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The nostalgia of cốm the flavour of autumn

The nostalgia of cốm the flavour of autumn


People enjoy the tasty fragrance of cốm made in Vòng Village, sold by a street vendor in central Hà Nội. — VNA/VNS Photo Thành Đạt  

HÀ NỘI — Autumn has arrived in Hà Nội with gentle breezes tenderly penetrating street corners, replacing the summer heat and scattering bunches of yellow leaves on the pavements.

It is also time for women from Vòng Village in Dịch Vọng Ward, Cầu Giấy District to produce and sell their cốm (green sticky rice) – one of Hà Nội’s culinary specialities.

For most Hanoians, cốm and its related products made in Vòng Village are among the capital’s most important flavours of autumn, packed full of nostalgia. It is a symbol of gastronomy and elegance due to its a signature colour, flexibility and flavour which cốm from nowhere else can compete with.

The delicate but fragrant green grains reflect the labour, love and passion of the rice growers and cốm producers. It seems to be able to deposit the essence of the earth, the heavens, the scent of sunshine and wind.

Cốm has a pure emerald green colour and faint flavour of young rice. — VNA/VNS Photo Thành Đạt

Many have said staying in the capital without savouring cốm would be a major shortcoming of a Hà Nội experience.

How cốm comes to life

Legend has it that one autumn a thousand years ago when farmers in Vòng Village were going to harvest their sticky rice, a storm came and caused huge damage to the crops.

The villagers tried to pick the remaining green rice from the storm-torn paddy fields and brought it home to stir fry.

Cốm is wrapped into two layers of lotus leaves so that it doesn’t dry out. The lotus leaves’ fragrant aroma will also help preserve the rice’s colour and freshness. — VNA/VNS Photo Thành Đạt

The rice became a newly-invented dish and had helped them survive through hard days. Through generations, locals added more skills during the processing of cốm until they found it tasted so good that it eventually became more perfect and even went beyond the village to win the favour of all the citizens. 

Ever since then, villagers have made cốm every autumn when the green rice is ready to harvest.

To make cốm, villagers work hard from about 5am to pick green sticky rice jewelled with dew.

To make cốm, villagers start from bright and early in the morning. — VNA/VNS Photo Thành Đạt

Skill and hard work are needed to make authentic cốm flat, lime-green, chewy, sticky and smell pleasant like the scent of green rice, so many of the makers have to learn how to make cốm from a very young age.

The speciality is sold by street vendors or in shops. It can also be found on the breakfast or buffet menu of many hotels in Hà Nội.

There are also cốm cakes – a Vietnamese must-have for happy occasions, including weddings and Lunar New Year. — VNS

Skill and hard work are needed to make good cốm. — VNA/VNS Photo Thành Đạt



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