Buffalo skin is thick and tough. It must be well prepared through many procedures to become a delicious treat.
Tong Van Yen in Chieng Den commune said, “Buffalo skin is cut into hand-sized pieces and dipped in hot water to clean it. We grill it over a charcoal fire until it has a delicious smell. We then boil it until it’s soft but not well-stewed.”
The spices used to make delicious fermented buffalo skin must include mắckhén, a kind of pepper used by ethnic people in the northwest region. Other flavours include garlic, hot chilli, sugar, salt, canarium album, sour water of fermented bamboo shoots, peanuts, and sesame.
Tong Van Yen added, “The buffalo skin is well coated with spices and kept in a closed container for a week. Before eating, we add more spices and coriander.”
Fermented buffalo skin is served with fresh vegetables and banana flower. Its taste helps reduce the greasy taste of meat and square glutinous rice cakes. It’s a must have dish at festivals and celebrations of the Thai in the northwest region.
The dish has appeared on the menus of restaurants in Son La province. Tourists buy it for about US$4 per kg to eat at home or gift to friends.
Luong Thi Mai who makes and sells fermented buffalo skins said “Previously I made fermented buffalo skin for my family. Then I sold it and tourists bought a lot. I now make more and sell it for extra money.”
Tourists to Son La in winter cannot resist trying corn wine and fermented buffalo skin salad, which has the aromatic mac khen flavour, the light sourness of fermented bamboo shoots, the acrid and bittersweet flavour of forest vegetables and the rich taste of fried groundnut.