Keep the spirit of Phu Le Liquor yeast, Vietnam

Keep the spirit of Phu Le Liquor yeast, Vietnam

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Due to proper soil, most of the fields in Ba Tri, Ben Tre are sticky rice (one crop). Sticky rice helps to form famous craft villages such as glutinous rice chupatty in Phu Ngai (Ba Tri), Son Doc (Giong Trom), coconut cake in Giong Luong (Thanh Phu), cylindric glutinous rice cake in Giao Hoa (Chau Thanh) and wine village in Phu Le.
By the time of famine in 1978, sticky rice became scarce. Today, virtually no one in Ba Tri grows sticky rice. However, according to Mr. Nguyen Thanh Hieu, vice chairman of Phu Le National Committee Front – people still specialize in wine brewery because “the best alcohol yeast recipe is still alive.
Delicious by “men” (“men” means yeast in Vietnamese), scented by “ hồ” (“hồ” means a mixture to make yeast for brewing wine)

Follow Mr.Hieu’s instructions, we meet Mr. Ba Van – one of very few people who still keep all esoteric medicinal recipe for making yeast through the generations in Phu Le.

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Mr.Ba Van, 76 years old, living in hamlet 1, is the last person in a famous wine brewery family. He knew how to ferment and watch over the fire since he was 10. He explains that the wine in Phu Le has good taste because it is combined from 2 kinds of special ferment called “yeast” and “hồ”. These remedies were passed to him by his father. A mixture of 33 Chinese medicinal herbs and 5 Vietnamese ones is determined in a fix amount, yet it can be adjusted depending on the weather and one’s experience.

The remedies include essential matter to create aromatic, spicy and hot flavour. Especially,persicaria, pepper, basella alba, galangal and chilli are indispensable. Actually, galangal and chili are “additions” afterward, they create characteristic aroma of Phu Le wine. The herbs are pureed, mixed with brown rice flour, kneaded with bran, rolled into balls and dried out to make “hồ men”. Sticky rice is cooked, then mixed with “hồ men” and kept in a jar for 7 days before coming to a big pot to distil. They use rice husk to set fire and keep it at equable temperature so that the wine is not burnt.

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This “hồ men” remedy mixes withwith 18 liters of sticky rice, then put in distilary, we can get 9 liters of pure fermented sticky rice from 40 to 62 degrees. Mr.Ba Van said that using exact sticky rice (one crop), along with good “hồ men” and good wether will give wondeful taste for the wine. “Our ancestors told us ‘Good “men” gives much wine, good “hồ” gives sweet-smelling’ “- he said.

Only the skilled experts know the secret of making “hồ men” to give wine an excellent taste. Mr.Muoi in hamlet 2, Phu Le is one of them. Basically, when fermented glutinous rice is absorbed yeast, bubbles up and settles down in the bottom of the pot, it tastes rather acrid, not sweet.

Mr.Muoi his own can smell the aroma of fermented glutinous rice and come to the conclusion if this batch gain or failure .”How to determine the formula? Only one way is to try and try, keep trying until the wine is satisfactory.This is the tip of… the nose,” he revealed.

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According to Mr.Muoi, material used for making wine is the most delicious sticky rice, not polished; the more glutinous the rice is, the better the taste after cooking is. He said finding a suitable sticky rice to make good wine is more and more difficult. Currently, there is only 8-10% glutinous rice area in the South of Vietnam, mostly in Phu Tan (An Giang), Thu Thua (Long An).

A large number of sticky rice in the market is from Thailand. Although the spillway Ba Lai and irrigation system supplied fresh water for the fields, but sticky rice areais not proportionate to 33.500ha rice fields of Ba Tri district.

According to Mr. Dao Cong Van- vice chairman of Phu Le People’s Commitee, there are 134 households living by brewing wine. Two thirds of these firms provide their products for Phu Le Wine Joint-stock Company. The commune also establish Phu Le liquor production craft society.

Closed manufacturing process follows the mode: companies provide materials and “hồ men”, members brew wine with the same quality as the others, the enterprise will underwrite all of the products’ concentration, impurities and bottling. However, Mr. Tran Anh Thuy- director of Phu Le Wine J.S.C thinks that building a brand-name and geographical indication for traditional Phu Le wine needs a lot of time and effort.

There should be an association among the sticky ricefields in Chau Thanh, Long An and Tien Giang. We can choose the pure seed rice OM88 having origin protection from Tam Cong, Tam Vu and preserve the brewing method with traditional yeast and materials as Phu Le Wine J.S.C’s. These actions may help to build indications of Phu Le wine.

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/// Written by Hiếu Thảo (lược dịch), Vietnam