Last update: 09:00 | 15/11/2017
VietNamNet Bridge – Trung Khanh chestnuts are one of the nation’s tastiest and meatiest fruits. They have won a following among locals and foreigners.
Yummy: Chestnuts stewed with pork leg is often prepared to welcome visitors.
The trees have existed in Trung Khanh District, about 62km from Cao Bang City, for thousands of years, said 98-year-old Ta Van Nam.
Nam said his ancestors had grown the trees and the job had been handed down through the generations.
“Thanks to the cool climate and favourable land, Trung Khanh chestnuts are well known far and wide,” Nam said, noting that apart from boiling and frying them, Cao Bang housewives used them as the main ingredient to cook many dishes, such as chestnut stewed with pork leg, chestnut pudding, chestnut porridge and particularly chestnut mixed with com (young sticky rice) made from Pi Pat sticky rice - a special rice planted by Tay ethnic people, which is very soft and fragrant.
Chan gio ham hat de (Chestnut stewed with pork leg)
Nam’s wife Nong Thi Tham cooks the food well. She said she had to wake up early in the morning to go to the market to buy a fresh pork leg about 1.5kg.
The pork leg must be burned over fire to clear all the hairs, then cut into pieces and soaked with spices such as fish sauce, pepper, a little sugar and chili for two hours, before being stewed with carrots and chestnuts.
Ripe: The Trung Khanh chestnut, an ancient specialty of Cao Bang. Photos dulichcaobang.com
The chestnuts should be boiled for half an hour then taken off their covers and cut into two parts, said Tham.
“I have to stew the food over light fire for an hour until the fragrance is flying out. The dish should be eaten hot when it is more tasty and delicious,” said Tham.
She said the dish was often cooked to welcome guests and for big parties, such as a death anniversary and for Tet holiday.
“I often cook the dish as a gift to my two children’s in-law families in Ha Noi during the chestnut seasons in the ninth and tenth lunar months. They said they like the food so much,” said Tham.
Com hat de (chestnut mixed with com)
Different from young sticky rice in famous Vong Village in Ha Noi, the com in Cao Bang is made from a special sticky rice named Pi Pat, which agriculturists say is high quality compared with other sticky rice grown in the north.
Fruitful: Trung Khanh chestnuts are available in Cao Bang market this lunar month.
Tham said the com is ground in a wooden mortar shaped like a boat by young Tay couples, who often sing Tay ethnic songs called sli while doing the work.
“Our villagers, particularly children are very cheerful running around the mortar, laughing and talking loudly. Our entire village enjoys the com fragrance,” said Tham.
She said the com mixed with chestnut powder will make an unforgettable dish.
Nguyen Van Hien and his wife Pham Thi Thuan, who recently visited Trung Khanh, said they heard about the food but tasting it on the spot was beyond imagination.
“We enjoyed the dish so much. It is the quintescence of Cao Bang itself and our country as well,” said Hien.
He said he met a group of Danish visitors who agreed that the Trung Khanh chestnut was bigger and much more fragrant compared with other chestnuts. “It should be exported to the world,” he said.
Through the grind: Tay people in Cao Bang make com (young sticky rice).
Herbalist Nguyen Van Vinh from the National Hospital of Traditional Medicine said chestnuts were good for human health. They are rich in cellulose, carbondydrates, vitamins, minerals and kali.
Vinh said cellulose helped to stabilise glucose, reduce cholesterol and constipation. He warned however that those with stomachache should not eat many chestnuts because it produced acid in the stomach, causing indigestion.
Rich kali in the nuts helped stabilise cardiovascular system and hypertension, while vitamins helped improve brain function and prevent breast cancer, said Vinh.
“Chestnut porridge is very good for pregnant and women who have recently given birth." he said.
Together with Tan Cuong Tea of Thai Nguyen, anise of Lang Son and several others, Trung Khanh chestnut has been chosen as top 10 well-known natural specialties in the country by the Viet Nam Record Organisation since 2012.
By Ha Nguyen