August comes and brings the early breeze of autumn in Hanoi, reminding me of my favorite street food, named green sticky rice (Com Vong)Com – green sticky rice is one of the most favorite street foods of Hanoian. When there are places elsewhere in the country also has young rice, but Com’s connoisseurs believe that the taste is different. In this post, I would focus on the tastiest one – Com Vong.
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Why is it called Com Vong?
Vong is the name of a village in the suburb of the old Hanoi. This long history village is famous for its traditional technic of making Com, which has passed from generations to generations and cannot be copied.
Stories said the secret method of Com Vong is only passed to Son and Daughter-in-laws, not daughters. Because they believe when the daughters get married, they will bring the secret to the other villages and it is no longer a specialty from Vong Village anymore.
How is it made?
It’s a long, complicated and skillful procedure to make this type of light Hanoian snack food. This sophisticated Com is harvested from the sticky rice – nep cai hoa vang, a variety of rice. Grains can’t be too old because it will lose the bright green color.
You might wonder how young the rice needs to be? To check the readiness of the grains, farmers will check by biting some of raw grains. If it has the milky taste and start to spread the smell of rice, then it’s time to harvest. But it also can’t be too young, because Green sticky rice will then fall apart while pounding.
If you ever travel to Vietnam at the time when rice fields is about to turn yellow, take a second to get out of the car, breathe in the air, and that’s exactly the smell I am talking about. The kind of smell will make so many Vietnamese overseas homesick, the kind of smell maybe so difficult to understand but for a thousand year of agriculture country like Vietnam, it makes sense for us to turn it into a tasty treat from the local countryside.
Back to how Com is made, It is dried in light heat for a certain time until the paddy yellows then to a stone mortar, pounded lightly with a wooden pestle, sifted and winnowed.
Com at the last stage must keep its green color, soft, chewy and full of young rice flavor. The young rice is stored in layers of lotus leaves to keep the flavor and tenderness.
The Simple Nature Combination:
Hanoian has a very distinct way to eat Com, that’s how we call it – the proper way to eat Com. So let’s learn to be a connoisseur here: take a small amount of Com by your finger, slowly enjoy the marriage of smell: lotus and young rice – and yes, having Com on a random breezy day in Autumn can prove you are the expert of Com. The other way is dipping a banana tip into Com, Com will wrap around the surface of Banana, there you go – the perfection of healthy sweet banana with young rice leave a very different taste.
Com is in the childhood of many Hanoians, and still is on its way creating a special childhood for kids growing in Hanoi. Com is a compulsory for many family on Autumn Festival (the 15th day – full moon of August on Lunar Calendar – the Children’s day for kids with lanterns, toys, paper masks..).
Com and Ripped Banana
Where to find:
Vietnamese ladies with their shoulder pole and two baskets bring Com to every corner of Hanoi. Original Com Vong is available in autumn only. But you can find some products from Com during the year like: Banh Com (Com cake), Cha Com (fried grounded pork with Com), Xoi Com (Com sticky rice), Che Com (Com sweet soup), Kem Com (Com Ice-cream). Creative dishes from Com are now used by a lot of housewives including: Fried Egg with Com, Shrimp coated with Com…
By the time writing this article, it’s just beginning of autumn and the original Com is not available yet. But hang in there, just few days more, Com will come to all Hanoi corners. And surely, I wil catch a lady vendor for a bunch of Com, as a gift of Hanoi’s autumn.