The French have their wine; the Japanese have sake and the Russians ward off their St. Petersburg summers with Vodka. But in northwestern Vietnam, the locals swear by “worm wine,” a delicacy prized for its supposed makeover and health properties.
The wine is made from chit worm and pure distilled rice liquor
Photo courtesy of Vietnamese Delicious
Streams of people flock to the remote mountainous corner of the country for a little taste of the unique brew which is believed to bring good health, beautiful skin for women and increased sexual potency for men.
Worm wine is made from a type of milk-white worm named brihaspa astrostigmella but known by Vietnamese as “chit worm” as the insects are commonly found on sorrel trees which grow on the region’s limestone mountains.
Chit worm season normally lasts from April to July when the worms eat sorrel stems and grow to 5 centimeters long, Vietnamese Delicious Magazine reported.
The milk-white insects are similar to the well known Chinese caterpillar fungus for their high levels of nutrition chemicals which can kill off cancer cells.
The worm is also used in dishes for improved health. Fried eggs mixed with chit worm supposedly help maternal women in need of a top up.
Dried chit worm mashed into powder is used to cure stunted growth or the bulging bellies of the too many malnourished children struggling to grow up there.
But the highly-nutritious insects can also be soaked in liquor made from fermented rice, cassava and corn to become “worm wine,” the wine that was once an offering to feudal kings.
The worms are put together with other restoratives, such as medlar seeds, ashweed, dried jujube and lotus seeds in pure distilled rice liquor with an alcoholic concentration of 40 to 45 percent. The brewing process often takes about one year.
Worm wine is a gold-colored liquid which has a cool and a slightly bitter taste. But that light taste has been responsible for knocking down more than a few men.
Different versions of worm wine can be found at local eateries in the northwestern provinces of Dien Bien, Son La as well as northeastern Lang Son Province and Sapa.
They are served along with local delicacies, such as chicken baked in clay, fried frogs, hot pot and “thang co,” a type of soup made from the viscera of cow, buffalo or goat.
But urbanites need not fear, or travel hundreds of kilometers for the brew as the liquor has now found its way into local pubs in big cities like Hanoi.
Duc, a pub owner in the capital, said worm wine was among the most ordered liquors in her pub.
“This one was made one year ago,” she said, pointing to a big bottle of yellow liquid with countless bodies of milk-white worms at the bottom. “It’s really sweet but can make you really drunk. Every customer here loves this type of wine.”