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Dracontomelum - a beautiful and “tasty” legacy of Hanoi
Jenna Duong 16:13, 2021/04/18
Old dracontomelum or Sau trees give Hanoi a special present for their beauty and as a food.

Dracontomelum trees have been a part of Hanoi for a long time, beautifying the city, especially in April and May, as well as contributing an important ingredient for typical dishes.

When breeze blows, hundreds of leaves fall from the branch and fly in the air like an exotic rain of golden leaves. Photo: Hoang The Anh

Poetic picture in the foliage

Hanoi has special foliage seasons which are autumn and the time between spring and summer. It is when dracontomelum trees change their leaves, creating a poetic picture of the capital.

Dracontomelum is among popular trees planted for shading in Hanoi since the late 19th century. It can be found mostly in the streets of Tran Hung Dao, Phan Dinh Phung, Tran Phu, Dien Bien Phu, Ly Nam De, and around Hoan Kiem Lake in the center.

Hanoian's dailylife activities take place under the dracontomelum tree shades. Photo: Nguyen Anh Tuan

Old big dracontomelum trees with over a hundred years old and large shade have characterized Hanoi. Phan Dinh Phung, a street with the highest number of dracontomelum trees is considered the most beautiful street in the city. 

Only a few days before summer arrives in April, Hanoi suddenly changes its coat. It is brightened by the yellow dracontomelum leaves under the golden sunlight. 

The golden carper of the dracontomelum leaves. Photo: Nguyen Tuan Anh

When breeze blows, hundreds of leaves fall from the branch and fly in the air like an exotic rain of golden leaves. In fact, it rains very often this time and when it stops, dracontomelum leaves cover roofs and sidewalks, weaving beautiful yellow carpets of nature. 

Particularly, different from deciduous trees that become bare in their abscission, dracontomelum’s young green leaves grow while old yellow ones fall down.

As dracontomelum trees change their leaves, Hanoi turns to be a tranquil poetic town like in romantic movies. Photo: Nguyen Anh Tuan. 

Moreover, clusters of white little flowers also start to blossom, spreading its gentle fragrance around, before dropping together with old leaves. 

It seems that by shedding leaves, the trees are slowing the busy and bustling Hanoi a little bit and changed it into tranquil poetic town like in romantic movies, attracting many people coming to take a walk or do exercise and enjoy the nice view.

At the same time, others sipping their cup of coffee under these streets also enjoy the picturesque scene.

The 'rain' of golden leaves dracontomelum in Dang Tat street, Hanoi's down town. Photo: Nguyen Anh Tuan 

Furthermore, many young women put on ao dai (traditional dress) and come here for taking photos, adding more charm to the lovely scenery of Hanoi that impresses visitors and gives the nostalgia of it to those who used to live in the city.

The foliage season of dracontomelum is very short. When people are still enjoying it, it leaves unnoticed, making them miss it and look forward to the next season.

Delicious food and drink

After admiring the charming foliage season of dracontomelum, Hanoians are eager to enjoy its fruit. Skillful and creative local women have made tasty food with dracontomelum fruit.

The Dracontomelum juice. Photo: O Mai Chi

With its special sour flavor, dracontomelum is an important and irreplaceable ingredient for the preparation of typical dishes of the city such as simmered duck with dracontomelum, sweet and sour soup with rib or pork, sour braised meat, fish or shrimp, or sour soup of morning glory - a very popular dish of every family to cool down the heat in summer.   

Dracontomelum is favored so much that people try to preserve the fruits in cold storage which are only available in summer to use for the all year round. 

The simmered duck with Dracontomelum. Photo: Mon Ngon Da Nang

Thereby, dracontomelum juice is created from home-made syrup to enjoy with ice, making it a popular sweet and sour beverage of the local people, ideally to cool off in summer. 

Besides, dracontomelum fruits are also dried in the sunlight before being mixed with salt, sugar, and ginger, perfect for snacks, especially in winter. Dracontomelum dried fruits are among one of the typical foods of Hanoi, a popular gift for visitors to bring home. 

With the beautiful shaded roads, pretty carpets of leaves and flowers, and delicious specialties, dracontomelum contributes a legacy to the land of thousands of years old.

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