Vegan Cao Lầu - The Legendary Cuisine of Hội An, Central Âu Lạc (Vietnam) (In Aulacese)    
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Today’s A Journey through Aesthetic Realms will be presented in Aulacese (Vietnamese), with subtitles in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, German, Hungarian, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Mongolian, Persian, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish.

Pensive refrain of Hội An ancient town Revealing the footprints of passing years Pealings of temple bell resonate thoughtfully Glorious traces evanesce with time Pensive refrains of Hội An’s human love Flowery wooden shoes, romantic lanterns Moon touches the graceful Hoài River My love lost in the pensive refrains.

Night of Hội An I find myself again, wandering about Lullabies of my cradle time Return me to the days long ago Oh, Hội An! Pagoda bridge stands contemplating for years Loving someone, Cửa Đợi Beach is still in waiting How I cherish the pensive refrain of the ancient town Oh, pensive refrains of Hội An. How I cherish the pensive refrain of the ancient town Oh, pensive refrains of Hội An.

Pensive refrain of Hội An ancient town Revealing the footprints of passing years Pealings of temple bell resonate thoughtfully Glorious traces evanesce with time Pensive refrains of Hội An’s human love Flowery wooden shoes, romantic lanterns Moon touches the graceful Hoài River My love lost in the pensive refrains. Oh, pensive refrains of Hội An.

You’ve just enjoyed the song “Pensive Refrain of Hội An,” written by composer Trần Ái Nghĩa, with vocals by Thanh Trà and dance accompaniment by our vegan Association members. The song has received an award from the Vietnamese Composers' Association in 2003. “Pensive Refrain of Hội An” reminisces about the ancient town in Quảng Nam Province, central Âu Lạc.

Hội An was built in the 16th century and has remained mostly intact till this day. Hội An ancient town was recognized as a World Cultural Heritage by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 1999. It is representative of a traditional Asian harbor town which has been perfectly preserved.

Âu Lạc, a beautiful country situated in Southeast Asia, with sub-tropical climate, is graced by Mother Nature with green plants and sweet fruits, all redolent and delectable throughout the four seasons. Depending on the weather conditions and culinary preferences of each region, the local people have skillfully created many savory dishes.

In our program about Aulacese traditional cuisine, we are pleased to introduce the specialty foods of a land known for its freshness and abundance. Indeed, at a public lecture in the United States in March 1991, Supreme Master Ching Hai especially praised the rich natural resources of Âu Lạc.

“Âu Lạc is among the most enriched nations in this world: there are mines of gold, silver, uranium, lead, zinc, and tin. Âu Lạc has everything. There are morals, piety, harmony, and four thousands years of civilization. It is one of the most ancient countries in the world. Our land has always had abundant foods and fruits.

I remember when I was a student there, there was a great variety of fruits when I went to Bình Dương and Long Thành. And rice! Aulacese indigenous rice, called Tám Thơm, is the most famous in Southeast Asia and in the world. There are also other products, dried or fresh, that are most popular in the world.”

We are deeply grateful to Supreme Master Ching Hai for her treasured words and boundless grace for the nation and people of peace-loving Âu Lạc.

When the ancient town of Hội An in central Âu Lạc is mentioned, people would think of glistening colored lanterns; pensive, moss-covered houses where women in old-style dresses are concentrating in their work; and sidewalks, where silver-haired elders contemplating over a game of chess. Hội An, however, is not only attractive due to its romantic and legendary charm, but also known for its famous cuisine – namely, cao lầu. We invite you to visit Hội An in today’s program to find out more about this specialty food.

For you, dear!

Ah, beautiful kite! Thank you.

Oh, this mango is bruised already!

Have this good mango! I’ll eat the other one.

I’ve asked many people in our native village, but until now, no one knows where brother Tân is.

It’s so beautiful, honey!

Who knows when we will visit Hội An again? Just buy what you like, so you won’t regret when you go home.

Lanterns have long become a cultural element that helps set the mood of Hội An Ancient Town. Lanterns have simple decoration, yet still appear elegant and attractive. Materials to make lanterns consist mainly of bamboo, brocade, and synthetic silk.

Bamboos to create lantern frames are aged bamboos soaked in saline water. To complete a lantern, the wood must be lathed, varnished and fringes added. The soft light from candles makes the ancient architectural lines of Hội An appear more lively, shimmery, and mythical.

If only Ngọc Trân wasn’t too busy to go with us, that’d be a lot of fun!

Ah, here it is!

You meant this veg restaurant?

That’s right! I heard that this place makes excellent vegan cao lầu.

O Tân! Please take the cao lầu out to the guests for me. I have to go home for some urgent matter.

Yes, sure!

You... Is that you, brother Tân? Brother Tân! Do you still remember me? It’s Hoài!

Is that brother Tân that you often talked about?

Are you not happy to see me again?

My clothes are not very clean.

The name “cao lầu” came from the phrase “delicacy.” “Lầu” means “castle,” referring to an elegant, multi-storied house, because in the olden days, the wealthy often went to the upstairs of luxurious restaurants to enjoy cao lầu.

