Familiar dishes will become tasty thanks to the presence of these spices. Previously, Michelia Tonkinensis or Sichuan pepper, etc only cost a few thousand to tens of thousands of VND per kg, however, now they are up to a few hundred or even a million VND.
Sichuan pepper (also known as forest pepper) is a typical and very famous spice of the Northwest region. It is originally a tree that bears fruit in November every year.
Sichuan pepper is one of specialties of the Northwest mountains. (Photo: Internet)
People in the Northwest mountainous region often combine Sichuan pepper with Michelia Tonkinensis as a seasoning in most dishes, especially when roasting pork, chicken, fish, dry meat or making sauces.
Like Michelia Tonkinensis, in the past, Sichuan pepper was picked by the local people to dry and sold for only 5,000-20,000 VND/kg. Now, it is sold for 300,000-350,000 VND/kg.
Mr. Huy, who specializes in buying and selling forest spices in District 4, Ho Chi Minh City, said that the demand for Sichuan pepper increased by 20-30% each year compared to the last year. Sichuan pepper has a soft aroma, not as strong as ordinary pepper, not as spicy as chili, but creates a numbness at the tongue tip when tasting. In addition to seasoning, they are used to make sauces.
Sichuan pepper is a woody tree with a large and tall trunk. It flowers and bears fruits in November every year. Its flowers are in clusters like Chinaberry flowers. When harvesting, people break whole clusters and then dry them under sunlight or on the stove to use all year round.
Clausena Indica is also a very famous mountain spice. It is a type of woody tree, and both fruits and young leaves can be used for seasoning. We can use fresh or dried Clausena Indica and its aroma comes mainly from the leaves.
Clausena Indica is used in a lot of highland dishes but the most common ones are Lang Son roasted duck and pork. Besides, its leaves and fruits are also used to soak sour young bamboo, which is very tasty.
Lang Son roasted duck with Clausena Indica leaves. (Photo: Internet)
Clausena Indica fruits are quite similar to Clausena Lansium ones but smaller. The fresh fruit is slightly sour, it can be eaten fresh or seasoned, cooked, or soaked in some dishes. Or people can dry it and crush it to make spices.
Fresh Clausena Indica fruits. (Photo: Internet)
Among these spices, the most expensive is Michelia Tonkinensis seeds. The most famous type of Michelia Tonkinensis is from Lai Chau province. In nature, only old Michelia Tonkinensis trees can bear fruits and seeds. Moreover, a Michelia Tonkinensis tree can only provide a few kg of seeds per season so it is very expensive. One kilo can cost up to four million VND and even if you have money, you are not sure whether to buy it.
Dried Michelia Tonkinensis seeds. (Photo: Internet)
This is a kind of spice seed used by the people of the Northern mountains to mix with meat and make salt. In the early period, according to local people in Lang Son and Hoa Binh, the price of Michelia Tonkinensis seeds was only 35,000-100,000 VND per kg. In recent years, Michelia Tonkinensis is considered a specialty so the price has increased to 650,000-750,000 VND per kg or even over a million VND.
Ms. Lan in Lang Son said that 10 years ago, she only picked up Michelia Tonkinensis seeds in the forest and then put them in bamboo tubes stored in the kitchen. For the last 3-4 years, this kind of seed has become popular and brings a high income to her family. Especially, in the last 2 years, traders go to the village to buy Michelia Tonkinensis seeds so the price has been increasing.
There are two types of Michelia Tonkinensis seeds. The small size seeds are yellow and black, very fragrant. This type is sold at 2,600,000-3,000,000 VND/kg. The bigger ones are black but not as fragrant as small seeds, costing only 1,500,000-1,800,000 VND/kg. The bigger ones have green and larger leaves. This spice has a special smell, quite similar to the Smilax regeli smell, suitable for marinating with food.
Forest pepper is dried to use all year round. (Photo: Internet)
Unlike regular pepper, forest pepper has a mild aroma that does not too much spicy. This type of pepper grows wild in the Central Highlands, especially in Mang Den area, Kon Plong district, Kon Tum province – where the climate is cool all year round. Forest pepper can be harvested from July to August.
According to Mr. Loi, people in Mang Den previously picked forest pepper to share with each other to marinate foods. However, now they are “hunted’ by urban people so the price is increasing. Each kilo of pepper is sold for 300,000-320,000 VND.
“After harvesting, forest pepper is bought by traders and local people in the province. Wholesalers from Ho Chi Minh City or Hanoi who want to buy have to order in advance at a higher price than the wholesale price in the province, “Mr. Loi said./.