Com Poi: a traditional dish of the Nguon people in Minh Hoa, Quang Binh

For a long time, Com Poi has become an indispensable part of the meals of the Nguon ethnic group living in Minh Hoa mountain district, Quang Binh province. This simple but delicate dish not only represents the culinary tradition of the local people but is also an identity, an experience not to be missed when anyone has the opportunity to visit the mountains, forests, and people here.

Learn about the process of making Com Poi and the beauty of Minh Hoa through this dish.

The origin of Com Poi

Com Poi is a traditional daily dish of the Nguon people, a Viet-Muong ethnic community living commonly in the mountainous area of Minh Hoa district, Quang Binh province.

Com Poi consists of two main ingredients: corn and cassava, which are pounded, mixed well, and steamed, creating a spongy and delicious product. The shape of Com Poi depends on the utensils used to steam the dish.

It may be difficult for anyone to know when Com Poi came to the world or who was the first person to make Com Poi. People only know this is an essential dish of the Nguon people in the mountains of Minh Hoa, Quang Binh, where the terrain is high and steep, making it difficult to grow other grains such as rice.

Since Com Poi is made from grains commonly grown in Minh Hoa, this dish is very filling. Therefore, no matter how hard the Nguon people in Minh Hoa work, they will always have enough energy from Com Poi to work hard from dawn to dusk on the high hills.

Com Poi is a delectable dish loved by many tourists who have dinner at the homes of local people in Tan Hoa village in Minh Hoa district, Quang Binh. Oxalis organizes this dinner activity to help visitors better understand the culture of the Tan Hoa region when participating in tours exploring the Tu Lan cave system.

Com Poi is a traditional dish of the Nguon people, a Viet-Muong ethnic community living in the mountainous area of Minh Hoa.

How is Com Poi made?

Com Poi and the image of a mortar and pestle

The elaborate process of making Com Poi is associated with the image of a mortar and pestle set that can be found in the house of every Nguon family in Minh Hoa, Quang Binh. Without a mortar and pestle, there is no Com Poi. The mortar is made from hard and heavy rosewood to ensure long-term use. The pestle is also made from hardwood, has two ends, and is nearly as long as an adult’s arm span.

Because Com Poi is a daily dish of the Nguon people, like plain white rice of the Kinh people in the lowlands, the saying “eat Poi - pound Poi” seems to have become a phrase heard every day, as familiar as the saying “dinner’s ready!” in families here.

The mortar and pestle used to make Com Poi.

Preparing main ingredients

It takes a lot of effort to make Com Poi. The two main ingredients used to make Com Poi include corn and cassava.

The first stage in making Com Poi starts with ripe golden corn kernels. After peeling, ripe corn must be washed to clean dirt and remove flat kernels, keeping only the fattest and tastiest corn. After washing and draining the corn, put it in a pot of boiling water and soak it for 3 hours or overnight until the corn kernels expand and become softer. After that, the corn kernels are put into a mortar and pounded finely.

The next step is to prepare cassava, a popular food in the mountainous areas of Minh Hoa, Quang Binh. After harvesting, fresh cassava roots are peeled and washed thoroughly with salt water to remove the excess starch. After being drained, cassava is grated with a grater, then wrapped in a cloth and squeezed to remove excess water.

Cassava is grated using a grater, then wrapped in a cloth and squeezed to remove excess water.

Preparing the main ingredients for Com Poi takes a lot of time, especially for families with many members and those who need to make Com Poi in large quantities.

Pounding cornmeal and cassava

After the two main ingredients of Com Poi have been prepared, which usually takes about the first one to two hours, the next stage and also the most critical stage, requiring a lot of time and effort, strength, and technique, is pounding Com Poi, also known as “tam Poi” in the Nguon language. Whether Com Poi is delicious or not, whether it is sticky and flavorful or not, depends on this stage. The finer the mixture, the tastier it is.

Two people usually do the pounding process together to reduce the time. Strangely enough, although pounding Com Poi is so difficult, it is mainly done by the woman, mother, or wife in the family. In the middle of the foggy night in the mountains of Minh Hoa, Quang Binh, the sound of pounding pestles echoes; the people here still work hard just to fill their empty stomachs after a day of hard work on the high hills.

Whether Com Poi is delicious or not, whether it is sticky and flavorful or not, depends on the stage of pounding cornmeal and cassava. The finer the mixture, the tastier it is.

Steaming Com Poi

After being pounded, cornmeal and cassava are pressed into a steaming pot made from fig tree wood to preserve the flavor of Com Poi. Banana leaves are wrapped tightly around the mouth of the pot to keep the heat inside so the dish cooks quickly. The pot is then placed over boiling water and steamed for an hour until the fragrant aroma is released.

And so, until the aroma of Com Poi spreads throughout the rooms and through the village streets, the Nguon people know it’s time to recharge their energy and enjoy the traditional flavors passed down to them for many generations.

Keep this in mind when making Com Poi

While making Com Poi, you need to pay attention to choosing the freshest ingredients to ensure the quality and flavor of this dish.

Corn and cassava must be fresh and harvested from the most recent crops. Each corn kernel must be carefully selected, and flat kernels must not remain. Cassava must also be well selected and thoroughly washed to remove any excess starch, then squeezed until the remaining is dry. Do not leave water in the cassava; otherwise, the cassava flour, after pounding, will not be smooth and cannot be mixed with the corn.

Pounding Poi is the most crucial step. Therefore, it is best to have two people do this step to ensure the final product is smooth and has the most flavor.

The process of steaming Com Poi also needs attention. Steaming Com Poi without covering it tightly with a banana leaf will take longer to cook. You should not steam it too long or too fast, but wait until all the ingredients are cooked evenly without being burned or mushy.

This way, after the Com Poi dish is done, it will have the most delicious flavor, true to the traditional taste made by the Nguon people in Minh Hoa.

Enjoying Com Poi and traditional values

Com Poi is often served with vegetable soup cooked with fish and snails. Com Poi can also be served with salt in pounded chili and lemon leaves to add flavor.

During family meals, especially multi-generational meals involving grandparents and parents, people often separate Com Poi, form them into small balls, and invite each other to express affection and start intimate conversations.

Com Poi is a pure specialty of the mountains and forests of Minh Hoa, Quang Binh. This dish not only reflects the long-standing and elaborate cooking art of the Nguon people but also traditional cultural values imbued with family affection.

Guests are welcome to watch the process of making Com Poi right in the house of local people in Minh Hoa.

Visit Minh Hoa and try Com Poi with Oxalis

Com Poi is a dish that cannot be missed when anyone sets foot in the mountainous land of Minh Hoa, Quang Binh. Oxalis Adventure is honored to accompany the Nguon people in Minh Hoa to promote the image of Com Poi to domestic and international tourists and bring this unique dish to more people.

In Oxalis’ adventure tours, there are 5 tours where visitors can experience Com Poi as part of the tour right at the homes of local people in Tan Hoa village, Minh Hoa district, Quang Binh. These tours include:

Enjoying a delicious meal with Com Poi being the spotlight after a long day trekking in the wild is everyone's favorite when coming to Minh Hoa.

If Com Poi can awaken your palate and make your stomach ask for a good meal, and if you are a true explorer who likes the feeling of adventure when passing through the forests, wading through the streams, or exploring unique caves in Minh Hoa, Quang Binh, Oxalis Adventure’s expedition tours are for you.

Accompany Oxalis to find the most suitable tour, and allow yourself to taste Com Poi - the flavor will surely stay in your mind long after the adventure concludes.

The Oxalis Experience.

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