Located in northern Vietnam, Cao Bang is a mountainous province and it is most famous for the best “mien dong” (canna vermicelli), which is used throughout the country to make dishes related to “mien” (cellophane noodles). As the rhizomes of the canna are full of starch, it can be used like an alternative choice to replace steamed rice.
Let’s learn a bit about this popular noodle in Vietnam. “Mien” or cellophane noodles, also known as Vietnamese vermicelli or glass noodles, is a type of transparent noodle made from canna’s starch and water. Cellophane noodles are generally sold in dried form, which is then soaked to reconstitute for making soups, stir fried dishes, or spring rolls. They are called "cellophane noodles" or "glass noodles" because of their appearance when cooked, resembling cellophane, a clear material of a translucent light gray or brownish-gray color.
“I’ve tried so many sorts of “mien” from the country’s three regions, but the organic product from Phia Den of Nguyen Binh District is the tastiest. It has a sweet flavor and is soft but crispy and firm when cooked”, said chef Nguyen Thi Tam from Hanoi.
The area boasts cool and temperate climate year round and fertile land suitable for planting maize, cassava and particularly “cu dong rieng do” (red edible canna) which has the most aromatic flavor.
To make the “mien dong”, the makers choose the big and mature dong rieng roots, then clean them and grind them until they produce a white flour. The flour is then soaked in the mixture of hot and cold water until it becomes thick and sticky. It is then poured into a simple gadget with a row of holes that squirt the liquid out onto a moving bamboo frame. Finally, they are dried in the sun for several days.
Vietnamese use mien dong for many dishes, such as mien ga (chicken vermicelli), mien cua (crab vermicelli), mieng gan (goose vermicelli), mien luon (eel vermicelli) and many others. Most families fried mien with wood-ear fungus and mixed it with boiled chicken pieces, onion, lemon and mint. It can also be used to make nem ran (fried spring rolls).
Grew up in the countryside of Hanoi, I will never forget the taste of the dished cooked by my grandmother. The ingredients she used were very simple and contained no shrimps, beef, eels or seafood, but only mien dong, chicken egg, pork, carrots, garlic, celery, cooking oil, soy sauce, fish sauce, salt and pepper.
Before cooking, you should soak the mien in water, but only for 10 minutes. After that you should dip the noodles in the boiling water and then quickly soak them in cold water to keep them firm so that they do not stick together when frying. The last stage is to fry the pork and other ingredients until well done and then put the mien into a pan and fry for five minutes until they are firm and even crunchy. You should put cilantro-flavored herbs or laksa leaves (Vietnamese coriander) and pepper over the dish to make it tastier.
For many rural people, a bowl of vermicelli cooked with chicken, wood ears or fragrant mushroom is not simple a dish, it is a flavor of their homeland, bringing families closely together.
My grandmother said mien dong is a traditional Vietnamese medicine, it helps reduce weight, triglycerides and cholesterol. It was also good for diabetics. The root of the dong rieng is good medicine for tooth pain, hepatitis and ear infections.
You can try “mien” in different cities including Hanoi, Hue, Hoi An or Saigon. Incense Travel customizes Vietnam’s package tours that cover all highlights of Vietnam, unveiling the hidden charm of this ancient destination from food to natural beauties. To help our clients deeply understand Vietnamese culture, we offer many cultural activities such as Hanoi street food tour, dinner with a musician family, visit a home based water puppet performance and private cooking class at a local chef’s home…