Cu Da village in Hanoi’s Thanh Oai district is famous for its French-style houses and for being one of the biggest vermicelli producing villages in Vietnam.
Vermicelli is a popular dish among Vietnamese people, an indispensable course at Lunar New Year feasts or at other significant occasions. Vermicelli holds a special place in the Vietnamese culinary culture.
Vermicelli making began a hundred years ago. Cu Da vermicelli comes in smooth white and shiny yellow versions. Cu Da vermicelli strands are thin and even.
Vu Van Than, an experienced vermicelli producers, said, “Cu Da vermicelli is made of one hundred percent cassava starch. It’s important to choose good cassava starch to make vermicelli of high quality. Dried cassava is the best. It should come from Bac Can, Lai Chau, Son La, or Moc Chau where cassava is grown on hillsides. The color of vermicelli depends on the taste of each region. We use liquid caramel to turn our vermicelli yellow-brown.”
Producers must be meticulous in each phase of vermicelli production. The main ingredient, cassava starch, is soaked in warm water and filtered to make at soft paste.
The paste is then boiled, rolled out in thin sheets and dried outdoors. The sheets of vermicelli are then cut into long, thin strips and dried some more. The drying time depends on the weather.
Dinh Thanh Tu, a Hanoi resident who goes to Cu Da to buy vermicelli, said, “Vermicelli is one of the specialties of Cu Da village. I don’t care how far it is from Ha Dong to Cu Da. It has a good flavor and a crisp, tough texture. Even if you cook it too long by mistake, the vermicelli noodle will not turn doughy. Every year I go to this village several times to buy vermicelli for my family and as a gift for relatives.”
Every day, Cu Da villagers produce about 15 tons of vermicelli. In the later months of the year - wedding season, festival season, and Tet holiday - Cu Da becomes busier than ever, producing up to 25 tons of vermicelli each day.
Villager Than, whose family has been involved in the craft for years, said, “In the past, vermicelli was produced manually. By using big pots or frying-pans, the locals only turned out 100kg of vermicelli a day. Thanks to the use of machines, my family now produces 1.5 to 2 tons per day. The main markets are Hanoi and provinces in the south. Most Cu Da vermicelli is purchased by major dealers.”
If you visit Cu Da on a sunny day when cassava vermicelli is drying on bamboo screens everywhere in the village, you might think you are in a silk village.
The residents of Cu Da, who have preserved the village’s time-honored traditional craft, drew a stable income from producing hundreds of tons of vermicelli each year.