Author Archives: thanhnguyen

Grilled minced fish- Chả Cá Lã Vọng

Hanoi now has several stores selling Cha ca La Vong, but none of them can be equal to the Cha Ca Road’s in terms of quality and flavor. As a popular dish, La Vong grilled fish pie is indeed a remarkable culinary invention.

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The long history…

In ancient days, there was a street selling paints, called the Paints Street. The Doan family, located at house No, 14 of this street, hit upon a new idea that sold fried fish pie served with soft noodles and seasoning. Encouraged by the appreciation of customers, the family specialized in this trade and the shop was called as “Cha ca La Vong store” as a wooden statue of an old fisherman (La Vong) holding a fishing rod and a string of fish stands at the door. As the specialty grew famous with every passing day, the street was renamed by the people as Cha Ca Street (fried fish pie street).

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Imagine that you are one of the guests…

While you sit down at the table, the waiter starts laying there some seasonings includes a bowl of well – stirred shrimp paste sauce mixed up with lemon. After dropping the liquor, he will decorate the bowl with a few slices of red fresh pimento, a plate of grilled ground nuts of gold yellow color, various species of mint vegetables o­nions in small white slices.

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To many customers, the sight of such seasoning already greatly stimulates their appetite. A few minutes later, fried fish, yellow in color and flagrant in smell put o­n a plate of anethum vegetable, is brought in. But that is not all. A few seconds more, as soon as a cauldron of boiling fat is brought in, the waiter starts pouring it o­n each bowl of grilled fish, thus producing a white smoke and sputtering noise.

Now, this is the time for picking and choosing what you like from the dishes on the table; sticking them into your bowl. Everything in all dishes should be eaten together. Let’s taste…

Rice vermicelli- Bún

Bun (Rice vermicelli) is made of rice flour which is turned into small, circular and white threads wrapped up into small coils called Con Bun. Vietnamese rice vermicelli is a preferable as well as a popular dish!

The best rice noodles have only two ingredients: rice or rice flour, and water. Rice vermicelli are thin, translucent noodles that are similar to cellophane noodles, with which they are often confused (rice vermicelli are made from rice; cellophane noodles are made from bean starch). There are different varieties of vermicelli depending on their shape: bun roi (stirred vermicelli), bun mam (twisted vermicelli), bun la (vermicelli paper), and bun dem tram (shreded vermicelli).

Rice vermicelli noodles are delicious and easy to prepare. Let’s see how rice vermicelli dishes are prepared step by step!

Before cooking, simply soak rice vermicelli in warm (not hot) water for just two minutes. Then, in order to have a delicious bowl of rice, you should add different kinds of ingredients and vegetables. You can choose one of various ingredients that can be served with vermicelli such as: grilled pork meat, fried rice cakes, snails, fried eggs, lean meat pie, chicken, and crab soup, etc.

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Do not be so surprised if you see that each region and locality, even each restaurant, has its own vermicelli dishes with their own recipes. There are a variety of ways to enjoy rice vermicelli, each dish having its own unique taste, for example: “Bun Cha” (vermicelli and grilled chopped meat),“Bun Rieu” (vermicelli and sour crab soup), “Bun Bo” (vermicelli and beef ), “Bun Oc” (vermicelli and snails) and so on.

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Let’s try the very delicious taste of Bun Cha and Bun Oc! Bun Cha (Vermicelli and grilled chopped meat) includes rice vermicelli, grilled pork and spicy, raw vegetables and well mixed fish sauce. For a dish of Bun Cha, you take a dish of rice vermicelli, a dish full of vegetables and a bowl of fish sauce combined with vinegar, sugar, hot chilly, garlic and pepper. The sauce will then contain all the essential tastes, sour, hot, salty and sweet. Grilles of well cooked pork would be opened and the contents dropped into the bowl of fish sauce. There are

Bun oc

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Two kinds of Cha (grilled pork) used, depending upon the cut of the meat. If the pork is cut into small pieces, it is called Cha Mieng (piece of grilled pork). If it is minced prior to being shaped into small cubes, it is named Cha Bam (minced grilled pork). Bun Oc (Rice vermicelli with fresh water snail) has fresh water snails as main ingredient. These snails will have been kept in clean fresh water for about ten hours before being boiled for the dish, to allow sufficient time for the snails to release any organic matter they may have in their shells. The boiled snails after being taken out of their shells would be cleaned. The soup for the dish is made from the water in which snails have been boiled in. To the soup is added tomatoes and several kinds of flavour and vinegar.

Rice vermicelli are a part of different Vietnamese cuisines.Walking along some streets and stopping at one rice vermicelli vendor in Hanoi or Sai Gon, you will have chances for tasting various dishes of rice vermicelli with unforgettable flavor!

“Cốm” – Autumn’s special gift

“Cốm” (green sticky rice) is a delicacy that is made only in autumn and cherished by all Vietnamese. For Hanoians, nothing evokes autumn like the taste of young rice from Vong village, the grain so sweetly scented that they left a lasting impression…

Served with red persimmons or ripe bananas,“Cốm” – Autumn’s special gift is truly delicious. Vong village, on the outskirts of Hanoi, is said to produce the best “Cốm” in northern Vietnam. When autumn comes, Hanoians everywhere always remember the special taste of “Cốm” which is a special gift from the soil made by hard-working peasants, holding a simple and fresh fragrance.

