At a distance, the field at the outskirts of Ho Chi Minh City resembles a sea of solar panels, staring by the thousands from a muddy-grassy grid into a blistering sun. Closer, and patterns emerge. Row upon row of iridescent sheets taut over bamboo frames resting against rough-hewn supports, glowing as they reach skyward. Closer still, and you see the imprint of basketwoven fibers through the still-tacky film, irregular and organic.
In Vietnam, this is an endangered art. Rice noodles dried by a week for more than 60 years, the Diêp family has risen at 3 a.m., children, parents, and grandparents smearing a milky slurry of ground white rice and water over innumerable massive bamboo screens, then carting them by scooter to bake in a field that smells of white glue and rice.