The crackle of sizzling meat and a wafting sweet and savory scent are the epitome of a relaxed summer afternoon in Hanoi. At least nowadays it is, with meat consumption quickly on the rise. In the past, meat was only eaten on special occasions in Vietnam, but now it can be found in nearly every dish, at every mealtime.
While increased meat consumption is symbolic of economic growth for many, health and environmental concerns among young middle-class Vietnamese have resulted in a correlating rise in vegetarianism.
The Vietnamese community eats an incredible four times as much meat as they did compared to thirty years ago. Pork has long been the most popular meat in Vietnamese cuisine. Beef and poultry consumption have also increased over this period. While increased meat consumption is symbolic of economic growth for many, health and environmental concerns among young middle-class Vietnamese have resulted in a correlating rise in vegetarianism. Despite this rise, fresh meat can be found in almost every wet market, and sales continue to soar.
Plates of Hanoi met with a Vietnamese butcher, Ms.Thuy, and a Western butcher, Dom’s Sausages, to examine the work and products from both the East and the West. Vietnamese summer may make the daytime feel like a furnace, but that does not stop the city’s craving for barbecue. The first step for any barbecue is to find the best cuts for your table.
“I don’t eat meat very often and even my sister in-law is a vegetarian,” she said, “but my favorite dish to cook is sườn xào chua ngọt.”
Ms. Thuy is a thirty year-old butcher who has been in the business with her husband for four years. Each day before noon, she drives the long distance to the slaughterhouse located outside Hanoi to procure the day’s sellings. She masterfully chops, weighs and bags meat for her numerous customers. “I have many foreigner customers, too,” she explained. “Most of them speak very good Vietnamese.”
Ms. Thuy sells meat for five hours every afternoon in the bustling Yên Phụ market. Most days she sells out her stock. Every part of the animal is laid out on the table, hoof and all. Vietnam is well-known for using every part of an animal.
“I don’t eat meat very often and even my sister in-law is a vegetarian,” she said, “but my favorite dish to cook is sườn xào chua ngọt.” Sườn xào chua ngọt are pork ribs cooked in a sweet and sour sauce, which is made from sugar, lemon, fish sauce and chili. (A pre-made sauce can be purchased for 10,000 VND.) This dish is easy to prepare; boil the meat for a few minutes to sterilize it, then fry in oil before adding the sauce. Continue frying the ribs until the sauce caramelizes. These ribs provide a heavenly mix of sweet and savory in every crispy bite.
Dom’s Sausages offers something a little different to Hanoi. These are not your average sausages; choices range from classic British sausages to lemongrass pork sausages. “I have to admit it was my wife’s idea,” Dom explained. “She’s an excellent cook and, being from Cambodia where there are fresh markets everywhere, she is really good at inventing flavors and experimenting.”
When these sausages hit the grill, a tantalizing aroma fills the air. Dom recommends serving them on a crispy banh mi with caramelized onions and your favorite condiments.
Dom met his wife, Sophal, in Cambodia and they moved to Vietnam a few years ago. Sophal made their first batch of sausages, and then she and Dom worked together for months to perfect the recipe. Their business, originally named The Sausage House, began in 2017. It has grown immensely, but their customer base consists mainly of foreigners. Sophal and Dom hope that their diverse backgrounds will entice more locals to try their sausages in the future. Eventually, they plan to expand to other cities, such as Da Nang and HCMC.
Dom, Sophal, and their staff hunker down for three days of grueling work every one to two months. They use 100% shoulder and belly meat and Dom stresses the importance of keeping the meat cold throughout the process. Meat is chopped into chunks before the seasonings are measured and the two are mixed together by hand. “It’s a good workout,” Dom chuckled. Next, the filling is put into sausage casings, which Dom explains is the most difficult part of the process. Finally, they package and freeze the sausages, which are then delivered in freezer bags to ensure they arrive frozen. Dom delivers to a few shops in Tây Hồ, one in Ba Đình and to customers throughout the city.
When these sausages hit the grill, a tantalizing aroma fills the air. Dom recommends serving them on a crispy banh mi with caramelized onions and your favorite condiments. “I’ve never considered eating meat more in my life,” a vegetarian friend commented at the savory scene before inquiring, “Do they make vegan sausages?” Not yet, but Dom and Sophal do offer gluten-free sausages. Perhaps they will tap into the growing vegetarian market in the future.
Join us on Saturday July 25th for Plates of Hanoi’s Barbecue and Pool LAUNCH Party where Dom’s Sausages will be featured with our other delicious barbecue-inspired treats.
Order Dom’s Sausages online through Facbook: https://www.facebook.com/domssausages/
Or on their webpage: www.domssausages.com
Translation credit: Nguyễn Thị Vân