A traditionally delicious dish
According to artisan Nguyen Duc Binh, the sausage making of Uoc Le Village (Tan Uoc Commune, Thanh Oai District, Ha Noi) appeared about 500 years ago. Legend said that in Mac dynasty, one of the royal concubines - a native villager returned the hometown. She built the gate of the village and taught the villagers how to make sausage.
Gio lua is known as Vietnamese sausage or Vietnamese ham. Sometimes, it is called as Vietnamese pork roll or Vietnamese pork meatloaf. Having various names, though, Vietnamese sausage is made from two basic ingredients pounded lean pork loin and very good fish sauce, wrapped in banana leaves and boiled. It is popular across the country as a fine and common dish.
Fish sauce and seasoning are added to the minced meat before the mixture is encased tightly in layers of banana leaves, which give the gio a unique taste. The fresh minced meat is well blended with the tartness and slight bitterness of the fresh banana leaves when they are boiled.
There are no official documents about the origin of pork pies in the village, yet according to the elderly, the craft appeared about hundreds of years ago. Currently, more than 90 per cent of village households still make sausage. The branch name has been developed throughout the country.
Decades ago, meat was scarce and only served on special occasions. On ancestor death anniversaries, for instance, the women of the family would prepare an elaborate set of dishes, among which xoi (steamed sticky rice), boiled chicken and a plate of neatly-placed gio slices were a must.
A special dish on a traditional Tet menu. (Photo:Vnexpress)
In the past time, the villagers made sausages by hands. They preserved their own secrets for the traditional dish. In the 1990s, Uoc Le Villagers have used machines to make gio, however, they have still tried their best to preserve the secrets for delicious dish. Gio is made from very simple ingredients but in fact it requires lots of experience to select the finest ingredients.
Firstly, pork must be fresh. The perfect meat is lean pork loin and it must be selected from freshly processed meat when it is still warm. Secondly, fish sauce must be very good fish sauce. Thirdly, banana leaves are the greenest and freshest ones. Making a delicious gio depends on the combination of fresh banana leaves and fresh meat. Many cooking experts have tried to cook gio into a steel cylinder instead of banana leaves. It does work but it fails to have unique infused fragrance. It is likely that there is no substitute for special fragrance of banana leaves. Lastly, craftsmen use other seasonings into the dish to enhance the local taste and flavor.
Gio is thought as a simple dish but it carries unique culinary features. From ingredients selection to raw mixture pounding to boiling process, steps require much more attention to detail to make a delicious dish. Made from just two basic and simple ingredients of pork and fish sauce, gio can serve as a single dish or goes well with any others all year long. Many food lovers fall in love with gio because of its diversity. In Viet Nam, there are many well-known gio cha makers. But, gourmets still choose gio cha which is made in Uoc Le Village. Because, at the village, traditional methods and techniques have passed through generations. It is a great culinary culture aiming to respect and retain the tradition of Vietnamese culinary art.
Currently, there are variants of gio including: cha (a mixture of minced pork deep fried with pepper or cinnamon) and gio bo (beef sausage). They are all eaten generally with rice, xoi (steamed sticky rice), banh cuon (steamed rice pancakes) or banh mi (Vietnamese baguette), etc.
People in our neighborhood alone can’t consume such large amounts of gio, so Uoc Le villagers have to migrate to other regions to sell their products. Now, Uoc Le people are present all over the country. They return on special occasions only.
The peak time for gio makers is in the lead up to Tet (Lunar New Year Festival). Their businesses are busy till the last day of the year. And only by the 30th of the 12th lunar month, Uoc Le villagers can travel to their home village to prepare for the biggest celebration of the year.
Tet is the time for family and friend reunions of those who live far from their home village. On these first days of the lunar new year, people gather, hold parties and talks about their work and life after a long hard-working year.
Uoc Le – An ancient village
Located in Tan Uoc Commune, Thanh Oai District, 30 kilometers far from the central of Ha Noi in the East, Uoc Le is a traditional trade village famous for its pork pies and sausages making profession.
The gate of Uoc Le Village. (photo:Vnexpress)
Uoc Le still has full features of an ancient village of northern origin, such as a small brick building curved bridges, ports and villages and the majestic surface built from the Mac dynasty.
Before the village entrance, there is an arched bridge of over 2 meters wide, 10 meters long, spanning a wide ditch. Previously, the ditch was a deep trench surrounding the village, with bamboo trees on the bank. The ditch and the bamboo trees created a high wall protecting the village from robbers. Later, the villagers opened many tracks to the field.
On the village gate, there is the wood board with the script "My Tuc Kha Phong" (good traditions). In 1880, Emperor Tu Duc went on an inspection tour in the north and bestowed this noble title on six villages of Ha Tay Province (part of Ha Noi today), including Uoc Le.
Uoc Le Village still has many ancient architectural works. Unlike other traditional villages, in Uoc Le village you still find a rustic scene of peace and quietness. Coming to Uoc Le, you have the opportunity to learn about the village’s traditional craft: making pork pies. It is not just a good dish, it also contains unique cultural characteristics which are associated with village’s history.