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Spectacular Banh Day competition in Mu Cang Chai

It is said that Banh Chung (square glutinous rice cake) is a sign of Tet for Kinh people and that Banh Day (round sticky rice cake) is a symbol of love and devotion among the Mong.

It is also a representation of two celestial bodies, the sun and the moon, from which humans and and all other organisms on Earth are descended.

It is best to visit Mu Cang Chai, Yen Bai province, in the fall, when terraced fields are at their full glory and the rice is at its ripest, because this is the time of year for local festivities and fairs. Come savor the regional specialties such as the Mong ethnic group's signature cakes called “Banh Day” which are infused with the locals' distinct cultural identities.

Once upon a time, the lover of a Hmong lad named Nu Plai was taken by “the Tiger God” upon his return to the village. Plai was so distraught that he determined to find “the Tiger God” to claim his sweetheart once back. Since Plai had to cross several rivers and abysses on the difficult mountain route in order to reach the cave where “the Tiger God” guarded his lover, the journey was long and perilous. Plai used sticky rice cakes (today referred to as Banh Day) as a snack whilst tracking down her lost love. Plai made it to the tiger god's lair after a long and arduous journey. In response to the H'mong man's devotion for the tiger deity, the pair were reunited. As a result, the banh day has come to represent the steadfast love that exists between a Hmong man and his lady. The tale of banh day, which represents romantic love between Hmong men and women, has come to life and is now a source of pride for the community.

On the H’mong people's traditional Banh Day, the glutinous rice to be used must be pure sticky rice from the highland regions as it has a pleasant aroma. It is necessary that the grains do not break when ground in order that they still keep their excellent flavor, leaving a smooth layer on the outside of the grains, which for the cake, means scent and elasticity.

Washing and soaking for two to three hours is followed by draining and then putting the sticky rice back into the pot to keep it fresh. In addition to the canoe-shaped wooden mortar, the sticky rice bowl is made of wood and the thick cake mortar is hollowed out like a canoe. The pounder must be vigorous and skilled, particularly men, normally standing on two sides of the trough to pound in order to take advantage of the powerful quick pace that is possible while the dough is still hot. Then, using deft and painstaking hands, women shape them into flat, cupped rounds wrapped in new phrynium leaves or banana leaves to keep the cakes apart, and then place them in a tray. 

Flavours such as the scent of phrynium and banana leaves help make the cake reminiscent of a simpler time. A combination of oil and beeswax is applied to the trays for storage before the cakes are put in so that they will not be sticky. This will make the process of shaping simpler. To prevent the cakes from clumping together, folks in many other countries let the eggs roll on the tray over and over. People in Mu Cang Chai use mostly a combination of oil and beeswax melted to a high temperature.

Special to this tradition is that, as the males pound the dough, the ladies discreetly contemplate and pick wisely their future spouses while the action goes on. A tall, strong and robust man is considered essential for H'mong females because they believe that this man will be able to help them take good care of their future families.

Mong people's Banh Day is best eaten when it's still hot, just done, so that the hilly region's peculiar flavor may be properly appreciated. The cake can either be fried or baked, and it is best served with honey or sugarcane syrup.

A Banh Day studded with honey is a must-have when visiting Mu Cang Chai. This unique approach to experience the Mong specialty is something that no one will forget.

Despite the fact that many other ethnic groups eat Banh Day, the preparation and flavor profile of this particular dish is indescribably different.

As a result, you should visit Mu Cang Chai district in Yen Bai province's Mu Cang Chai ethnic group's homeland to relish this nature's bounty and observe how it is made firsthand by the Mong people.

In Mu Cang Chai, especially on New Year's Day, even strangers and relatives are gifted banh day to take home. Although everyone in the neighborhood has them for Tet, the gifts are given out of the goodwill of the home's owner to wish the recipient a happy and prosperous new year and good business.

Let's see how the H'mong people make their banh day:

 

Độc đáo Hội thi giã bánh dày ở vùng cao Mù Cang Chải

 

Độc đáo Hội thi giã bánh dày ở vùng cao Mù Cang Chải

 

Độc đáo Hội thi giã bánh dày ở vùng cao Mù Cang Chải

 

Độc đáo Hội thi giã bánh dày ở vùng cao Mù Cang Chải

 

Độc đáo Hội thi giã bánh dày ở vùng cao Mù Cang Chải

 

Độc đáo Hội thi giã bánh dày ở vùng cao Mù Cang Chải

 

Độc đáo Hội thi giã bánh dày ở vùng cao Mù Cang Chải

 

Độc đáo Hội thi giã bánh dày ở vùng cao Mù Cang Chải

 

Độc đáo Hội thi giã bánh dày ở vùng cao Mù Cang Chải

 

Độc đáo Hội thi giã bánh dày ở vùng cao Mù Cang Chải

 

Độc đáo Hội thi giã bánh dày ở vùng cao Mù Cang Chải

 

Độc đáo Hội thi giã bánh dày ở vùng cao Mù Cang Chải

 

Bich Ngoc

Com Tu Le, a specialty of northwestern mountainous region

Com Tu Le, a specialty of northwestern mountainous region

A must-try specialty of Van Chan District in the northern province of Yen Bai in autumn is cốm (young sticky rice) that are made of Tu Le glutinous rice grown in the valley.

Preservation of the Mong’s rattan weaving craft

Preservation of the Mong’s rattan weaving craft

Mong people make up 90% of the inhabitants in Lao Chai Commune of the northern mountainous province of Yen Bai. Their lives depend largely on agriculture and forestry.

 

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