Vietnam Time

1/31/2018 2:52:22 PM

Foodwise: Cellophane noodles are great for New Year

As Tết approaches, a group of gourmets from Hà Nội is visiting the northern province of Cao Bằng to seek the best miến dong (canna vermicelli) to make cellophane noodles. The rhizomes of the plant are full of starch.

Healthy: Vermicelli is healthy food. — File Photo

“Every year we travel to Nguyên Bình’s Phia Đén Village to buy the Cao Bằng specialty," said housewife Nguyễn Thị Huấn from Hà Nội’s Đống Đa District. “I’ve tried many sorts of miến from the country’s three regions, but the organic product from Phia Đén is the most tasty. It has a sweet flavour and is soft but crispy and firm when cooked.”

The best: Phia Đén vermicelli is said to be the most tasty in Việt Nam. — VNA/VNS Photo Quân Trang

 Phia Đén villager Nông Thị Mừng, 68, said:  “God has given us a cool and temperate climate year round and fertile land suitable for planting maize, cassava and particularly củ dong riêng đỏ (red edible canna) which has the most aromatic flavour.”

Hard work: Making vermicelli is a long process. — VNA/VNS Photo Quân Trang

First, the noodle makers have to choose big and mature dong riềng roots, then clean them and grind them until they produce a flour as white as ivory. The flour is then mixed with cold then hot water until it becomes thick and sticky. It is then poured into a simple gadget with a row of holes that squirt the liquid out onto a moving bamboo frame. They are then dried in the sun for several days. 

Mừng said miến dong can be used for many dishes, such as miến gà (chicken vermicelli), miến cua (crab vermicelli), miến ngan (goose vermicelli), miến lươn (eel vermicelli) and many others, noting that the Tày ethnic group to which she belonged often fried miến with wood-ear fungus and mixed it with boiled chicken pieces, onion, lemon and mint. It can also be used to make nem rán (fried spring rolls).

 Chicken vermicelli

 The dish is always popular at birthday parties, anniversaries of all kinds and particularly Tết. Every Tày family prepares the dish for Tết parties, said Mừng.

The best: Phia Đén vermicelli is said to be the most tasty in Việt Nam.

"To make it, I choose a capon between 2.5 to 3kg raised by myself, boil it until it well done and has a fragrant smell. The capon is removed, let cool and then cut into pieces. The sweet chicken broth should be kept simmering on the fire and then being scooped into a big bowl filled with chicken pieces and the cellophane noodles,” she said, adding that the dish should be eaten hot with coriander and pepper.

 “Thanks to our high quality Phia Đén miến dong, the food is tasty even when cool,” said Mừng. In Tày households, any visitors arriving at New Year are welcomed with a bowl of miến. This promotes friendship between neighbours and people as long and durable as miến noodles, said Mừng, noting that they were considered a valuable gift for relatives and friends.

 Mixed fried vermicelli

 Mừng said all her family liked the dish, although in the past it was only eaten at dinners to remember the departed or during Tết, adding that she never forgets the taste of the dish cooked by her grandfather. The ingredients he used were very simple and contained no shrimps, beef, eels or seafood, but only miến dong (0.2kg), chicken egg (1), pork (0.2kg), carrots, garlic, celery, cooking oil, soy sauce, fish sauce, salt and pepper.

 To make a tasty dish, she advised cooks to choose Phia Đén vermicelli. "Before cooking, you should soak the miến in water, but only for 10 minutes. After that you should dip the noodles in boiling water and then quickly soak them in cold water to keep them firm so that they do not stick together when frying.".

Delicious: A bowl of vermicelli with goose. — Photos dulichcaobang.com

The last stage is to fry the pork and other ingredients until well done and then put the miến into a pan and fry for five minutes until they are firm and even crunchy. “You should put cilantro-flavored herbs or laksa leaves and pepper over the dish to make it more tasty,” said Mừng. “For Cao Bằng people, a bowl of Phia Đén vermicelli cooked with chicken, wood ears or fragrant mushroom at Tết is not simply a dish. Eaters experience the flavour of their native land, bringing families closely together,” she said.

 Trương Mạnh Hào, a herbalist from Nguyên Bình District’s Centre for Traditional Medicine, said miến dong helped reduce weight, triglycerides and cholesterol. It was also good for diabetics.

.“The root of the dong riềng is a good medicine for tooth pain, hepatitis and ear infections,” Hào said.

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