Visiting Son La without eating Pia means a failure. Some people say that after just the first try, this dish would never leave your memory. But what is exactly the great secret behind this specialty of Son La?
Pia is a typical dish of this region; it can be served as a sauce or as a main dish in a meal. When cooking Pia, people can choose the ingredients from the familiar animals such as buffalo, cow, or goat, but the most popular Pia dishes are Cow Pia and Goat Pia. Interestingly, along the National Road No. 6 from Chau Moc to Chau Thuan, visitors can easily spot the restaurants selling Pia, which are advertised carefully and humorously in various ways. You can also order Pia in any restaurant in Son La, simply because this is an indispensable cuisine of the region.
Pia dish in Son La somehow resemble Thanh Co, a specialty of Lao Cai province. However, it is cooked in a totally different way. In order to cook Cow Pia, we need to prepare everything freshly, especially the different parts of the cow including the organs. When dissecting the cow, the local people carefully take the last part of the cow’s RUOT and preserve it. The next steps to cook the dish are also hard. After boiling the cow’s bones for hours until the sauce become sweet, we pour all ingredients into the pot and continue to boil it for hours. When the sauce reaches a brownish color, the last part of the cow’s RUOT is then added. After about one more hour, we can take the pot out of the fire!
The next step, and also an essential one, is to add a local spice called Mac Khen as well as citronella, ginger, and garlic. When eating, we will notice that Pia tastes bitter at first, but it then becomes sweet and buttery. If we want to eat it right away, we can pour Pia into small bowls, use spoons and have it with veggies. However, it is strongly recommended that you eat the dish as a sauce.