Different from banh chung (square glutinous rice cake) of the ethnic majority Kinh, the Dao Do (red Dao) ethnic group in Ha Giang has their own cake known as banh chung gu (which translates as hunchback).
The name of the cake reflects an image of a woman carrying a basket on her back, bending to hard work in her field, said local elderly woman Nong Thi Dung.
Dung said the tradition of wrapping the cake has existed for a hundred years in her home Tuy Village.
|Kicker: Tinny banh chung gu (hunchback glutinous rice) cakes, a specialty of Dao Do ethnic group in the northern province of Ha Giang. — Photo travelgear.vn|
In the past, the cake was only cooked for Tet but now locals make the cake for sale year-round.
The Dao Do people place great importance on how to prepare ingredients to make the cake. All households grow special glutinous rice known as Khum variety which is much more fragrant and soft than others, said Dung, adding that they also planted green beans and raised black pig (the special pig which weighs about 50-60kg each, its meat is also fragrant and not too much fatty) to make the cake.
“All these things are homemade to ensure the cake’s quality,” Dung said, adding that people in the village believed that honouring their ancestors with delicious cakes would bring them luck all year.
Unlike the square glutinous rice of the Kinh, which often includes a frame made of six wild dong leaves cut in the forest to wrap the cake, the Dao Do uses only one leaf because each cake is the size of a fist only.
|Kicker: Locals in Ha Giang’s Tuy Village are wrapping the cakes. — Photo baohagiang.vn|
Dung said the glutinous rice should be soaked in water overnight while bacon should be soaked with fish sauce, salt and pepper for several hours to ensure the cake is sticky and delicious. To make the cake green, dong leaves should be fresh and washed clean.
She said that to create a hunchback form for the cake is a bit difficult and requires skill to avoid a deformed shape. The cake should be cooked over a wood fire for at least eight hours.
“When we were allowed by my mother to try the cake, I would never forget the cake’s flavours such as fragrant and sticky of the glutinous rice, buttery taste of the green beans and greas of the bacon,” Dung said.
|Kicker: A tasty and delicious cake with nutritious dumpling of green bean and specialty black pig’s meat. — Photo travlgear.vn|
In the past, only the Dao Do made the cake, now many villages in Ha Giang make the cakes for sale. They produce thousands of cakes to deliver to provinces and cities like Hanoi and HCM City.
Dang Thi Phuong in Hanoi’s Hai Ba Trung District said she often buys the cake for her family’s breakfast.
“The small size of 100-150 gram cake is suitable for my two children to eat in the morning before going to school. In addition, the cake has enough nutrition so my children say they do not feel hungry while in school compared with eating a bowl of pho.”
The cake is easy to take away and to peel so her children can do it themselves, said Phuong, adding that the cakes are affordable at only VND25,000 each.
A seller in Hanoi’s Tay Ho District named Pham Hung said there are more and more banh chưng gu lovers in the city so he can sell 300-400 cakes a day.
However, he said the cake is wrapped by hand in a thin dong leave so it is difficult to preserve.
“You can’t do like square glutinous rice cake which can be preserved for several days, banh chung gu should be eaten in one day after being cooked to ensure its tasty and enjoyable,” he said.
|Kicker: Quantity of cakes are ready for sale. – Photo dantri.com.vn|
The cake is popular because apart from its cute size, it is made of organic ingredients, said Hung.
Hung said those wishing to buy many banh chung gu should order in advance so he can ask producers in Ha Giang to prepare it.
“Last Tet, I had to close my shop and refuse buyers because of an overload of orders,” Hung said. VNS
Nguyen Thanh Ha
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