A sweet dessert made from white yam and kudzu powder is an ideal option for summer. Photo dulichchuahuong.com
Hương Pagoda festival attracts thousands of people and afterwards many return home carrying with them củ mài (white yam), a local specialty that's as tasty as it is healthy.
A popular dish in some northern and central provinces such as Lào Cai, Yên Bái, Thanh Hóa, Nghệ An and Hà Tĩnh, the place to real find the best yams is in the forest near the pagoda complex.
Here, Hương Sơn Commune in Mỹ Đức District, is where you will find Hà Nội's most famous yams.
At first glance, white yams (Dioscorea persimilis) looks like cassava and sweet potatoes but much bigger. Its skin is rough and the texture inside has an ivory white. People can grow white yams in their gardens, but if you are looking for top quality, then head to the hills.
“People harvest the white yam in spring and early summer, the best time to have the roots at highest nutrition and best taste,” said herbalist Tô Ấn Trà.
“The roots contain mostly starch and can use the fresh or dry them to use in the future.
“In traditional medicine, it’s called hoài sơn, people clean the roots, cut them into slices and dry them,” he said.
“It’s a popular medical specialty which helps soothe the stomach and can help people with diabetes.
"People also use it to cook sweet soups for dessert and a broth with pig bones. These dishes help cool bodies.”
The easiest way to cook white yam is boiling it. The boiled roots can be served with salty sesame seeds.
White yams combined with dried apples and longan make a sweet soup for cooling. — Photo dulichchuahuong.com
To cook the sweet dessert, people cut the roots into pieces and soak them in salt water to eliminate the sap and maintain the white colour of the dish. The white yam is cooked well with kudzu powder and honey. It’s decorated with slices of boiled white yam.
Pilgrims have to walk and climb up to the mountain to reach the pagodas of Hương Sơn Commune. The sweet and scented dessert helps them overcome tiredness on the way down.
Apart from the sweet soup, Trần Văn Dụng also sells white yam crackers. He used a machine with different moulds to make crackers in different shapes like tubes, pyramids and rolls. The white yam powder is mixed with brown sugar and cereals, a wonderful snacks for both adults and children.
After the trip, people also buy the roots to take home to cook themselves. The warm broth is topped with spring onions and can be served with rice.
And at VNĐ100,000-120,000 (US$4-5) per kilo, it is not just a good ingredient but a very affordable one as well. — VNS
White yams (right corner) are boiled with other sweet potatoes and eggs to serve tourists to Hương Pagoda Complex. — VNS Photo Đoàn Tùng