Can Tho City has registered trademarks for 6 featured products of the Western area of the Mekong Delta. Among them is Com ruou Co Do - fermented glutinous rice - of Trung Thanh Commune, Co Do District.
Mrs. Hua Thi Dao_ making fermented glutinous rice
Trung Thanh fermented glutinous rice is not only a featured product in the culinary culture and travel of Can Tho City but also a product of a traditional trade village which has been conserved for more than 50 years. Compared with other industries, fermented glutinous rice production does not bring high profits. However, with the mind and love for this trade, people of Trung Thanh commune have been attempting to conserve this unique product of sweet flavor which always reminds them of the beloved hometown.
Feeling lost without heady bouquet of alcohol
Following Ms. Huynh Thi Diem, Deputy Head of Women’s Association of Trung Thanh Commune, we dropped in the thatched roof house by Ba Dang Canal. It is the home of Mrs. Hua Thi Dao (72), also known as Mrs. Ba Tai - one of the oldest fermented glutinous rice makers here.
Batches of fermented glutinous rice are brewed in green banana leaf to form small rice-balls with sweet delicious fragrance. Inviting us to enjoy those 3 –day fermented rice-balls, Mrs. Dao said, "This trade requires sitting up late and getting up early but it makes me happy, I can’t give it up. It's like karma. In fact, I have been doing this since my youth. I have been making Fermented glutinous fice for decades without any boredom. Whenever I don’t smell the fragrance of fermented glutinous rice, I feel blues and lost."
Mrs.Dao started to love her career right after she got married. Her mother-in-law taught her this trade. Mrs. Dao makes Fermented glutinous fice by herself, brings it to everywhere to sell. She will bring her product to anywhere that people recommend to her.
Recalling the hard period of her career, Mrs. Dao said, "I got up at about 2-3 am, made a new batch of fermented glutinous rice and prepared things to go to the market. I had to catch the earliest bus to the market; otherwise the fermented glutinous rice would have been less delicious". Despite such hardship, she has 50 –year- experience in this career.
The whole villagers conserve the trade
Along Ba Dang canal, from beginning to end of the village, we all saw pictures of spiraling smoke from the kitchen and smelled the distinctive fragrance of fermented glutinous rice. The fragrance of glutinous rice mixed with yeast flavor fascinated visitors from afar even though they had not enjoyed the dish. Despite many difficulties, this trade village with more than 90 households is still specializing in producing and consigning this product.
From Mrs.Ba’s small kitchen right in the front yard, the fragrance of cooked glutinous rice pervades the surroundings. Mrs. Ba stirs the glutinous rice very quickly and steadily to avoid overheat. She also pokes the fire while turning the pot, then promptly sits cross-legged on a small bamboo bed. While briskly rolling the fermented glutinous rice into balls, she said to us, "Rolling fermented glutinous rice is not difficult. Just practice regularly to get used to it. However, we must know how to pour water while cooking glutinous rice appropriately. With too much water, the fermented glutinous rice will turn sour."
Making fermented glutinous rice includes three stages: cooking glutinous rice, rolling fermented glutinous rice balls and fermenting them. First, soak glutinous rice in water for half of a day, then cook it and draw it out, wait until it is drained then continue to cook it the second time. Sprinkle the finely ground yeast over cooked glutinous rice and roll the glutinous rice after making hands wet in clear boiled salt water. Finally, brew the glutinous rice in banana leaf baskets pierced underneath to let water leak out, then close them tight for 3 days. Keep the yeast juice separate from the fermented glutinous rice, and then mix them in when served.
Mrs.Ba’s family can sell 7-8 batches of fermented glutinous rice every day. After deducting expenses, each batch brings her 40.000-50.000 dong profit. She mainly consigns her fermented glutinous rice to wholesalers in markets near her home and the nearby areas such as Vinh Long, Long Xuyen (An Giang), Rach Gia (Kien Giang).
According to many seniors in the trade, three main components to produce fermented glutinous rice are yeast, glutinous rice and banana leaves. Yeast must be dry and aromatic, glutinous rice must be whole, and banana leaves must be green and wide. Using leaves of pip banana trees and Siamese banana trees will provide the pure fragrance to the fermented glutinous rice balls; never use leaves of aromatic banana tree as this will spoil the fermented glutinous rice.
Having a strong attachment to this career for nearly half of her life, Mrs. Tran Thi Chin (65) said that fermented glutinous rice was not merely a dish but also a kind of remedy. It contains fermenting substance that helps the digestive system work more effectively.
Despite her old age, Mrs.Chin has never thought of giving this career up. "Whenever I’m healthy, I still do this. For me, fermented glutinous rice is a part of my life. I would feel uncomfortable if I did not make fermented glutinous rice anymore," said Mrs.Chin. Meanwhile, younger generation like Mrs.Phan Thi Tuyet Nhung (35) is very active when marketing the product in supermarkets.
“Traditional fermented glutinous rice production contributes to solving employment issue and creating stable income for women here. Co Do People’s Committee is considering establishing a fund for developing the trade village." – said Ms. Huynh Thi Diem, Deputy Head of Women’s Association of Trung Thanh.