Black sticky rice cakes – a dish steeped in Tay philosophy

The Tay ethnic group in Van Ban District, in the northern province of Lao Cai, are renowned for their black sticky cake – a popular dish and an indispensable custom for festive events.

As well as being a delicious dish, the black sticky rice cake is a cultural symbol of the locality.

Among the most prestigious traditional cake making workshops, the one owned by Hoang Thi Hue in Khanh Yen Town provides the tastiest cakes to not only locals but also neighbouring provinces and cities.

Black sticky rice cakes – a dish steeped in Tay philosophy

Hoang Thi Hue boils sticky rice cake at her home, also her workshop. 

Her product has been granted a provincial-level three-star OCOP (One Commune One Product) certificate for good quality and clear origin.

“Currently, there are diverse kinds of sticky rice cake products in Lao Cai Province,” Hue said proudly. “Yet cakes made in Van Ban still have more significant colour and distinguished taste than those made in other localities.”

Hue said her careful selection of ingredients and secret tips handed down through generations have resulted in success.

Black sticky rice cakes – a dish steeped in Tay philosophy

The form of black sticky rice cake bears the philosophy of yin and yang. 

The black cakes are made of local Cam Duong sticky rice, green bean, fresh pork, dong leaves, spices and powder from the burnt flour of núc nác (Indian trumpet flower), which bring the black colour for the cake.

Locals gather núc nác plant, dry it, burn it and pound it to get a black powder. The powder is then mixed with the sticky rice, which is then used to make the cake. Tay people wrap the inside of the cake on dong leaves in a square, round, or cylinder form. The cake is boiled for between 10 to 12 hours. When the cakes are cooked, the sticky rice smells good with the yellow-green beans inside, fatty pork, pepper and the smell of dong leave and the fragrance of núc nác plant.

Hue said the núc nác powder helps the black sticky cakes stay fresh for 7-10 days at room temperature in winter and 3-5 days in summer.

The núc nác powder has anti-biotic and anti-inflammation features among other good usages that make it a popular herbal medicine, she said.

Black sticky rice cakes – a dish steeped in Tay philosophy

The ingredients are chosen carefully. 

Profound meaning

According to folk culture researcher Ha Lam Ky, in the past, there was a salt scarcity in the northwestern region.

The ancestors of today’s Tay ethnic group went to the forest and chopped down a kind of tree called the 'salt tree' to bring home. They took the bark of the tree, dried it and burnt it to coal. They used that kind of coal in cooking instead of sea salt. The black colour in sticky rice was created by the coal powder from that tree.

When it is cooked, the cake has a salty flavour and a little smell of wild plants. Besides the salt tree, Tay people also use cây gùn (a local wild plant) or co chanh (grass with the smell of lime) and burn them to make coal powder for making the cake.

 
Black sticky rice cakes – a dish steeped in Tay philosophy
Cut cake. Photo daidoanket.vn

“This was an innovation by the Tay people when they had to overcome difficulties in life and live with nature,” Ky said.

Ky added that the way to wrap the black cake features a yin-yang balance.

Tay people think heaven is round while the earth is square, which is expressed in the form of the cake: a round body and both ends in square form.

Yin-yang features are also found in the way they use the dong leaves, with two placed at two different sides and ends facing each other. The number of bamboo strings used to tie the cake is an odd number, either five or nine.

Black sticky rice cakes – a dish steeped in Tay philosophy

Hue's workshop offers a stable income to many local women. 

“The figures follow circulation: birth – old age – weakness – death – birth again,” Ky said. “It always contains liveliness and development.”

When giving one another the cakes as a gift, they always give them in a pair to create a harmony of yin and yang.

When they tie up the bamboo string, Tay people tie it in a spiral. One bamboo string is tied above another one, which holds the cake firmly inside the leaves while the sticky rice swells inside in the heat.

Black sticky rice cakes – a dish steeped in Tay philosophy

Sticky rice produced at Hue's workshop has an OCOP stamp to ensure the origin and quality of the product. 

Ky said the way of tying bamboo strings means the next generation obeys those that came before them.

When the cake is well cooked, locals use bamboo to cut the cake into many small pieces.

Besides boiled black cake, people may also bake cakes by putting them on coal till the insides smell good.

VNS

Black glutinous rice cake: A unique dish of Tay ethic people in Lao Cai

Black glutinous rice cake: A unique dish of Tay ethic people in Lao Cai

Black ‘chung’ (glutinous rice) cake, made with the ashes of nuc nac trees, is an indispensable dish of Tay ethnic people in Bac Ha District, Lao Cai Province, during their Lunar New Year festival.

“Pau Plau” Day Cake

“Pau Plau” Day Cake

Day Cake is a popular type of cake that can be found all over Vietnam, but the Day Cake known as “Pau Plau” in Lao Cai is quite a unique dish.  

 
 

Other News

.
Unique Bat Trang Ceramic Museum
Unique Bat Trang Ceramic Museum
TRAVELicon  15/04/2021 

Built with inspiration from the curves of pottery wheels, the Bat Trang Pottery Museum is becoming a new destination for Hanoians.

