For Hanoians, cốm is a mindful present, green, soft young rice wrapped in a lotus leaf, tied with a straw is seen as an identity of Ha Noi. Best cốm is in mid-Autumn, in such a time, the rice is quintessence of “earth of heavens”.
Cốm is not to be eaten to our fulls what a thing it is. In coldish days, we try cốm and eat slowly to enjoy its taste. Best cốm must be made of best sticky rice or “nếp hoa vàng” scented with “me” leaves or unscented cốm, but scented cốm is a rarity. There are many villages to make cốm but beat-known is cốm made by Vòng villagers (in Dịch Vọng commune, Từ Liêm district) whose life is closely-linked to farming and cốm-making , a job that costs strength and efforts.
Normally, ten days before harvest, rice is collected and remember when it’s neither too ripe nor too green. Rice is brought home then fried and pounded how to make it fine and soft. In Autumnal afternoons if you chance to come to the villages you will feel the scent in the air and the merry sound of rice-pounding.
Hanoians also make cốm cakes, cốm sweet-soup or cốm fried with eggs. Cốm cakes are more tasty with green peas. Cốm cakes and su sê cakes are a must in wedding ceremonies in Hà Nội. Famous is cốm cakes by Nguyên Ninh (Hàng Than street) producers. Cốm sweet-soup or chè cốm is eaten with white sugar and “grapefruit flower scent” is unforgettable.
Besides flat cốm, there are inflated cốm. It’s not so tasty as flat cốm, but it sounds interesting. Hà Nội Autumn is synonymous with milk-flowers and green rice. Hanoians living away from Hà Nội always miss such a natural scent of green rice.
Green-rice can be purchased right in Vòng village or from street-vendors and it costs only 50.000 – 80.000 per kilo.