“As a lotus flower is born in water, grows in water and rises out of water to stand above it unsoiled, so I, born in the world, raised in the world having overcome the world, live unsoiled by the world
To keep the body in good health is a duty, for otherwise we shall not be able to trim the lamp of wisdom, and keep our mind strong and clear. Water surrounds the lotus flower, but does not wet its petals.”
The Buddha -- Hindu Prince Gautama Siddharta, the founder of Buddhism, 563-483 B.C

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Young sweet rice from Vòng village (Cốm Vòng)

I discovered this wonderfully delicious snack in 1994 when i went to Hà Nội for the first time and i have been hooked since. Again, like húng Láng, i've heard about it from my parents, grand-parents, and novels when i was growing up in the South and longed to try.

Cốm Vòng is only available around harvest time at the end of the year, meaning October, November. When in season it is usually sold by street vendors who carried it in two baskets connected by a long pole or in a basket on their side or on their head, or in a basket in the back of a bicycle. The steamed cốm is wrapped in fresh lotus leave. The best kind is called cốm (young sweet rice) lá me (tamarind leave). Why such a name? Simply because each tiny, flattened, light green young grain looks just like the tiny flat tamarind leave. When slowly chewed, the chewy cốm began to give out its sweetness and fragrance that reminded me of the beautiful rice paddies in the countryside. This special kind is hard to get and unless you know someone who cares about the quality. Most of the time the street vendor sold a lesser quality which is coarser and not as flavorful and wrapped in banana leave instead of lotus leave.

Eveytime i go back to Hà Nội around harvest time i always seek this delicate snack out and try to savor it as much as i could and also get some dry ones to bring back to the States so my mom could put it in the delicious chả cốm.

Sadly as the country become more industrialized, time consuming, hand-made delicacies like this are quickly disappearing. Vòng village is on the outskirt of Hà Nội so cốm Vòng also suffers the same fate as the fragrant húng Láng.

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