Vietnamese Gio: meat pounded to perfection
Gio (Vietnamese sausage) is considered the staple of special occasions (Source: internet)
If rice is
a staple of Vietnamese daily meals, then Gio (Vietnamese sausage) is considered
the staple of special occasions, such as Tet (the Lunar New Year), wedding
parties and ancestors’ death anniversary.
Traditionally, Gio is made from minced lean
pork tightly encased in fresh banana leaves rolled into a cylindrical shape and
boiled. A roll of Gio is then cut into slices about 2 centimetres thick and then cut into smaller
parts before being served.
On the week-long Tet holiday,
the most important celebration on the Vietnamese calendar, almost every family
will stock at least a roll of Gio, along with Banh chung (square sticky rice cakes)
and boiled chicken.
Decades ago, meat was scarce and only
served on special occasions. On ancestor death anniversaries, for instance, the
women of the family would prepare an elaborate set of dishes, among which Xoi (steamed
sticky rice), boiled chicken and a plate of neatly-placed Gio slices
were a must.
The best quality Gio can be
traced to Uoc Le, a tranquil village about 30 kilometres from Hanoi’s centre.
There are no official documents about the
genesis of Gio in the village, yet according to 65-year-old native Nguyen Van Mui, head of the
village senior citizens association, Uoc Le people have been making Gio for at
least 100 years.
Currently, more than 90 percent of village
households still make Gio. “As people in our neighbourhood alone can’t consume
such large amounts of Gio, villagers have to migrate to other regions to sell
their products,” said Nguyen Viet Tuong, head of Uoc Le village. “Uoc Le people
are now present all over the country. They return on special occasions only.”
“Doing this job requires hard work. People
have to wake up as early as 3am. The high quality of our Gio is
attributed to several factors. One of them is the meat,” said Le Tien Manh, a
45-year-old Gio maker. “The type used in making Gio must be lean meat, fresh and a bit sticky on its surface.”
Fish sauce and seasoning are added to the
minced meat before the mixture is encased tightly in layers of banana leaves,
which give the Gio a unique taste. The fresh minced meat is well
blended with the tartness and slight bitterness of the fresh banana leaves when
they are boiled.
“It takes about an hour to get the mixture
finely cooked. One can tell if Gio is well-cooked by throwing it
onto a hard surface. If it bounces, the Gio is good,” said Manh.
Other variants of Gio include Cha (a mixture of minced pork
deep fried with pepper or cinnamon ) and Gio bo (beef sausage). They are all
eaten generally with rice, Xoi (steamed sticky rice), Banh cuon (steamed rice
pancakes) or Banh mi (Vietnamese baguette).–VNA