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Toxic root transformed: The art of 'au tau' porridge

Moc Mien porridge shop in Ha Giang Province has delighted locals and tourists for 30 years with au tau porridge, made from a potentially toxic root.

Situated at No. 140 on Highway 4C, about 1 kilometer from Dong Van Town in the northern highlands province, Moc Mien eatery has earned its reputation as one of the oldest and most cherished establishments serving au tau (Aconitum Fortunei Hemsl) porridge. Since its inception in 1996, the shop has been drawing in people from the region and travelers stopping by Dong Van. As au tau porridge is traditionally enjoyed during the evening, the shop operates exclusively from 6 p.m. onwards.

Situated at No. 140 on Highway 4C, about 1 kilometer from Dong Van Town in the northern highlands province, Moc Mien eatery has earned its reputation as one of the oldest and most cherished establishments serving au tau (Aconitum Fortunei Hemsl) porridge. Since its inception in 1996, the shop has been drawing in people from the region and travelers stopping by Dong Van. As au tau porridge is traditionally enjoyed during the evening, the shop operates exclusively from 6 p.m. onwards.

Au tau porridge is a Ha Giang staple, often referred to as bitter porridge due to its bitter taste. The dish is centered around au tau, a familiar tree native to the region, also known as thu o among other names. Despite the root being naturally poisonous, the local expertise in processing the fresh tuber turns it into a treat. Beyond its culinary use, au tau is treasured for its medicinal properties, offering remedies for colds, muscle relaxation, fatigue relief, and improved sleep.

Au tau porridge is a Ha Giang staple, often referred to as bitter porridge due to its bitter taste.

The dish is centered around au tau, a familiar tree native to the region, also known as thu o among other names. Despite the root being naturally poisonous, the local expertise in processing the fresh tuber turns it into a treat. Beyond its culinary use, au tau is treasured for its medicinal properties, offering remedies for colds, muscle relaxation, fatigue relief, and improved sleep.

The preparation of au tau porridge involves a combination of the roots, rice, pork, pork legs, eggs, vegetables, and other ingredients. Mien, the shop owner, devotes hours daily to soak, pre-process, and simmer the ingredients to craft a pot of porridge. This cooking process requires experience and patience.

The preparation of au tau porridge involves a combination of the roots, rice, pork, pork legs, eggs, vegetables, and other ingredients. Mien, the shop owner, devotes hours daily to soak, pre-process, and simmer the ingredients to craft a pot of porridge. This cooking process requires experience and patience.

To neutralize its toxicity, the root must first be soaked in concentrated rice water for approximately 10 hours and then simmered for several more hours until all the toxins are safely released, rendering the roots tender.    Mien personally tastes the simmered roots to confirm that all traces of poison have disappeared before serving the porridge to customers. Any lingering poison would cause numbness on the tip of the tongue. If unsure, she continues to cook and taste until the roots are completely safe for consumption.

To neutralize its toxicity, the root must first be soaked in concentrated rice water for approximately 10 hours and then simmered for several more hours until all the toxins are safely released, rendering the roots tender.
Mien personally tastes the simmered roots to confirm that all traces of poison have disappeared before serving the porridge to customers. Any lingering poison would cause numbness on the tip of the tongue. If unsure, she continues to cook and taste until the roots are completely safe for consumption.

The preparation involves separate pots for the white porridge, au tau roots, and pork legs. When guests arrive, the porridge and ingredients are served in a bowl, adorned with coriander and perilla. To enhance the flavors, guests can choose to add eggs or balut, alongside side dishes like pork legs and minced meat.The pork legs are chosen from locally raised pigs, guaranteeing freshness and flavor. They are grilled to perfection and cut into pieces before being added to the simmering pot. Minced pork is also stir-fried to complement the dish.

The preparation involves separate pots for the white porridge, au tau roots, and pork legs. When guests arrive, the porridge and ingredients are served in a bowl, adorned with coriander and perilla. To enhance the flavors, guests can choose to add eggs or balut, alongside side dishes like pork legs and minced meat.
The pork legs are chosen from locally raised pigs, guaranteeing freshness and flavor. They are grilled to perfection and cut into pieces before being added to the simmering pot. Minced pork is also stir-fried to complement the dish.

The resulting bowl of porridge boasts a blend of the yellow pork leg broth merging with the white, smooth porridge. The bitterness of the roots of au tau, the savory pork legs and minced meat, combined with the aromatic perilla, spicy pepper, and scallion, create a heartwarming treat for an evening in the highlands.

The resulting bowl of porridge boasts a blend of the yellow pork leg broth merging with the white, smooth porridge. The bitterness of the roots of au tau, the savory pork legs and minced meat, combined with the aromatic perilla, spicy pepper, and scallion, create a heartwarming treat for an evening in the highlands.

In Ha Giang, it is recommended that individuals consume only 1-2 bowls of au tau porridge per week. Each bowl is priced at VND30,000 ($1.30). Diners can enjoy au tau porridge in many other restaurants throughout Ha Giang City and Dong Van Town.

In Ha Giang, it is recommended that individuals consume only 1-2 bowls of au tau porridge per week. Each bowl is priced at VND30,000 ($1.30). Diners can enjoy au tau porridge in many other restaurants throughout Ha Giang City and Dong Van Town.

 

By Xuan Phuong 

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