When you visit the coastal city of Da Nang, besides the stunning natural scenery, you’re in for a treat with its delicious dishes like pork wrapped in rice paper, beef sausage, fermented fish sauce vermicelli… and dishes made from fresh seafood. Among them, White Sardine Salad stands out as a must-try dish in Da Nang, even though it’s not as fancy as grilled oysters with shallots, sour tamarind crab, or grilled squid with lemongrass…
Around July and August every lunar year, Da Nang fishermen prepare their nets to catch white sardines when the southwest winds start blowing strong. Due to their habit of swimming close to the shore and often in large schools, each haul of fishermen’s nets can yield several hundred kilograms of white sardines.
After catching them, white sardines are sold in various markets, big and small. Locals often sell them in bundles, sometimes up to hundreds of fish, while others sell them by weight, but generally, white sardines are affordable. Freshly caught fish are still lively, with shimmering scales. Many people unfamiliar with them might easily mistake white sardines for rice paddy fish. White sardines are usually slightly larger than rice paddy fish, with flat bodies, shiny greenish scales, and firmer flesh.
You can make various dishes from white sardines, like braised fish, sour soup, seasoned fish, or dried fish, each with a unique flavor. The best way to enjoy white sardines is in a salad. White Sardine Salad is a cheap, simple, yet incredibly delicious dish loved by the people of Da Nang.
To prepare this Da Nang dish, chefs don’t need to be overly elaborate: Fresh white sardines are scaled, head and tail removed, then thoroughly washed. After draining, the fish is soaked in diluted vinegar or sour brine to firm up the flesh. At that point, the cook only needs to grasp the fish’s head and strip out the bones. Many use a sharp knife to fillet the fish on both sides before soaking the meat in vinegar. The most crucial step is when the homemaker skillfully uses their hands and experience to mix the fish with accompanying ingredients like fish sauce, crushed roasted peanuts, finely chopped herbs, and green bananas to ensure even absorption.
A well-made White Sardine Salad won’t have any fishy smell; instead, it boasts a natural aroma of fish, along with the right balance of sour, salty, and sweet flavors. Locals often add fresh chili when making White Sardine Salad to counter the fishy taste. So much so that diners will feel a kick with every bite. It’s spicy, but once you’ve tasted White Sardine Salad, you’ll want more. For locals who enjoy spicy food, this delicious Da Nang dish requires plenty of chili to make it truly “satisfying.”
Diners can enjoy White Sardine Salad with shrimp crackers or grilled rice paper torn into small pieces, or they can place the salad on a thin sheet of rice paper (used explicitly for wrapping spring rolls). Then, add fresh herbs and roll it into a satisfying round roll, dipping it in ginger or sweet and sour fish sauce. With such humble ingredients, the fish salad’s sweet, tart, spicy, and fragrant taste gradually seeps into your senses. All this makes anyone who tastes White Sardine Salad feel like “one bite is never enough.” Da Nang locals often say that White Sardine Salad can make you full but never bored.
White Sardine Salad is a popular dish, so many eateries in Da Nang prepare and serve it. If you have the chance, tourists should seek out and savor White Sardine Salad – a delicious dish in Da Nang and a specialty of the Central Coast region.
|Apricot shellfish after preliminary processing (Photo collection)
|Crispy fried fish in shellfish (Photo collection)
|Sour fish soup with sour fish (Photo collection)
|Salad with shellfish (Photo collection)
|Rice paper with apricot fish wrapped in rice paper (Photo collection)