A Hanoi’s precious specialty
People do not know exactly when the craft of making Com (young sticky rice) in Vong village began but the legend has it that in an autumn of a thousand years ago, a typhoon hit Vong Village of today Cau Giay district, Hanoi city, threatening to destroy the local paddy field which was just about to ripen. In order to avoid starvation, villagers tried to harvest the young rice soon and dry them so as for the rice not to perish.
Photo: Com Vong Tam Tam
A pleasant surprise happened as the dried rice had a distinct flavor and fragrance, that then has become a special dish of the village. Villagers started selling Com lang Vong (young sticky rice of Vong Village), as a snack, around Thang Long citadel or present Hanoi. Then, it was much sought after by connoisseurs and became one of the village’s tributes to the King of the Ly Dynasty (11th -13th century).
Com lang Vong was made of young glutinous rice when it is about to ripen, that still contains the rice milk inside and is fragrant.
Making ‘com’ is a very hard and meticulous work. Firstly, good rice is selected, then thrashed, sieved and washed in large washers to eliminate the thin grains that float on the surface. Then, the rice is dried in a large iron pan over a wood fire. After that, ‘com’ is pounded by hands.
The process of pounding and drying com is the most important step. This know-how techniques are often kept within the household, never to be transferred to outsiders or daughters for fear that they would pass them to their husband’s family.
Through many ups and downs of history, the traditionally renowned craft of making Com lang Vong is still well preserved and developed. As the autumn approaching, local villagers buy young rice from surrounding village to making com.
Though people of Vong village or today’s Dich Vong Hau ward of Cau Giay district do not plant rice, the village still resounds with sound of rice pounding and the fragrant smell of com.
Photo: Vietstar Tourism
Great efforts in traditional craft preservation
In the past, up to 98% of households in Vong village pursued the craft of making com. The urbanization and modernization process within the city have turned Vong village into a rapidly developing residential area. The rice fields around the town are gradually being occupied by high-rise office buildings, crowded condominiums and busy business areas.
The villagers were still enthusiastic about their forefather’s traditional craft, so they have to buy young rice from other localities to make com. This was a time-consuming job while the rice quality is not guaranteed, so the craft profession of making ‘com’ in Vong village is gradually dying out, according to Ms. Do Thi Tuyen, the Director of Com Vong village Cooperative.
Many villagers also share this same concern as they are trying to maintain this long-standing craft despite the influences of the modern life.
Currently, there are 10 households with 70 artisans making com in Dich Vong Hau ward. From pounding the com by hand in the past, people now use machines to shorten the making process. Com has been introduced at many national and international fairs, exhibitions and seminars..
The two typical products of Vong village – the dried and fresh ones – are now exported to foreign markets of South Korea, Hong Kong, the US, Germany, France, Canada, among other countries.
Photo: Halo Travel
According to Nguyen Quang Thang, Chairman of the People’s Committee of Dich Vong Hau ward, com officially became a protective trademark by Hanoi Department of Industry and Trade since mid-2019.
“In the coming time, Dich Vong Hau ward will support com making households by building an exchange floor of com. We will also lend them a hand in searching for a trusted rice supply source to ensure food safety and hygiene. At the same time, we will expand the market of com nationally and internationally,” he said.
Mr. Thang also added that the local government is planning to build a cluster of tourist destinations in Vong village, including a center of Com Lang Vong exchange exhibition, nearby Hau Temple and Thanh Chua Pagoda.