Rice growing farmers are the only ones who truly understand when it is time to gather young grains to make Cốm, green rice flake. Then young rice grains are harvested, roasted and ground down to become green rice flake. They are put into a large firing pan under small flames and stirred slowly for a specific period of time. They are then poured into a rice mortar and slightly pounded with a wooden pestle, rythmically and at quick intervals until the husk is removed. Following this, the young rice is removed from the mortar and winnowed before being poured again into the mortar and the process repeated. This is then repeated exactly seven times so that all the husk is removed from the young sticky grains. If the pounding is done irregularly and in haste, or it is not repeated for the prescribed seven times, the green colour of the grains will disappear and be replaced by an unexpected brown colour.
That is a summary of green rice flake making process. How complicated it is, right? And the Hanoians enjoy green rice flake in many different ways, such as mixing green rice flake and chopped pork and frying in overdone oil, cooking it with refined sugar for longer preservation, or making sweetened porridge… Last, the ancestor of Nguyễn family created another interesting way – making green rice flake cake.
In Hanoi, green rice flake cake is widely sold at Hang Than street. This 300-metre-long street houses more than 30 green rice flake cake shops. The Nguyen Ninh trademark is the oldest and most popular brand for green rice flake cake. The name was established in 1865 by late Tran Thi Luan. There have been 5 generations of Nguyen Ninh making green rice flake cake so far, said Mrs Nguyen Thi Hiep, a fourth generation family member. As explained, Nguyen means origin, Ninh is called after Yen Ninh village which is now Yen Ninh street, near Hang Than street. Therefore, Nguyen Ninh green rice flake cake means the cake originated from Yen Ninh village.
Nguyen Ninh’s secret of making the cake is its pure ingredients without additives and mixture. Green rice flake cake is made of green rice flakes, green peas and sugar. Green rice flakes must be from Vong and Lu villages (in the past) or from rice land of Thai Binh (at present) and green peas are carefully selected in outskirts of Hanoi. As tasting a green rice flake cake, especially made by Nguyen Ninh, you can experience the full flavour of simple villages, a very different and typical Hanoi speciality.
Visiting Nguyen Ninh shop at 11 Hang Than street and enjoy this purely pastoral gift, right.