Com is green and soft young rice. One of the pleasures of Hanoi is to enjoy com wrapped in a lotus leaf, tied with a straw. It is best when tasted with banana and light red sapodilla. Chew it carefully and enjoy it slowly to get the whole flavour of the young rice grains.
Hanoians, even those living far away from Hanoi, always remember the scent of com and milk flowers along the street in the autumn, which have also been inspiring topics for many poets and writers.
As autumn comes in Hanoi, the cold wind blows along, the rice is prepared for harvest, rice milk is thickened, and after the grains are strained enough, it’s the time of grilled rice.
Many villages make com, however, the most specialized is Vong village located in Dich Vong commune, Tu Liem district. The lives of villagers here are closely linked with making com, as the job requires both strength and effort.
If you have the chance to go to Vong village 5 km from Hanoi Centre on an autumn afternoon, you will find the sound of rice-pounding and the memorable scent of com throughout the village. Grilled rice is mostly made in the autumn. To make com, rice is harvested ten days early when it’s not too ripe and not too green. After rice is collected from the fields, several steps have to be taken to make excellent com. Grains will be removed from their husks, and then made fine and soft through frying and pounding. The rice is often wrapped in lotus leaves to allow it to absorb the scent of lotus and also keep it from drying out. The ideal type of rice to make best com is nếp hoa vàng. Com making is a traditional skill of the village, and the secret is still kept; we can only enjoy its fine taste while eating it.
Com provides the basis for com sweet soup, fried com with eggs and especially com cakes which are, along with su se cake, a must in all wedding ceremonies according to Hanoi custom. Com cakes become even more tasty with green peas. You can find com cake widely sold in Hang Than Street and Nguyen Ninh is the top producer. Another unforgettable incarnation is che com (com sweet soup) with white sugar on hot summer days.
Special com used to be obtained only in Vong village, but now foreign tourists and people from other regions of Vietnam can enjoy com thanks to modern transport.
Why don’t you visit Hanoi in the autumn to try com for yourself and taste the results of Vong village’s secret process of making this special cuisine?