Rice milling and making rice noodles
On the way back to Saigon (where I’m writing this), we stopped at Cai Rang floating market, where all kinds of fruit and vegetables are sold. The traders advertise their wares by spearing them on poles on the roofs of their boats – like huge kebabs, really.
We went, too, to a rice husking mill and noodle ‘factory’. The husking machine was pretty amazing: it was made almost entirely from wood, and looked like something dreamed up by Heath Robinson.
As for the ‘noodle’ factory? Well, as I understand it, they make noodles by boiling the rice in water until it’s no longer individual grains, but thick, gloopy liquid. The liquid is spread over these massive metal discs and then, as it’s drying, it’s cut into narrow strips – ie noodles! (Note to self, remember this tip for next time I over-cook rice!)
We also had a four-hour boat trip along a big river, which took us past an awful lot of kids shouting “Hello!” and waving at us from the bank. Some Viet Kieu (overseas Vietnamese) on the trip reckon the kids are taught in school to wave at tourists because it’s good for the economy, but it was all good fun all the same.