires a delicious plate of raw vegetables including young bananas, figs, and herbs. Taking a piece of jellyfish with raw vegetables, and dipping it into a bowl of shrimp paste scented with lemon, chili, garlic, and so on, the smell, the taste, the scent, the whole lagoon, the mother too, goes into the belly of the children. The experience becomes something they will remember forever.

I don’t understand why old country mothers know everything. My mother said jellyfish are crystals of water. Jellyfish are born from water, do not eat anything but water to grow, so my mother often said that eating jellyfish is to enjoy the blessings of heaven. It is also good for healthy and cures diseases, specifically goiter. Children believe in their mothers as well as believe that all dishes cooked by their mother’s hands are delicious, in which jellyfish is a special seasonally delicacy which is not always available, so even this rustic dish becomes a rarity.

In the jellyfish season, when you go to the market, you can see the sea and the lagoon together. There are tuna, scad, fish, marlin, snout, brown fish, brackish shrimp, black tiger shrimp, jellyfish, squid… but jellyfish is still the most popular dish, thanks to the blue sea color on their feet. That blue color evokes a large lagoon area of Hue, evokes a vision of the deep sea, as blue and loving as the hair color of the jellyfish vendor sitting at the corner of the market.

The gentle, small jellyfish looks simple but its value is unique. Now, delicious shrimp and fish in freshwater or brackish water can be farmed by humans, so they can be available all year round. However, with the jellyfish, they are a gift of the lagoon. They come on their own, following the promise of the season and leave a sense of longing and craving for many people.

I said goodbye the woman selling jellyfish. Her voice was full of earnest advice: “With this weather, tomorrow and the day after tomorrow, there may not be any jellyfish. When it’s a sunny day, remember to go to the market to buy the jellyfish. The jellyfish season is very short”.

The jellyfish season is very short, but the Hue jellyfish dish will be long in the memory, in the nostalgia of the children:
“The brackish jellyfish misses the sea,
Birds remember their nests, people remember their ancestors,
And I miss my mother endlessly” (Muong Man)

The jellyfish season has arrived. This is the season when the lagoon gives gifts to the children who are attached to the lagoon all year round, the season adds a special Hue flavor in the thousands of flavors of life.

Story: Xuan An – Photo: Khoa Huy

Nguồn ” Báo Thừa Thiên Huế “

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