So, after my family moved to another province, you drifted to Hội An?

Yes, it’s been 16 years. This is my place!

Please be seated. (Yes.)

Brother Tân should open his own restaurant since he can make cao lầu that good!

But how did you learn to make cao lầu so good?

A few months after I arrived in Hội An, my mother passed away. An elder took pity on me, an orphan, and adopted me. He passed on already. But it’s he who taught me how to make the traditional cao lầu dish.

I think it’s the noodles that make cao lầu special.

Yes, that’s right.

The essence of the cao lầu dish is its noodles. Cao lầu noodles are square, big, and ivory-white. The making of tasty cao lầu noodles which are crispy, soft and aromatic, requires a very meticulous process.

Rice must be neither old nor new, so that cao lầu noodles are not too dry or too soft. Soak rice in ash solution for about 6 hours, then grind it into flour. In the past, the water used to grind rice must be taken from Bá Lễ well. This well offered fresh water without alum, so that the cao lầu noodles wouldn’t be sour. After grinding the rice, gently pour the water to obtain solid rice flour, then cook it. Add the ash solution and finest flour.

Put that rice flour in a pot to steam. Knead and roll it into thin pieces. Cut into long strings and steam them. When cooked, the noodles have a light yellow appearance. From that flour, people cut into square thin pieces, dry, then fry them to eat in the cao lầu dish. Also, dehydrated cao lầu noodles can be kept long. Just soak them in warm water for 2 hours, then steam them, and the noodles are ready for use.

Your vegetable garden is thriving, brother Tân!

I grow these vegetables to eat with cao lầu. Tomorrow, I’ll take you both for a visit to Trà Quế vegetable village. Is that the famous vegetable village in the central region?

That’s right.

Fresh herbs and vegetables make the cao lầu dish especially flavorful. Hội An people often use fresh vegetables grown in Trà Quế Village. This village is along the bank of the Thu Bồn River, where the land is fertile, with a rich source of water, so vegetables are very lush and delicious. Vegetables eaten with cao lầu consist of spearmint, basil, bitter herbs, lettuce, heartleaf, and young mustard greens.

Brother Tân!

Yes, brother?

Come live with us, please. I’ve planned it all. I’ll open a restaurant near my house for you to make vegan cao lầu.

Oh, talking of cao lầu makes me feel so hungry! Anyone feels like eating?

Don’t eat out. Let’s go home; I’ll make cao lầu for the two of you.

That’s the best! The main ingredient in cao lầu is char siew. Vegan char siew is made from gluten. Gluten is flashed-fried, then marinated with soy sauce, dried onion, finely chopped garlic, sugar, vegan seasoning, annatto, and five-spice powder. Stir-fry onion and garlic with cooking oil until they turn golden, then put the gluten in. Add spices. To make char siew sauce, soften dried mushrooms in water, then marinate it with finely chopped onion, sugar, vegan seasoning, pepper, and five-spice powder.

Stir-fry onion until it becomes fragrant. Add five-spice powder, soy sauce, and add other spices. Add marinated mushrooms. Stir evenly, then boil. Next, fry vegan “fat” to eat with cao lầu. When eating, separate the cao lầu noodles, dip them briefly in boiling water to make them softer and pliable. Add some seasonings to this water so the noodles can taste sweeter. Parboil bean sprouts, then put them first in the bowl. Add vegetables and noodles next.

Toppings are vegan char siew, vegan “sausages,” and vegan “fat”. Pour some char siew sauce around the bowl. Add lemon and chili pepper. Fresh vegetables used with cao lầu are those of small stems but richly aromatic such as bitter herbs, basil, and young mustard greens. Cao lầu is a cold dish with little liquid. Before eating cao lầu, mix it well for savory flavors.

How is Ngọc Trân doing? How many children does she have now?

She’s a teacher. She’s not married yet, so there’s no children. I remember you used to spoil her a lot before. The kite that took you a week of hard work to make, but...

May I have that kite?

Where’s your kite? Why don’t you use it?

Here, take this, dear. Don’t cry, I love you!

Brother Tân, do you ever think of getting married? Honestly, what do you think of Ngọc Trân?

It’s been 16 years, life changes... I don’t know if Ngọc Trân still...

What’s matter? (Well...)

Tân! (Ngọc Trân!)

To truly enjoy vegan cao lầu, perhaps nowhere is it better than in Hội An. Picking up a chopstickful of cao lầu is like experiencing a waft of the ancient town’s ambience, the gentle tone of midday, and of pedicabs carrying visitors to sightsee the Thu Bồn River. Suddenly, the simple cao lầu seems to contain within it all the depth and tranquility of Hội An Ancient Town.

Thank you for watching our program featuring vegan cao lầu. Please tune in to Supreme Master Television for more Aulacese (Vietnamese) specialty and traditional cuisines in the future. Coming up is Vegetarianism: The Noble Way of Living, after Noteworthy News. So long for now.
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