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When autumn comes, you may notice on a gentle breeze the pleasant scent of new rice as you walk along a quiet street of Ha Noi. Look across the street, and you’ll see a woman vendor shouldering a pole with two baskets covered with large lotus leaves. The young green rice (com) she is selling refreshes the air with countryside fragrance. What bliss after a hot humid and dusty summer

For centuries, com has been part of autumn in the Red River Delta, with the sound of pestles heard pounding young green rice day and night. Mothers present com in large lotus leaves to their children, who watch to make sure their shares are equal.Com is eaten fresh, a pinch at a time, so the gentle sweetness can penetrate. Persimmons and bananas add subtlety to the taste.

Even the kings and queens of the past enjoyed com. During the nineteenth century, residents of Vong Village in the Ha Noi suburbs offered com to the Nguyen kings. The royal capital was in Hue then, and trains and motorised vehicles were not yet available: poor peasants from northern Viet Nam walked ten days to deliver the delicacy. They devised a special method to keep com fresh and tasty. Using a shoulder pole, each porter carried a pair of bamboo baskets with a tin tray of thinly spread com in each basket. A small earthen stove” under the tray heated a vessel of water to create steam, which kept the com fresh.

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