Every autumn, when the cool north-westerly wind brings a cold dew, the sticky rice ears bend themselves into arches waiting for ripe grains because these rice grains are at their fullest and the rice-milk is already concentrated in the grains, and the local farmers will know it is time to make “Cốm” – a specialty made from young green sticky rice.

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“Cốm” is often eaten by hand, directly from the lotus leaves, a pinch at a time. When eating “Cốm”, you must enjoy slowly and chew very deliberately in order to appreciate all the scents, tastes, and plasticity of the young rice which is sweet, nutty and buttery.

From the complicated process…

Visitors to Hanoi during the “Cốm” making season are invited to go to Vong Village where they will have a chance to listen to the special rhythmic pounding of wooden pestles against mortars filled with young rice and see women shifting and winnowing the pounded young rice.

In Vong village, making “Cốm” used to be a common trade. People from Vong village are said to have the most complicated process for making “Cốm”. Firstly, glutinous paddy is planted. To produce their famous “Cốm”, residents of Vong village grow a special variety of sticky rice. The sticky rice must be harvested at just the right moment. When the paddy begins to ripen and still contains milk it is reaped but only at early dawn. The rice is plucked off manually so that the grains are not broken. Next, the choice grains are carefully selected, sifted and washed. At night, the grains are dried in a large pan over a soft fire and then pounded in stone mortars. Following this, the young rice is removed from the mortar and winnowed before being poured again into the mortar and the process repeated. This is then repeated exactly seven times so that all the husk is removed from the young sticky grains. There is an art to this part of the process. If the pounding is done irregularly and in haste, or it is not repeated seven times, the green colour of the grains will disappear and be replaced by an unexpected brown colour. Then the whole process will have been to no avail because customers will refuse to buy such produce. This should go some way to explaining exactly how difficult the whole process of “Cốm” making is.

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“Not every one can dry and pound “Cốm”. It is a closely guarded secret in some families that is never revealed to the mothers or daughters!” says 72-year-old Pham Thi Nguyet, whose family still produces “Cốm”. After the “Cốm” has been pounded, the crystal spring rice is wrapped tightly in emerald lotus leaves to keep it from drying and allowing it to absorb lotus flavour.

…to other specialities

Better than any other person, peasants are the only ones who truly understand when the rice ears are ripe enough to be reaped to begin making “Cốm”. From then on, “Cốm” is still available, however, as it is used in different local specialties.

“Cốm” is an ingredient used in many specialities of Vietnam, including “Cốm xào” (browned green sticky rice), “Bánh cốm”  (green sticky rice cake) and “Chè cốm” (sweetened green sticky rice paste) and so on.

“Bánh cốm” is the well-known as it is found at every engagement ceremony. The cakes are wrapped with bananas leaves into squares, tied with a red string and stamped on the outside with a Chinese character meaning “double happiness”. With these characteristics, “Bánh cốm” is believed to be a symbol of steadfast and eternal love.

Green sticky rice cakes are sold on Hang Than Street. Sticky cakes stuffed with green rice are sold on Hang Dieu Street and Quoc Huong green rice paste is sold on Hang Bong Street. Restaurants also offer dishes involving “Cốm”, such as chicken stewed with herbs and green rice, or green rice served with fried shrimp.

Nowadays, thanks to convenient means of transport, many Hanoians send Vong Village’s  “Cốm” to their relatives in other parts of the country, and even abroad, as a special gift. By this way, the delicious taste of “Cốm” always stays in the hearts of Hanoians wherever they live. To those who have ever been involved in farming, eating “Cốm” often reminds them of a fresh and fragrant paddy.

Rice noodle soup-Phở

Pho (rice noodle soup) a typical dish of Hanoi people, has been existing for a long time. Pho is prepered not only in a sophisticated manner but also in the technique which is required to have sweet but pure bouillon, soft but not crasded noodle, soft and sweet smelling meat. Only in cold days, having a hot and sweet smelling bowl of Pho to enjoy would make you experience the complete flavor of the special dish of Hanoi.

The bouillon.

Boil 10 cups water. Burn the whole fresh onions over high heat until golden brown. Add beef spareribs or ox tail into the boiling water. Skim while cooking to make a clear broth. Add browned onion and carrots after 1 hour of boiling. Cook another hour. Then remove meat and vegetable. Strain the bouillon, season it with spices, salt, fish sause as indicated and keep boiling to server very hot soup. Add boiled water, if necessary, to have 6-8 cups of bouillon. This broth is very spicy and a little salty.

Slice tender beef finely and cooked beef coarsely. Soak dry rice noodles in hot water 10 minutes before cooking. Coolk rice noodles sparately until done (about 10-15 minutes), drain in hot water to remove the starch.

Server at once into bowl.

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Beef soup, rare: cooked rice noodles 1/3 bowl, raw beef minced on top. Pour over them one cup boiling bouillon. Add bib lettuce, green onion and onion rings.

Beef soup, done: cooked rice noodles, cooked beef, bib lettuce, onion rings, green onion in top. Pour over all ingredients 1 cup boiling bouillon.

Provide the guests with spoons and chopstichs to take the soup.