Life Life

15/04/2018 - 09:34

My Loi yam serving the king

It took Mr. Doan Thua, a 78-year-old farmer, half a day of hard work to dig up about 3 kilograms of yam (dioscorea hamiltonii), shiny tubes in the sun. He looked so excited, having no idea that My Loi yam (in Vinh My, Phu Loc) used to be served to the kings.

Mr. Thua is very happy with his yam

Gift from sand dunes

30km to the east from Hue City, My Loi is a village, four out of five hamlets of which have sand dunes. The dunes in My Loi are always covered with bushes and vines, hidden in which are precious treasury: yam

In the old days, sand dunes in My Loi were abundant in yam. My Loi people often begin digging up yam in lunar March. Mr. Nguyen Hai, former-head of My Loi Village, said proudly: "We still keep evidence about it. The documents indicate that in the years from 1688 to 1766, My Toan Village (My Loi today) must send yam to the imperial court and was exempted from taxes in return.

Today obtaining yam in My Loi Village is extremely hard. Urbanization as well as population increase has considerably narrowed down the sand dunes. What is more, more and more people hunt for these delicious tubes.

According to the experienced digger Nguyen Ca (born 1948), of the five sand dunes in Vinh My, only two give acceptable yam.

This special type for the king has unique shape and quality. "Growing up in the sand dunes, My Loi yam tubes are often thin and long in shape, white or light yellow in color with very thin skin. It is the soil that makes yam in My Loi different," said Mr. Ca.

Due to the depletion of yam in My Loi, Mr. Ca has to go digging yam in other villages. Riding his old bicycle, with a spade, boxes, bags and drinking water, at high season, he obtains nearly 10kg of yam a day.

He wanders from Thuan An (Phu Vang) to Vinh Hien, Ram (Phu Loc). "My husband began digging yam when he was 12 years old. He has been doing this kind of work for nearly 60 years now. It is part of our income," Mrs. Lon, Mr. Ca's wife said proudly. 

For those who have tried My Loi yam, its taste is unforgettable. My Loi yam absorbs nutrients from the white sand dunes. It is often ivory in color and sticky, smelling of soil.

My Loi yam is so good that no one can resist. But Mrs. Lon's honesty depressed us. "We many times found very big tubes, up to 1-2kg. But we could not enjoy them. Every time my husband brings them home, I cut protruding parts and put them aside until we have enough for a meal."


Yam is cooked with bones or made into porridge or che (a sweet dish), which is very popular and good for health. Yam is cut into finger-sized pieces then cooked with sugar until soft. Its sweet and aromatic taste shoos away tiredness. 

"I believe My Loi yam can be grown and productive. As far as I known, it has been grown successfully in some provinces, which motivates the farmer," Mr. Nguyen Van Hoang, head of the Vinh My Farmers' Association. "I myself like yam very much. I am trying to grow it," added he.

With its established reputation, if this species is grown and distributed properly, it will bring back lots of benefit, not only for the farmer, but many others.

Story and photo: Mai Hue