Mountain spirits

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Visitors enjoy cần wine at a Muong residence

The northern mountainous region of Vietnam has garnered praise aplenty for its sometimes rugged, and sometimes lush natural beauty. Among the other attractions it has is a none-too-closely guarded secret – homemade wines – for it is in the hospitable nature of the region’s residents to welcome visitors to imbibe the best spirits in the house. This week, we present a sampling of some of the flavors from the slopes.

Dien Bien’s chít wine

Visitors to Dien Bien Province will have the chance to try one of the most famous wines in the northwestern region, chít wine. The wine is made from a type of milk-white chít worm (taken from chít trees growing on the region’s limestone mountains) and pure distilled rice wine. The brew is believed to promote good health, beautiful skin for women and increased sexual potency for men.

According to locals, the chít worm season normally lasts from April to July, when the worms eat the tree stems and grow up to 5 centimeters long.

These worms are put together with other restoratives such as medlar seeds, ashweed, dried jujube and lotus seeds in pure distilled rice liquor with an alcoholic concentration of 40 to 45 percent. The brewing process often takes about one year.

Chít wine is a gold-colored liquid which has a cool and a slightly bitter taste. It is usually served along with local delicacies like chicken baked in a clay pot, fried frogs, hotpot and thắng cố, a type of soup made with the viscera of horse, cow or buffalo.

Hoa Binh’s cần wine

Drinking rượu cần or cần wine (wine drunk out of a jar with pipes) is very popular among many minority groups in Vietnam, from the northern region down to the Central Highlands. However, the Muong people in Hoa Binh Province are said to produce one of the best cần wines in the country.

A jar of tasty cần wine is meticulously prepared. The necessary ingredients, including yeast and glutinous rice, are carefully prepared. Yeast is made from cinnamon leaves mixed with rice powder. Glutinous rice is soaked and then mixed with rice and bran. The rice is then steamed, cooled down and mixed with yeast powder before being placed in ceramic jars and covered carefully. After three or four days, the covers of the jars are partially opened and water poured up to its neck. Long bamboo straws are plugged into jars’ mouth and the enjoyment begins.

Cần wine is usually drunk in groups. To welcome guests, a Muong family will stretch out a mat in the middle of the room, place a jar of wine on it and invite guests to sit around it. After exchanging greetings, the host invites everyone to drink the wine. It is not unusual that this drinking session is accompanied by singing and dancing, not to mention boisterous conversation.

Lao Cai’s Sán Lùng wine

Sán Lùng is a commune of Bat Xat District in the northern mountainous province of Lao Cai. And its name is now synonymous with one of the best wines the people here are producing. Unlike other peoples in Vietnam who make wine from mature rice, the Mong people in Sán Lùng soak paddy in warm water until it sprouts then use the sprouts to make the special wine. The sprouts are steamed, cooled and mixed with yeast. The mixture is put in a jar for five to six days until it starts exuding a sweet smell.

Sán Lùng wine has a special taste that cannot be produced in other places. People attribute this taste to the water source here. The wine looks clear and somewhat green, and has a sweet smell and nutty taste. Locals will tell you that it goes best with baked buffalo or baked fish.

Reported by Mai Linh – Thanhnien News

Collected by Vietnam hotel