In Vietnamese cuisine, vendors slung baskets are packed with the green young rice flakes which send forth the ubiquitous sweet flavours that lure in even the most casual onlooker.
Autumn in Hanoi
Another autumn is about to descend on Hanoi. The streets are filled with cool air, signaling the start of the Com (young rice flake) season.
By October, the winter rice begins to bow, the seeds become plump and the rice milk thickens. Locals know it’s the time to gather sticky rice for Com.
Enjoying this tasty snack takes a lot of hard work during the preparation phases. The fresh rice must be roasted shortly after being picked over a moderate heat and then gently stirred. Then it is cooled and poured into a stone mill. Once in the mill, it is pounded lightly with a wooden pestle and sifted.
This process is repeated six or seven times.
The final step requires the green rice to be tightly wrapped in lotus leaves to keep it from drying out. This also allows the rice to absorb the flavour of lotus leaves.
Today, some of these steps have been mechanized. However, in the traditional strongholds of production such as Xuan Thuy Street or Me Tri Ha Village, some 7 kilometres from downtown Hanoi, they prefer to do it by hand.
Green sticky rice
When the green rice grains go into the baskets of the vendors, they are divided into small lots. A packet of Com is always considered a nice present for a child or from a groom to his bride’s family at their engagement party.
Although this soft and sweet Hanoi specialty can be enjoyed separately, it is best served with red persimmons or ripe bananas.
It is also used in different local specialties including the green rice cakes sold on Hang Than Street. Restaurants also offer dishes involving Com, such as chicken stewed with herbs and green rice, or green rice served with fried shrimp.
When eating Com, locals advise diners to chew very deliberately in order to appreciate all the scents and tastes of the young, sweet and nutty rice.