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Green Bean Vermicelli Is Famous from South to North

Monday, 08/27/2018 12:04
Con River running along An Thai Village has a big yellow sand bar that clears the water well enough to use it to make vermicelli.

Before the wells were dug, people used river water (which was not so polluted as it is today) to make starch and vermicelli. Vermicelli workshops, mostly in the form of tents and huts, were set up right on the sand bar, worked only during the dry season and were removed when the rainy season came.

Drying vermicelli at the An Thai Village, Binh Dinh Province, 2017. Photos: Phan Minh Tho

An Thai Village, Nhon Phuc Commune, Binh Dinh Province, is famous for double thread vermicelli (or double spirit vermicelli). Unlike other kinds of dry vermicelli, it is not made of rice, but of green bean and arrowroot starch, following a special formula.

It is called ‘double thread’ because the vermicelli threads always come in a pair, as they were made that way. There are two packaging units: 30cm x 30cm square waffle-like package and a figure-8 braided package.

It takes time, skills, dedication and a lot of work to make dry vermicelli. Basically, the stages of vermicelli making include flour milling, dough kneading, thread pressing and drying. First, choice green bean is sundried. Then, it is soaked for several hours to inflate and soften. The bean is then milled finely, put in cloth bags to press out water, and subsequently sun dried to get flour.

As it gets completely dry, the flour is mixed with water and kneaded into soft dough, not too dry (vermicelli threads would break easily) and not too wet (the vermicelli threads would melt into dough again on the other side of the press).

Well-kneaded dough is put into a bronze cylinder with small round holes gouged at the other end, and pressed to push the starch out in beautiful threads that fall into a pot of boiling water.

This part of the work must be done repeatedly at a constant speed that requires meditative patience of the worker.

When the vermicelli threads become translucent and float in the pot, they are taken out and put immediately into cold water and shaken repeatedly.

After the cold cleansing, the vermicelli is put on a grid to dry. This is not simple because it has to be laid to form eye-catching equal-sized squares.

The vermicelli gets dried within a day, but it is not packaged right away. Instead, it is left overnight to soften, and only then picked up and put together into waffles, which will be wrapped in dried banana leaves.

(No.4, Vol.8, Aug-Sep Vietnam Heritage Magazine)

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