Cellophane noodles are great for New Year
Phia Den vermicelli is said to be the most tasty in Vietnam (Photo: VNA)
A group of gourmets
from Hanoi have visited the northern province of Cao Bang to seek the
best mien dong (canna vermicelli) to make cellophane noodles. The
rhizomes of the plant are full of starch.
“Every year we travel to Nguyen Binh’s Phia Den village to buy the Cao Bang
specialty," said housewife Nguyen Thi Huan from Hanoi’s Dong Da District.
“I’ve tried many sorts of mien from the country’s three regions, but
the organic product from Phia Den is the most tasty. It has a sweet flavour and
is soft but crispy and firm when cooked.”
Phia Den villager Nong Thi Mung, 68, said: “God has given us a cool and
temperate climate year round and fertile land suitable for planting maize,
cassava and particularly cu dong rieng do (red edible canna) which
has the most aromatic flavour.”
First, the noodle makers have to choose big and mature dong rieng 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
Mung said mien dong can be used for many dishes, such as mien ga (chicken
vermicelli), mien cua (crab vermicelli), mien ngan (goose
vermicelli), mien luon (eel vermicelli) and many others, noting that
the Tsy ethnic group to which she belonged often fried mien with
wood-ear fungus and mixed it with boiled chicken pieces, onion, lemon and mint.
It can also be used to make nem ran (fried spring rolls).
The dish is always popular at birthday parties, anniversaries of all kinds and
particularly Tet. Every Tay family prepares the dish for Tet parties,
"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 Den mien dong, the food is tasty
even when cool,” said Mung. In Tay households, any visitors arriving at new
year are welcomed with a bowl of mien. This promotes friendship between
neighbours and people as long and durable as mien noodles, said Mung,
noting that they were considered a valuable gift for relatives and friends.
Mixed fried vermicelli
Mung said all her family liked the dish, although in the past it was only eaten
at dinners to remember the departed or during Tet, 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 mien 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 Den 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 doe not stick
together when frying.".
The last stage is to fry the pork and other ingredients until well done and
then put the mien 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 Mung.
“For Cao Bang people, a bowl of Phia Den vermicelli cooked with chicken, wood
ears or fragrant mushroom at Tet is not simply a dish. Eaters experience the
flavour of their native land, bringing families closely together,” she said.
Truong Manh Hao, a herbalist from Nguyen Binh district’s Centre for Traditional
Medicine, said mien dong helped reduce weight, triglycerides and
cholesterol. It was also good for diabetics.
“The root of the dong rieng is a good medicine for tooth pain, hepatitis
and ear infections,” Hao said.-VNA