Saturday, December 3 2016

VietNamNews

Noodles are forever

Update: October, 23/2016 - 09:00
Naturally safe: No preservatives are used to make Mỳ Chũ and this product has received a food safety certificate from Bắc Giang Province. – VNS Photo Đoàn Tùng
Viet Nam News

Noodles made for many years in a village in Bắc Giang Province are very special.

They taste different to other noodles and people enjoy them.

They are made in a very special way and from very special rice.

When the sun is not out, it can be difficult to produce these noodles because they need to be dried.

So many people want to buy them that the village is hoping to get drying machines for cloudy days.

By Hồng Vân

Residents of Thủ Dương Village have to “score a century” in rice noodles every day.

So they get up very early, no matter what the weather, and start working at 4.30am to prepare about 100 kilograms of a special rice noodle that the village has become famous for.

The small village, about 60km away from Ha Noi in Bắc Giang Province, began making the Mỳ Chũ (chũ rice noodles) about six decades ago.

Their skilled hands and the desire to preserve the traditional vocation have made Mỳ Chũ a popular product in the province and beyond.

The arresting sight of numerous white rice noodle sheets being sundried on wooden panels greets those arriving in Thủ Dương. Learning its history makes the place even more interesting.

This rice noodle gets its name from the Chũ Market, where a man called Cả Tòng began selling them all those years ago. A native of neighbouring Hải Dương Province, Cả Tòng was brought to Bắc Giang by a Chinese man who’d adopted him when he was very small.

It was his foster father who taught Cả Tòng the basic steps of making rice noodles, said 38-year-old Trần Đức Phước, Tong’s great grandson.

Because it had a distinct taste and was only sold in that market, people began calling it Mỳ Chũ, a name that has stuck to this day.

Another thing that the villages have stuck to is the old way of making rice noodles, with almost all steps done by hand.

The first step is to wash and remove all the dirt from the rice. It is then softened by soaking in water for up to three hours and later transferred to a grinder after adding fresh water.

“Chũ noodles are made purely with rice, a bit of water and oil, so choosing the right rice variety is very important,” said Nguyễn Thị Sâm, a 41-year-old woman whose family has been doing it for generations.

Phước nodded in agreement. “In the old days, they used the bao thai hồng variety, which was grown in the Chũ hill area. This variety of rice was very famous for its unique aroma, texture and stickiness, and perfectly suited to making good noodles,” he said.

Nowadays, as production of bao thai hồng rice declines and the number of households making the rice noodles increase, it has become difficult to use the original rice. The villages now use the “203” variety that can be found locally or in the provinces of Thái Bình and Nam Định.

“The quality of rice we use now must be as good as bao thai hồng rice,” Phước said, adding, “using good quality rice will not only make the noodles tastier and chewier, but will also increase the quantity.”

By late afternoon the rice has become white flour and the villagers leave it until next morning, when the water stands clear from the rice.

Sâm stressed that "besides rice, the water used is an important factor that decides the quality of Mỳ Chũ".

“We are so grateful for the natural water sources in the region. From the very beginning we have used well water, which is fresh, free from chemicals and has a lightly sweet taste,” she said.

After removing the water from the rice flour mixture, the flour has to be spread out with meticulous care to avoid any lumps.

In the past, a ladle was used to spread the flour on a cloth stretched over boiling water, but this step has been taken over by a machine that creates the rice noodle sheets.

Flat rice sheets are then spread out on mats to dry in the sun until they are totally dry and transparent.

To make it easier to cut the noodle sheets into smaller strips, the rice sheets are softened with a bit of warm water and oil.

Previously, lard was used at this stage, but it has been replaced with vegetable oil because it is more popular and convenient,” Phước said.

Once the noodles are cut, they are dried in the sun again before being packed.

Since it can be used for many different dishes, the strips are of various sizes.

“This noodle is made purely from rice and is free of any preservatives, so it is more nutritious and healthy than other instant noodles,” said Nam.

Mỳ Chũ has been granted a safe food certificate by the Bắc Giang’s Department of Industry and Trade. It was recognised as a “symbolic industrial product” of the northern region in 2014, and as one of the most trusted products nationwide in 2013.

Crossing borders

Mỳ Chũ’s fame has since spread beyond the country’s borders, with exports to several overseas markets including South Korea, mainland China, Taiwan and the UK.

“It is a pity that we sometimes fail to get deals with big customers because there is not enough sunlight to dry the noodles,” said Nguyễn Văn Nam, director of the Rice Noodle Co-operative.

Inclement weather is not just a major challenge standing in the way of the noodle makers expanding their markets, it can also hurt them.

“At times, some households have had to dispose of several dozen tonnes of noodles because they could not dry them,” said Nam.

The village has proposed to provincial authorities that they help import modern drying equipment so that villagers could make noodles on rainy days, too, increasing productivity as well as income.

Out of 333 households in the village, 287 are engaged in making rice noodles. Each household makes an average of nearly 100kg of noodles every sunny day.

“The Mỳ Chũ making tradition has played an important role in reducing poverty in the village," Nam said.

A villager can earn about VNĐ5million (US$220) on average a month, and the villagers are hoping to increase this to VNĐ6million ($270) next year.

