Heart of Glass

(No.2, Vol.8,Apr-May Vietnam Heritage Magazine)

Photo: Lai Dien Dam

Glass noodles are the beloved tradecraft in ancient northern town

Located about 20 km from the center of Hanoi, Cu Da Village of Thanh Oai District of Hanoi is famous for a well preserved unique cultural space with many ancient houses typical of Viet architecture of the Northern Delta. But Cu Da is also famous for glass noodles made and traded by about 200 of its villagers. The elders of Cu Da say that the trade of canna glass noodles came into practice in the village about seventy years ago.

Photo: Phan Lac Dung

Photo: Lai Dien Dam

According to the Dept of Economics of Quoc Oai District, on average, every day, Cu Da sells 15 to 18 tons of glass noodles to other provinces and cities. Before New Year’s and during the wedding season, the amount can reach 19-25 tons. During peak seasons, village life becomes hectic because of the increased amount of noodle production and transportation and the increased numbers of traders that come and go.
The canna root is crushed and steeped in water to let the starch deposit at the bottom. The starch is then mixed with a certain amount of the same starch, which has already soaked in boiled water, called cooked starch, in 10kg to 1kg proportion, to make a viscid, spreadable mixture.
The mixture is then scooped and spread on a piece of cloth stretched over a large pot, 1m in diameter, of boiling water. The heat of the steam quickly cooks the 1mm thick layer of starch, and the sheet is taken away to cool. It is then cut into thin threads and put out to dry under the sun.
As all the glass noodles made in Cu Da are dried this way, the courtyards and village roads are colored white or yellowish. Those are the typical colors of Cu Da glass noodles, which possess many other good qualities such as good taste and flavor, smoothness, crispiness, and most importantly, they don’t turn into gruel when overcooked.

Glass noodles are a main material for many popular dishes in the North of Vietnam. It is usually soaked in boiled water before being used with many kinds of broths and stews cooked with meats and seafood such as chicken, duck, eels, and crabs. The dish would have a double name, which includes glass noodles and the meat or seafood accompanying it. These dishes are always present in New Year’s and national celebrations, weddings and ancestral commemorations.in rural North of Vietnam. Today in many big cities in the South of Vietnam such as Saigon, Danang, Nha Trang and Vung Tau … glass noodles dishes have become quite popular.

Text by Khanh Le
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