In the afternoon of February tenth 2019, I arrived in Ninh Binh Station after two and a half hour of train ride from Hanoi. Ninh Binh is a small city located south of Hanoi in one of the Red River delta areas. Red River in Vietnamese is Hồng Hà or Sông Cái, and in Chinese is Yuan River. This river, which stretches more than one thousand kilometres, flows from the highlands of Yunnan, China, then splits Vietnam and flows toward the Tonkin Bay.
After dismounting the train, I rented a motorcycle right in front of the station. My stomach then started to feel empty. The day was still young, so before going to the lodge in the Tam Coc area, I wanted to look for lunch first. Different from Hanoi, which had restaurants and merchants everywhere, Ninh Binh had very few places to eat. After travelling a few kilometres from the station, I finally found a restaurant that seemed quite lively. I decided to eat here; a restaurant that served fried rice a la Vietnam, Com Rang. A couple of families were dining here. Their conversation seemed very warm.
Like I always do while on this research, I turn my recorder while I waited for my food. Vietnam fried rice is not as soggy as Chinese fried rice. It was dry, but was very tasteful. It is usually eaten with pork or beef. It is perfect for when you are hungry in the afternoon.
Other than the taste of food, the sound here in Com Rang restaurant is also very interesting, especially the sound of frying pan being scraped while the cook is mixing all the ingredients. It reminded me of the Pad Thai in Thailand, or Magelangan from Java. In this recording, you can hear the sound of spatula and pan, which both are made of metal, clashing each other. It sounded very percussion like, and with the accompaniment of flames produced by the stove. There is also a man cutting meat on top of a wooden chopping board. A family had a conversation while waiting for their food, although of course I did not understand what they were saying. Behind me was a television showing the daily news.
I do not know why, but the sound and food felt very Southeast Asian to me. When hearing this recording again, I get reminded of the Com Rang.