I decided on the Pu Luong Buffalo Restaurant after several scrolls up and down reading recommendations on its authentic dishes from the ethnic Thai people.
There were actually few options to choose from this part of the world. We were, after all, in a nature reserve, where tourism services, including places to eat, are yet to fully develop. Guests generally eat at their homestay or lodge.
The Pu Luong Buffalo Restaurant is, in fact, part of the Pu Luong Hillside Lodge, about three kilometres from my retreat. It sits inside a Thai village, surrounded by mountain ranges and green terraced rice fields. As such, it inherits both the comfortable design of the lodge and astonishing views of the surrounding landscapes.
At first sight it appeared clean and hygienic, with guests welcomed with a cup of home-made pandan leaf tea, which was aromatic and quite relaxing.
There were not that many customers at lunchtime, as this was after COVID-19 had reared its ugly head once more. After making the necessary health declaration, I began to check out the menu.
The restaurant offers set menus at prices ranging from VND150,000 to VN?180,000 per person. But I came here with certain dishes in mind, and immediately ordered the Co Lung duck and some other signature local dishes.
Some were not in season, some have to be ordered in advance, while others take a long time to prepare. The famed duck was indeed available, but I would have to wait at least an hour for it be marinated and then grilled. But I was willing to wait.
Together with the duck I chose Thai-style steamed fish, boiled bamboo shoots, and steamed mountain snails.
As the duck grilled over the charcoal, I spoke with owner and head chef Ha THi Nghiem about the food. She explained that Co Lung duck is a rare and special breed from nearby Ba Thuoc District.
The droop-necked, short-legged duck’s meat is said to be very tasty, not greasy or foul-smelling like duck from other regions.
One reason for this is that her ducks are free-range rather than captive. They eat small fish and snails from the river and any leftover rice and maize from the fields.
Nghiem marinated my dish with Thai spices such as m?c khén (cape yellowwood) seeds, mac mat (Clausena indica) leaves, d?i (Michelia tonkinensis) seeds, ginger, garlic, and lemongrass..