Food specialty of Thai ethnic minority group in Yen Chau


Bananas and food made from bananas are popular among the Thai ethnic people of Yen Chau district, Son La province. They are an indispensable part of their major ceremonies and special occasions.

Thai elders in Yen Chau say that the so-called “nguon” bananas appeared in the locality long ago. Local people called this kind of bananas “lonely banana” because they are planted with seeds and they don’t have baby trees. Their flowers are yellow-green and when the bananas ripen, the trees wither and die. The banana seeds then fall and sprout into new trees. 

Lu Van Banh, a Thai ethnic minority person in Na Va village, Vieng Lan commune, Yen Chau district, said “We call it the “nguon” tree. Long ago, local people brought the tree from the forest to plant it in their gardens and fields. Now, everyone in the village plants this kind of tree and bananas have become an indispensable part of their daily meal, weddings, and house warming ceremonies… Each household has at least 5 to 10 banana trees while some have more than 40 trees”.

The Thai’s often go to the forest to collect bamboo, vegetables and “nguon” bananas for their daily meals. 

Banh added that “In weddings, house warming ceremonies and funerals, in addition to the preparing of feasts of meat, vegetables and fruits, we always have “nguon” banana soup. This soup is also very popular at other parties and in restaurants. It is a specialty of the Thai people of Yen Chau”.

To make this soup, in addition to bananas, the also prepare other ingredients and seasonings. They first peel off the banana tree, cut it into small pieces, put all of it into bone broth, and then add salt fish sauce, seasonings and sour leaves. 

“To make nguon soup, we need to cut the banana tree appropriately. For wedding feasts, we often prepare buffalo meat, beef, and pork, so we can use bone broth to make soup. We must cook the soup for a long time and add sour leaves or tamarinds. We have to stir the soup while cooking”, Banh said.

“Nguon” bananas and “nguon” soup are popular not only among the Thai people but also other local people in Yen Chau. 

Lo Thi Mon from Tum village, Chieng Khoi commune said“ For the Thai people of Yen Chau, there’s no party if there are no “nguon” bananas or “nguon” soup. In wedding or funeral parties, the soup is the main dish. It’s very delicious. Both Thai and Kinh people like it”.

Visitors to Yen Chau are always invited to taste “nguon” bananas and “nguon” soup which has a buttery taste as well as the bananas, meaty taste of the bone broth and sour forest leaves.

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