The story of “ran moi”

Published: 12/02/2009 05:00



LookAtVietnam – Two kilometers from the Cau Ke township market in the Mekong Delta province of Tra Vinh, my uncle’s garden was a boundless mysterious world to any children like me. “Ran moi”, a kind of lizard, remained the most interesting creature in the garden

A dish made of “ran moi”.
Ran moi looks like a domestic gray lizard, or gecko, but is a little bigger. Its body is covered by a brown, shiny, scaly coat which makes the reptile both scary and attractive. Ran moi always disappear quickly when spotted by a human.

Over the years I have traveled a lot and have enjoyed eating many specialties throughout the Mekong Delta, except for ran moi. It stays on my mind as a mysterious creature in my uncle’s garden.

Last spring vacation I got a chance to visit the coconut region of Ben Tre and was offered the shredded ran moi dish at a small eatery. I was afraid at first but then was amazed at how delicious the dish was! Ran moi meat is as white as chicken and is served with sweet sliced turnip, pickles and hot and sour fish sauce.

It is not easy to prepare ran moi. The scaly coat and guts are removed and it is then stuffed with peanuts. It is then roasted on a coal cooker by high and then low heat. Finally, the cooked meat is shredded by hand and mixed with other ingredients like shredded chicken salad.

Residents of Dong Thap Province catch ran moi with a noose connected to a small bamboo trunk. It is usually deep-fried, cooked with brine or made into a dim sum dish.

Ran moi is now a specialty at many HCMC restaurants and the favorite cooking of many local and foreign gourmets. Some popular dishes are deep-fried ran moi, green bean porridge with ran moi and ran moi curry.

Chefs have different ways to remove the scaly coat. Some bury it under ash, others boil it in water then roast it to easily divest the skin and make the meat more delicious.


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