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Fresh rice vermicelli is a staple of the Vietnamese diet, almost as popular as steamed rice and pho noodles. Vermicelli is usually served with chicken duck, pork, beef, or fish. Vermicelli should be soft and when served with broth, it should absorb the liquid. Local artisan Nghiem Van Thanh says there a number of steps involved in producing soft, fresh rice vermicelli.
“The first and most important step is to choose good rice. Three or 4 kinds of rice – rice from Thai Binh, Da Nang, and Ha Nam province – are mixed together to make vermicelli. The rice is steeped for 4 to 5 hours before being ground. The mixture is then filtered and pressed into flour balls which will be boiled and ground again until sticky.
This is the trickiest stage. Previously the noodles were made by hand with much effort. Introducing machines into the production process has made the work easier. In the past, we produced just 25 kilos of rice per day. Now we produce one ton a day, even though machines produce less vermicelli per kilo of rice,” said Thanh.
Fresh rice vermicelli is made to customers’ orders which in Phu Do are diverse. Typical products include vacuum-packed vermicelli which can be stored for a week and star-shaped vermicelli clumps which are often served in restaurants and at wedding parties.
Nguyen Van Hoa, head of the traditional craft club in Phu Do, said “Rice vermicelli is a specialty of our village and Hanoi. The hallmark of Phu Do vermicelli is strands that are pure white, sticky, and soft. Each step in making rice vermicelli is meticulously done.”
Phu Do supplies more than half of the rice vermicelli consumed in Hanoi. Every day approximately 15 tons of fresh vermicelli are sold in Hanoi and the dried vermicelli has been exported.
According to Mr. Hoa, “about 200 households in the village are engaged in vermicelli production and 300 others in trading. Households which produce 300 kilos, 500 kilos or even a ton of vermicelli a day create good incomes for all family members. We have stepped up communications advertising our craft village and organize craft festivals every year to preserve and promote the trade. During village festivals and holidays, local families offer trays of rice vermicelli to the village’s progenitor at the communal house.”
Phu Do rice vermicelli has been recognized by the National Office of Intellectual Property as a national trademark.