By Thu Hiền
The central province of Bình Định, full of sunshine, gentle breezes, and hard-working people, has been known for various delicacies such as sweet soft bánh ít lá gai (sticky rice cake with mung bean fillings) and small sweet sour pork paste.
But very few people know about Song Thằn vermicelli, which is as popular as other delicacies.
Song Thằn vermicelli is produced in An Thái Village, Nhơn Phúc Commune, An Nhơn District.
The process of making vermicelli requires great care and accuracy. Photo sggp.org.vn
The vermicelli has been made here for so long nobody can remember when and how it first appeared. The vermicelli making craft has been handed down through generations from an ancestor named Hồ Văn Mơi.
The name Song Thằn stems from the way of making it. Locals make the vermicelli in twin strings the same length. They look like small ropes. “Song” means “two” while “thằn” means “rope”.
Some elders in the area also said the dish started from a spiritual notion, and believe the dish is a combination of the God of Soil and the God of Fire.
Unique way of making
The vermicelli looks simple but it’s not easy to make it so delicious and tasty according to high local standards.
Vermicelli has been made in An Thái Village for many years. Photo sggp.org.vn
“The process requires great care, exact accuracy,” said local Huỳnh Thanh Yên. “It’s time consuming and hard work totally by hand.”
The main ingredient to make the vermicelli is bean powder, not rice or wheat flour like other kinds of vermicelli. This gives it its special taste.
Yên said 1kg of high quality vermicelli is the result of 4-5kg of beans.
He said after choosing good quality beans, locals let them dry properly in the sun. They then soak them with a lime solution for a few hours before mincing them into smooth flour.
They mince the beans at night so that the cooler temperature will not spoil the flour easily like it would in the day time.
They then dry the flour once more before soaking it in water.
“This stage sounds simple but it is the most important one, because it decides the tenderness and sweetness of the vermicelli,” Yên said.
Products of the land full of sunshine and gentle breezes. Photo sggp.org.vn
Locals know how much water to add in so that the mixture is not too dry or too wet. They then put the mixture in a large copper bowl which has many small holes in the bottom and let the flour flow into a boiling saucepan.
The vermicelli will change from dark to clear. The makers will take the strings out and let it cool off before forming them into small squares on a big wooden sheet. Then, they will dry them in the sun. The vermicelli is ready to pack for selling.
Song Thằn vermicelli is made in two forms: as a bunch of strings or as strings placed in a square.
The square form is more recommended for visitors to bring home as a kind of souvenir as it is packaged more carefully and beautifully.
Dishes from vermicelli
As it is made from bean, Binh Dinh vermicelli is tougher than other kinds of vermicelli.
The vermicelli can be made into various dishes. Photo voso.vn
Various dishes can be made from this vermicelli, such as vermicelli with beef and broth made from pig bone. There are also dishes of vermicelli stirred in fat with beef, pork or chicken intestines or shrimp and vegetables.
“The vermicelli can be cooked for breakfast, lunch or dinner,” said Hồ Ngọc, who was born and raised in Bình Định and now resided in Hà Nội. “Whenever I visit my hometown, I often bring along lots of vermicelli to cook for my family in Hà Nội and give to my colleagues as gifts. Having left the motherland for few decades, I still remember its taste. From the simple vermicelli, I can make various nutritious dishes. It’s light and nutritious features make it suitable to people on a strict diet to lose weight.”
Song Thằn vermicelli is sold widely in HCM City and Hà Nội. VNS