Hundreds of colorful O mai, such as glossy brown, magenta, green and light yellow, are full of diverse flavours that cannot be mixed together. Each flavour exudes the essence of its own. Just smelling fleetingly, customers can feel drunk with the taste of o mai at the top of their tounge. Nobody knows how long O mai has existed; they just know this folk nosh has become a very lovely ‘adiction’ for Hanoi people. One comes here not only to buy indispensable Tet gifts but also to look for that consumately familiar sour and sweet flavour – the flavour of O mai.
Someone thinks that O mai of Hanoi is as engaging and profound as a urban girl. No matter where O mai is put for sale, either hiding behind the glass-case of big stores or roaming streets on idyllic roaming vendors, people are still grown strongly attached to that sweet taste. O mai is traditionally sour and salted. To satisfy prissy customers, nowadays, O mai makers make hundreds of diverse flavours by reducing salt then adding sweetness from sugar, licorice or fresh ginger. There are sour O mai, sweet O mai and a mix of sour, spicy, salted, and sweet flavour. In addition, people enjoy O mai with all sorts: licorice apricot, ginger-fried apricot, fried dracontomelon, fried star fruit, bitter-sour kumquat, etc. For a long time, Hang Duong Street has been labelled ‘O mai Street’ with well-know brands, namely ‘Hong Lam, Gia Loi, Tien Thinh, Gia Thinh’. In fact, O mai of Hang Duong street now is spreading across every corner of Hanoi sold in big luxurious supermarkets. However, there is nothing quite like walking on Hang Duong street to immerse into the hustle and bustle of the Old Quarter.
There are stores displaying delicous variations of O mai in unique-looking shapes that catch visitors’ eyes. In addition to brand-name stores in Hanoi, O mai from other provinces like Saigon, Da Lat or foreign countries is also on sale. At the end of each year, however, many people are still looking forward to get a special treat called ‘O mai quat’ (candied kumquat) from the O mai world. A orange candied kumquat is sticky, shaped in pentagram, and flavoured with aromatic spice. Especially, a batch of edge-burnt, sauté candied kumquats is the most fragant and delicious nosh that leaves us dribbling.
Besides Hang Duong street, famous O mai stores scatter on other ancient streets and each street has the characteristic, color, taste, and beauty of its own. They maybe different but integrade into a great delicacy imbued with the scent of Capital Hanoi. O mai is for instant all year so that visitors to Hanoi can buy some boxes as a gift to the beloved at home and Hanoi people themselves favour O mai to give gifts to others as the way they show their pride of this land.