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Banh khoai a tasty speciality of the Mong ethnic group

The Mong ethnic group, in Lao Cai Province’s Muong Khuong District, is proud of their traditional rice cake, locally known as banh khoai. 

The cake has been passed down the generations for hundreds of years, according to 78-year-old Giang A Chua.

The cake is made from a special rice called Seng Cu which is planted in the locality.

The group also makes the cake with glutinous rice known as Tu Le sticky rice. These two types of rice have their own aromatic flavour, Chua said.

'Bánh khoải' is the pride of the Mong ethnic group in Lao Cai's Muong Khuong District. The cake is enjoyed during important festivals like the Tet holiday. Photo

“All households in the district have a plot of land to grow the rice to make the cake. In the past, the cake was made only during Tet (Lunar New Year) holiday but now locals make it year-round,” he said.

Making banh khoai is simple but it needs experience and strength.

The process includes soaking the rice overnight then putting it in the steamer for half an hour.

When the rice is done, it is placed in a stone mortar and ground as thin as possible. It is then rolled until it is 30cm in length and 10cm wide, Chua told Việt Nam News.

Local people often make 'bánh khoải' chips to eat year-round. Photo

“My mother often cuts the two sides of the cake to give to her children and uses the middle of the cake to arrange on a plate and brings it to put on our altar to worship our ancestors,” said Chua.

The popular cake is one of the most important things for the Mong during the holiday, he added.

He recalled one month before the Lunar New Year, the households in Muong Khuong District’s Sin Chai Hamlet often started making the cake. The village looked like a bustling workshop.

“We take turns to help each other. Usually, a group of three or five households work with each other to make the cake.The elderly are often in charge in the process, from choosing the rice, soaking, grinding and rolling the cake."

Khoai cake can be used in many dishes such as sweet porridge. Photo

Chua recalled when he was a young man, he had to grind and roll the cake. “The work is tiring because we make up to 30 kilos of rice.”

Chua said in the past his family did not have a refrigerator so his mother often dried the cake and kept it in a big jar to eat later.

“This Tet we made 60 kilos of rice, more than usual, using a machine, to eat during the holiday and bring along to eat after work. The cake helps us stay full all day long,” Chua said.

Nowadays many residents use machines to make the cake. Although the machine-made cake is not as tasty as the handmade ones, customers often choose banh khoai for its nutritional value compared with instant noodles available in shops and markets.

Dr Hoang Le Hoa from Hanoi said her family recently visited Muong Khuong and not only enjoyed the natural landscapes and traditional festivals of the Mong and other ethnic groups but also discovered their culinary specialties.

Unlike the Mong ethnic group in Lao Cai, the Mong group in Ha Giang uses maize to make 'bánh khoải', which they say is nutritious and healthy. Photo 

“A friend of mine invited us to try banh khoai cooked with stewed pig bones. The dish is so tasty with the soft and fragrant cake and savoury and buttery broth. We enjoyed it so much and I decided to buy five kilos to take home,” Hoa said, adding that the cake can be used in a hotpot, grilled with chilli salt or added to sweet porridge.

A seller in Hanoi told Việt Nam News that banh khoai sells in the capital for between VND40,000-50,000 per kilo.

Many of my customers said they like to eat the cake hot, dipping it with a special sauce which is made by fermenting and salting black soybeans, or salted sesame or sugar. The cake is made of ordinary rice, so it doesn't fill you up too much. It is also a popular breakfast for vegetarians,” the seller said.

Source: Vietnam News

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