Halong Squid Ball- one of the most popular specialties of Quang Ninh has been named in the list of the top 50 recipes of Vietnam, according to the evaluation standard of Vietnamese specialties issued by the Vietnam Guinness Book of Records.
According to a survey’s results in 2012 of the Center for Agricultural Development and Research (under the Vietnam Agricultural Science Institute) in Halong city, this traditional dish was discovered in 1946 and was firstly made by Tai Le- a famous chief who served the domestic and international visitors in Hon Gai (during the French colonial period). Hoai Phuong-one of the 3 most well-known squid ball makers in Ha long city, is the one who was taught by Tai Le since 1946 and is now still keeping his old mortar.
To date, Hoai Phuong has over 100 year experience in making squid ball. The owner – Mr. Dang Manh Hiep shared that to be a professional squid ball maker, you must be clever, meticulous, and hardworking. The very first step to make a nice dish of squid ball is selecting the squids. We should choose the squid with fresh and thick carapace on the back with a weight of around 0.8 to 2.0kg.
It is very scrupulous to “operate” the squid, too. We need to omit the bowel and the vesicle, remove all the skin. We should keep the fin on the two sides of the squids because this part would create the crunchy taste after cooked. Then, wash them with the water and slice them into pieces.
If we want the squids to be crunchy and fragrant, we should grind them in a stone mortar by our bare hands. Put the squids into the mortar one by one. It is recommended that we should not make them well kneaded, especially with the fins. In that way, the squid would be stickier and some parts that are not well grinded yet will turn to be very crunchy when you eat. When grinding, add some peppercorns to make them mix steadily with the squid meat because later the squid would stick very hard.
After that, adding some chopped onion, a little bit fish sauce and some spoons of liquid lard and mix them continuously in about 2 minutes.
Depending on the liking of each person, we can create different shapes for the squid ball. However, you should remember to prepare a bowl of water and put a little oil on your hands to prevent them from being sticky with the squid. Using a spoon to take a little squid and then put it in your hands, roll it into a ball and press it.
To fry the squid ball, we should use a sunken pan. Pour the oil into nearly half of the pan. Keep the oil hot, then lower the flame and fry the squid ball. Turn the balls over steadily; keep the flame in a medium level, not too strong, not too weak. When they turn into yellow, take them out and put them on the grill to keep them dry (if not the balls would be very greasy).
Squid ball using with sticky rice has already become a famous specialty of the people of Quang Ninh. In Ha Long, there are even chains of street where people specialize in making this dish.
Hiep added that during the tourism season, an average of 70-80 kg of squid ball is sold on regular days and 100kg on peak days. The customers are mainly tourists from Hanoi, Thai Binh, Thai Nguyen…They buy squid ball to give their relatives and friends as a special present from Quang Ninh.
Pham Thi Giang- a tourist from Thai Binh province commented that Halong squid ball is a very delicious and unforgettable dish. It can be served with white sticky rice, Cuon cake and fish sauce with pepper. It costs around VND 350,000-370,000/kg.
There are 30 units specialized in making and selling squid ball within Ha Long city; of which 23 units based in Ha Long I market and 7 in Halong II market) under a wide range of well-known trademarks such as Thang Hue, Hien Nhung, Tien Chuyen, Kim Thoa, Thoan, Lan Diep, Hoai phuong… Squid ball is also made in hotels, restaurants….
It is reported that the Ha Long City People’s Committee is considering and drawing geographical indication for Ha Long squid ball. The promotion Halong squid ball product helps to enhance its competitive advantage in the market, protecting its reputation and prestige. This is a good opportunity to introduce this specialty to the national and international market.