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Ruou Can – Flavor of the Northwest

Fri, 13 Mar 2015 . Last updated Thu, 25 Jun 2015 09:02

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Besides graceful dances of Muong young men and girls and gong culture, “Ruou Can” (wine drunk out of a jar through pipes) is an indispensable part of Muong people, a typical specialty of Hoa Binh province.

Hoa Binh – the gate of Northwestern Vietnam with breathtaking landscape endowed by nature, is home to Muong, Tay, Thai, H’Mong, Kinh and other ethnic groups. Muong people make up more than 60 percent of the province’s population and gather in Muong Bi, Muong Vang, Muong Thang and Muong Dong.  They live mainly in hamlets located at the foot of the mountains. Their life is still simple and close to nature. Muong people have a diverse and valuable source of folk culture, which fascinates many visitors to the province.

Apart from gong culture and “xoe” dance, making “ruou can” is a fine feature of Muong culture in Hoa Binh.  “Ruou can” is served mainly in funerals, wedding ceremonies, festivals, meetings. It is a symbol of the solidarity of Northwestern people in general and of Muong people in Hoa Binh in particular. People drink “ruou can” not to get drunk but to enhance their mutual love and the sense of community. Everyone in a Muong hamlet knows how to make “ruou can” because this kind of drink has been part of their life. We can easily see the local ethnic group’s culture in grand festivals when people gather around the fire and around the wine jar.

Everyone gathers to talk and to savor the natural taste of the wine, to enjoy the sounds of the gongs, the drums and the dance with sticks. In the firelight, the eyes of the mountainous young men and girls seem brighter and more expensive. The girls blush with shyness. For these people, “ruou can” is not simply a kind of drink but even a way to show love.

“Ruou Can” is made different in different areas. The kind of traditional wine made by Muong people in the Northwestern region is special because its ferment is made from a kind of leaf, which contributes to the nice taste of the wine. It takes Muong people a long time to go to the forest and find suitable kinds of leaf to make “ruou can”. By applying the experience passed down by their ancestors and their understanding of their roots – from the forest, into their life, they have created a unique specialty.

When the women prepare the ingredients, men are responsible for making pipes. In a Muong family, secrets of winemaking will be orally passed down to daughter-in-law because ancient Muong people did not have their own handwriting. It takes a lot of steps to have a good wine jar and the steps must be done by the Muong women who are hard-working, careful and meticulous. Therefore, Muong women become the preservers of the traditional recipe of “ruou can”.

Drinking “ruou can” is a special cultural activity of Muong ethnic people in Hoa Binh. According to Canh, before drinking the wine, people open the jar, pour some water into it before pushing the pipes into the jar. People may drink “ruou can” to congratulate bride and groom’s happiness, and wish them good luck. In a wine feast, people can sing and dance. In a funeral, “ruou can” is drunk to see the deceased person off. In the New Year festival or the “xuong dong” (starting a new crop) festival, wine is necessary to wish for an abundant crop.

A good wine jar is the one that does not lose its fragrance and nice taste even when people pour water in it several times. It is great to use pure water taken from the streams lying deep in the forest to mix the wine. The cool water creates a very special taste for the wine when it is blended with the ferment. The more people gather around the wine jar, the merrier the event will be. Time for the wine is measured using a buffalo horn which has been whittled. Then groups divided in odd or even number of members start drinking. The jar will be refilled when people drink up the wine.

Muong people think that an unopened jar belongs to the host of the house. However, once the pipes are stuck into the jar, it will be everyone’s. So both the host and the guests can decide how to drink it. The sweetness and the strength of the wine excite everyone and make them feel more united.


Source: VTC10 - NETVIET

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