Come autumn and its 'com' time in Hanoi village
These days, farmers are up early in Me Tri Village to harvest young rice that is used to make com (pronounced like tome with "k"). It takes about 90 to 100 days after sowing to begin harvesting the rice.
Rice picked in this season is the best for making the beaten rice flakes because it is sweeter and more aromatic.
In the past, Me Tri villagers only planted one com rice crop a year in the eighth lunar month, but now, they have sufficient irrigation for planting an extra crop in May.
This com making mill, which belongs to Nguyen Thi Luoc, hires dozens of elderly women during the autumn season to pluck the young rice stalks.
The sticky rice used to make com is taken from young rice plants. Me Tri Village in Nam Tu Liem District and Vong Village in Cau Giay District are the most famous places in the north for making this autumn treat.
The grains are taken off the ears in the first step to making com. Most people in Me Tri village use threshing machines to do this. Only a few do this manually.
Women remove rice grains from the paddy flowers.
Luoc, 68, soaks the grains in water to remove impurities. The tailings, which float to the surface, are removed.
After removing imperfect grains, young sticky rice is roasted in a large pan over a steady fire from two to three hours until the seeds crack and give off an aroma.
The roasted rice is then pounded to ensure there is no husk left.
"With 56 years of experience, I have learnt that August's com is the best due to dry weather and cold morning dew, making it sweet and fragrant," said Luoc, whose family has made com for four generations.
Rice flakes are later wrapped in lotus leaves and sold at Luoc’s house for VND150,000 ($6.60) a kg.
Luoc said that from the age of 12, she used to follow her mother as the latter sold homemade com all over Hanoi.
"Now I'm old, I am not healthy enough to carry shoulder poles of com and walk around Hanoi’s streets, so I only sell them to acquaintances or wholesalers."
Hanoians see com as an expression of love, amity and veneration. Every autumn, children gift com to elders who place it on the family altar. The persimmon fruit seen in the photo is another autumn treat in Hanoi. Com is often had with ripe banana slices.