With more than a hint of pride, Nam added: “As villagers have a stable job making rice noodles, they’ve refused to work in the area’s industrial zones.” VNS

 

 

GLOSSARY

Residents of Thủ Dương Village have to “score a century” in rice noodles every day.

A century means a hundred.

The small village, about 60km away from Ha Noi in Bắc Giang Province, began making the Mỳ Chũ (chũ rice noodles) about six decades ago.

A decade is a period of ten years.

Their skilled hands and the desire to preserve the traditional vocation have made Mỳ Chũ a popular product in the province and beyond.

Skilled, in this case, means being able to put something you have learned to do to good use.

Desire is the noun form of the verb “to desire”, which means “to want”. Your desires are your wants.

The arresting sight of numerous white rice noodle sheets being sundried on wooden panels greets those arriving in Thủ Dương. Learning its history makes the place even more interesting.

An arresting sight is a sight that catches your eye. In other words you cannot help but see it and notice it.

Numerous means many.

A native of neighbouring Hải Dương Province, Cả Tòng was brought to Bắc Giang by a Chinese man who’d adopted him when he was very small.

A native of Hải Dương Province is someone from that province.

Hải Dương Province and Bắc Giang Province are neighbouring provinces because they are next to one another.

To adopt a child means to take one on as your own if he, or she, is not one you have biologically produced.

It was his foster father who taught Cả Tòng the basic steps of making rice noodles, said 38-year-old Trần Đức Phước, Tong’s great grandson.

A foster father is a man who has adopted a child.

Because it had a distinct taste and was only sold in that market, people began calling it Mỳ Chũ, a name that has stuck to this day.

A distinct case is a clear taste that makes you able to tell it comes from that market.

It is then softened by soaking in water for up to three hours and later transferred to a grinder after adding fresh water.

To transfer something means to move it from one place to another place.

A grinder is a device used in the making of noodles.

“Chũ noodles are made purely with rice, a bit of water and oil, so choosing the right rice variety is very important,” said Nguyễn Thị Sâm, a 41-year-old woman whose family has been doing it for generations.

There are many different types of rice. Each type is a variety.

This variety of rice was very famous for its unique aroma, texture and stickiness, and perfectly suited to making good noodles,” he said.

If something is unique there is only one of it in the world.

An aroma is a special type of pleasant smell.

A texture is a feel that something has to it when you touch it.

Nowadays, as production of bao thai hồng rice declines and the number of households making the rice noodles increase, it has become difficult to use the original rice.

Declines” means “becomes less”.

“The quality of rice we use now must be as good as bao thai hồng rice,” Phước said, adding, “using good quality rice will not only make the noodles tastier and chewier, but will also increase the quantity.”

Quantity” is “amount”.

Sâm stressed that "besides rice, the water used is an important factor that decides the quality of Mỳ Chũ".

A factor that decides the quality is something that plays a part in the quality of the Mỳ Chũ.

The quality of Mỳ Chũ means its standard. In other words how good it is.

“We are so grateful for the natural water sources in the region. From the very beginning we have used well water, which is fresh, free from chemicals and has a lightly sweet taste,” she said.

To be grateful means to be thankful.

Natural water sources are natural places where water comes from, like rivers and springs rather than from tanks and reservoirs.

After removing the water from the rice flour mixture, the flour has to be spread out with meticulous care to avoid any lumps.

Meticulous means paying attention to detail.

In the past, a ladle was used to spread the flour on a cloth stretched over boiling water, but this step has been taken over by a machine that creates the rice noodle sheets.

A ladle is a type of spoon that is often used to serve soup.

Flat rice sheets are then spread out on mats to dry in the sun until they are totally dry and transparent

If something is transparent, you can see through it.

Previously, lard was used at this stage, but it has been replaced with vegetable oil because it is more popular and convenient,” Phước said.

Previously means in the past.

Lard is a type of animal fat.

Convenient means fitting in easily with your plans and not causing you to have to go to lots of trouble to get something done.

 “This noodle is made purely from rice and is free of any preservatives, so it is more nutritious and healthy than other instant noodles,” said Nam.

Preservatives are substances that are put into food to stop them from rotting.

If food is nutritious it is full of the good things your body needs.

Instant noodles are noodles that can be made immediately and without much preparation, usually by just boiling them.

Inclement weather is not just a major challenge standing in the way of the noodle makers expanding their markets, it can also hurt them.

Inclement weather is weather that is harsh and wet.

 “At times, some households have had to dispose of several dozen tonnes of noodles because they could not dry them,” said Nam.

To dispose of something means to get rid of it.

The village has proposed to provincial authorities that they help import modern drying equipment so that villagers could make noodles on rainy days, too, increasing productivity as well as income.

To import means to buy from another country.

Out of 333 households in the village, 287 are engaged in making rice noodles.

To be engaged with making rice noodles means to be busy doing so.

WORKSHEET

State whether the following sentences are true, or false:

  1. People in the United Kingdom want to buy Mỳ Chũ noodles.
  2. Unfinished noodles are sometimes thrown away when they do not dry in time.
  3. Noodle makers once used vegetable oil. Now they use lard.
  4.  Mỳ Chũ noodles gets its name from the Chũ Market.
  5. Different dishes use different sizes of Mỳ Chũ noodles.

ANSWERS:

 

© Duncan Guy/Learn the News/ Viet Nam News 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1. True; 2. True; 3. False; 4. True; 5. True.

 

 

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