Tiny, milky ant eggs become specialties of the mountains and forests of Bac Giang province, making many people “addicted”. The person who hunts this type of egg has to put in a lot of effort and requires meticulousness and ingenuity.
More than 2 years ago, some friends working at the Bac Giang Provincial Museum invited me to go to the forest and wade streams to discover the vestiges of ancient temples on the western side of the Western Yen Tu range. At noon, the group rested and had lunch at a restaurant located deep in the hills of the Luc Nam district.
A friend of the Bac Giang Provincial Museum staff pointed to a strange dish on a tray of rice, then whispered in my ear: “This is a specialty dish in the mountains of Bac Giang province”.
My friend used a spoon to scoop the tiny, milky white eggs into the guise leaves, then wrapped them up and gave them to me to try. The fat, fleshy and aromatic taste of the dish melt on the tip of my tongue, making me remember it forever. It was my first time enjoying ant eggs.
After that time, I inquired that there were many people hunting ant eggs in the mountainous areas (Yen The, Luc Nam, Luc Ngan, and Son Dong districts) of Bac Giang province. Through the wings of ant egg hunters, I know Mr. Khong Minh Son, an expert in the profession. Mr. Son invited me to a weekend to hunt for specialties of the mountains.
“At this time, ant eggs are not many, so you have to go deep into the forest to see. Each trip to hunt for ant eggs takes all day,” Mr. Son opened the story.
Anh Son turns 48 this year, but has more than ten years in the profession of hunting ant eggs. He is the most famous ant egg hunter in Tam Tien commune (Yen The district). In camouflage clothes, Mr. Son rode his motorbike to take me deep into the forest bordering Thai Nguyen province to start the hunt for ant eggs. The tools he brought with him included a knife and a basket.
Son said, for a long time, on the occasion of Thanh Minh New Year, Cao Lan, Tay and Nung ethnic people here often go to collect ant eggs to process into dishes, especially sticky rice with ant eggs. Gradually, the specialty of ant eggs has become a favorite dish that many people know and buy.
Following a small path deep into the forest, after walking more than ten kilometers, Mr. Son led me to a forest with many chalk and luong trees. He said, from experience, this area is easy to find ant nests.
“People who hunt ant eggs often go on a sunny day. Because on a sunny day, it is easy to knock ants out of the nest, and on a rainy day, the ants get stuck into the nest, it is difficult to filter the eggs. Ant eggs are available all year round, but the hunting season for ant eggs is takes place from February to March of the lunar calendar”, Mr. Son said.
As we walked, we strained our eyes to look up at the tops of the chalk and luong trees to find the nests of ants’ eggs. After walking for a while, Mr. Son stopped, pointed to a tall tree, then shouted: “Here it is, this nest promises to have many ant eggs”.
Longtime ant egg hunters like Mr. Son just need to look outside to know which nest has many ant eggs. According to Mr. Son, the nests are dark and dry, the eggs have hatched into babies. The nests are black and silver, round, and heavy when lifted, there will be many ant eggs.
After “snooping” on the ant nest, Mr. Son began to work on getting the ant’s nest on the top of a tall tree. He cut a chalk more than ten meters long to tie the knife into a scythe.
Then he climbs the tree like a squirrel to get the nest of ant eggs. The tree is small, so it sometimes takes Son to the left, sometimes pushes him to the right. After climbing for a while, Mr. Son used a hook to hook the nest of ant eggs that had fallen to the ground.
At this time, thousands of ants crawled out of the nest. Mr. Son quickly removed the ants from his body, then backed away from the ant nest about 4-5 meters.
“Waiting for the majority of ants to crawl out of the nest, the ant egg hunter will cut the ant nest into many pieces, then knock each piece to let the eggs fall out. This requires ingenuity and meticulousness,” said Mr. Son. To share.
Mr. Son’s hands quickly chopped the ant nest, then lightly tapped the tiny, milky eggs to fall into the basket. Just knocking ant eggs out of the nest, Mr. Son confided that hunting for ant eggs is also difficult and dangerous.
Swollen ant stings are normal for ant hunters. Sometimes climbing up a tree to get the nest of ant eggs, limbs are easily scratched, sometimes bleeding. Sometimes, ant egg hunters encounter venomous snakes while on the tree poking ant eggs.
Our hunt ended as the sun went down behind the mountains. The booty we obtained was more than 1 kg of ant eggs. Mr. Son said that in the ant egg hunting season, he can earn 3-4 kg of ant eggs/day. Each kilogram of ant eggs is sold for about 300,000 VND. In fact, he earns millions every day.
“Ant eggs are ordered by acquaintances inside and outside the province in advance. Every trip to the forest to hunt for ant eggs, the hunter is always waiting for traders at home to buy. Ant eggs are often not enough to sell to other people. acquaintance,” said Mr. Son.
According to some ant egg hunters in Bac Giang, ant egg hunters often wait an hour for the ants to crawl out of the nest, then bring the eggs back to avoid hurting the ants. After that, the ants gather to nest and continue to multiply.
According to Mr. Son, in recent years, hunting for ant eggs has become more difficult, because more and more people are following this profession. In the past, few people hunted ant eggs, so Mr. Son easily earned 5-6 kg of ant eggs for a day of hunting. Now, he has to go deep into the forest a few dozen kilometers to see the nest and only get 3-4 kg of ant eggs.
Mr. Son added that ant eggs can be processed into many dishes, such as sticky rice, cake, porridge, eaten with rice paper, mixed with chicken eggs or minced meat to fry… In many dishes are made from eggs. ants, sticky rice with ant eggs are the most popular. Especially for sticky rice with ant eggs, ethnic people in the mountainous areas of Bac Giang province often choose clean upland sticky rice, soak it in warm water for about 4-5 hours, take it out to drain the water and put it in the pantry. ripe.
After cleaning, the ant eggs are drained. Stir-fry onions and then add ant eggs to stir-fry, when you see the greasy smell of ant eggs and the aroma of onions.
“When the sticky rice is cooked, mix it well with ant eggs and then put it on a plate, enjoy it hot, you will feel the rich and seductive aroma of upland sticky rice, the sweet, fleshy and greasy taste of ant eggs. When eating, listen to the sound of ant eggs. ant eggs burst in the mouth to see all the fun of this dish. Anyone who once enjoys sticky rice with ant eggs will remember it forever”, Mr. Son said.
Keyword: Hunting for ant eggs