I was feeling great after visiting Cai Rang Floating Market in the Mekong Delta of Vietnam, so I didn’t really care where we were going next as our boat chugged along the Mekong River. Before long, we pulled up at a seemingly random makeshift jetty and were off walking along an alley, through someone’s little restaurant, out onto the street, under a bridge and along a muddy track before I realised where we were actually going. We were visiting a rice noodle factory.
Following along behind the rest of the group, I found myself staring at a machine full of a milky white liquid, where a shirtless guy was lifting huge blocks of concrete around to stack on top of each other. I have no idea what part of the process the concrete blocks play, but the machine itself was making the mixture for the rice noodles.
Next to this, two people were finishing off the rice noodle process, but I’ll go back to this later so that it makes a little more sense.
In the next room, several people were working fully clothed from head to toe despite it being a furnace. This is where they make the rice “sheets” that end up getting turned into the noodles. The process involves two people. One spreads the mixture out on a circular “fry pan” like a crepe, while the other kind of peels it off by wrapping it around a bamboo tool which seems to be made specifically for this process. The process is continuous and runs so smoothly and efficiently that you can tell that these people are quite skilled and practiced at what they do. There seems to be a real knack to it.
From here, the sheets are taken outside and spread out on bamboo platforms to dry in the sun. Once they are ready, the sheets feel kind of rubbery, I guess like a giant uncooked noodle.
This takes me back to the finishing process, where the rubbery sheets are put through a cutting machine by one person and the resulting noodles collected by another. This is another perfectly smooth and continuous process. I would never be able to keep up with it.
So there you have it. That’s how they make rice noodles in the Mekong Delta. Suddenly I feel like some noodle soup!