COM – THE TASTE OF HANOI
Sometimes it's hard to translate words from one language into another without losing a fair amount of its significance. This is one of those times, and the item at hand is cốm. Though this term is related to rice, don't mistaken it for the cơm that means cooked rice or a meal. On this occasion, we're talking about specially processed green sticky (glutinous/sweet) rice grains.
Autumn in Hanoi is so beautiful with little yellow sunshine, flows tenderly with the wind. You may notice on a gentle breeze the pleasant scent of new green rice as you walk along a quiet street of Ha Noi. Look across the street, and you'll see a woman vendor shouldering a pole with two baskets covered with large lotus leaves. The young green rice she is selling refreshes the air with countryside fragrance. What bliss after a hot humid and dusty summer!
If cốm is a specific meal of Hanoi, then Vòng village is where it comes from. People taste cốm with every single sense. Vòng’s green rice flakes has the taste of glutinous rice, the feelings of autumn wind and the gorgeous smell of lotus leaves. Cốm is wrapped in the lotus leaves so that the smell of lotus will cling on the rice and make it pure, as well as keep it pliable and soft.
Vòng village is famous not only because it’s the origin of cốm, but also because the villagers respect the traditional way of making green rice and they still keep it until today. No matter how much can it be sold, Vòng’s green rice is always tasty, and not mixed up.
Cốm is soft, and gentle with a pure sweet taste. Hanoi people usually enjoy green rice with the yellow-ripened bananas. Connoisseurs in food also have a crush on cooked green rice, made from the tough ones. When cốm is mixed up with the sugar liquid and well stewed, each grain of green rice will absorbs the sweet flavor of sugar, creating a luxurious and lively beauty. Picking a pinch of cooked green rice and gently put them in your mouth, you will feel the heat that makes the rice glutinous enough to steal one’s heart. Cooked green rice seduces eaters with its stickiness and its sweet flavor.
Men of old described the ancient Hanoi as the kingdom of eating and drinking, and cốm is one of those eating things. It has become an essential part in our daily life. Old people eat cốm to revive their memories of an old time passed. Young people eat cốm to feel the taste of our tender Hanoi. People from the South want to come to Hanoi to try the taste of cốm for at least once in their lives. Foreigners coming to Vietnam are interested in cốm; some even take a pack of green rice back to their hometown to share with friends. There are many Vietnamese people living overseas, and when they have a chance to get back to Hanoi, they all want to take in the beautiful smell of fresh green rice, to feel the feelings of coming back to their motherland.
It is great when we still keep cốm as a side of culture!