Virtual travel one step ahead of real travel
Virtual travel one step ahead of real travel
FEATUREicon  15/04/2021 

The tourism industry is facing post-pandemic recovery challenges, but "virtual tourism" may be a new direction to open up breakthrough opportunities.

Vietnam ‘reinvents’ tourism sector, aims for expected recovery by 2024
Vietnam ‘reinvents’ tourism sector, aims for expected recovery by 2024
TRAVELicon  15/04/2021 

While domestic travel has kept tourism buoyant amid the pandemic, the industry has barely survived without foreign tourists. Experts have recommended that it reinvent itself while waiting for global travel to resume.

Danang-style rice vermicelli with grilled pork
Danang-style rice vermicelli with grilled pork
TRAVELicon  15/04/2021 

This dish seems to be like its counterpart in Hanoi. Taste it and you’ll tell the difference between them.

Golden Bridge in Da Nang tops the list of fresh wonders of the world
Golden Bridge in Da Nang tops the list of fresh wonders of the world
TRAVELicon  14/04/2021 

The Golden Bridge in the central city of Da Nang has topped a list of the new wonders of the world by the UK’s Daily Mail newspaper.

Domestic tourism rebounds, but safety remains overriding theme
Domestic tourism rebounds, but safety remains overriding theme
TRAVELicon  14/04/2021 

With the Government’s effective pandemic containment measures and initiatives to stimulate domestic tourism demand, sentiment towards travel is recovering.

A great beauty of the ocean
A great beauty of the ocean
TRAVELicon  14/04/2021 

Con Dao Islands give visitors special feelings with its historic relics and breathtaking scenes. This time of the year is ideal for making a trip to the islands boasting beautiful blue sea and white sand.

Building travelers’ trust
Building travelers’ trust
TRAVELicon  14/04/2021 

It seems Vietnam is nearing her H-hour set for welcoming back international travelers. The tourism authorities and businesses in the field have readied themselves for a launch as soon as it is given the green light.

Lonely Planet names top eight national parks in Vietnam
Lonely Planet names top eight national parks in Vietnam
TRAVELicon  13/04/2021 

Lonely Planet, a large travel guide book publisher, has named top eight national parks in Vietnam.  

Discovering community-based tourism village Kon Ko Tu in Kon Tum
Discovering community-based tourism village Kon Ko Tu in Kon Tum
TRAVELicon  13/04/2021 

As an ancient village in a mountainous area, the Kon Ko Tu community-based tourism village in Kon Tum City attracts visitors because of the pristine beauty of the local Ba Na ethnic culture.

Khuc Pie: A gift from Hanoi’s rural area
Khuc Pie: A gift from Hanoi’s rural area
TRAVELicon  12/04/2021 

The fragrance of steaming khuc pie will live forever as one of most potent childhood memories of Hanoian.

Majestic nature of Dak Nong Province
Majestic nature of Dak Nong Province
TRAVELicon  12/04/2021 

Dak Nong Geopark in Dak Nong Province covers an area of more than 4,700 km2, stretching over six of the eight districts of the province with 65 sites of natural heritage, geomorphology, including craters, volcanic caves and waterfalls.

Ghositaram Pagoda in Bac Lieu Province
Ghositaram Pagoda in Bac Lieu Province
TRAVELicon  12/04/2021 

As a unique cultural destination in the Mekong Delta province of Bac Lieu, Ghositaram Pagoda is considered to be a museum of fine arts showcasing the talent of Khmer artists.

Central Vietnam prepares for busy upcoming holiday
Central Vietnam prepares for busy upcoming holiday
TRAVELicon  12/04/2021 

Travel agencies in the Central region are creating new tourism products in preparation for the upcoming holidays on April 30 and May 1.

Vinh Phuc Pagoda solemn in East Sea
Vinh Phuc Pagoda solemn in East Sea
MARITIME SOVEREIGNTYicon  11/04/2021 

Vinh Phuc Pagoda on Phan Vinh A Island within Truong Sa (Spratly) archipelago is a spiritual destination for soldiers and residents in Truong Sa island district.

Red River tourism awaiting to be uncovered
Red River tourism awaiting to be uncovered
TRAVELicon  11/04/2021 

The capital city has potential to develop tours on the Red River. However, it has not been fully tapped.

Hanoi’s lesser-known sightseeing: Tram relic complex
Hanoi’s lesser-known sightseeing: Tram relic complex
TRAVELicon  11/04/2021 

Located some 20 kilometers away from Hanoi’s center, the Tram Mountain is a unique ‘stone plateau’ in Hanoi outskirts, housing the aged-old ritual sites and marvelous beautiful landscapes.

Vietnam’s first tea museum
Vietnam’s first tea museum
TRAVELicon  10/04/2021 

The Cau Dat Farm Ancient Tea Museum is an interesting installation art space associated with the story of Cau Dat tea brand which itself it nearly 100 years old.

Domestic tour operators’ hopeful of revival by summer
Domestic tour operators’ hopeful of revival by summer
TRAVELicon  10/04/2021 

Vietnam has not yet opened its doors for international visitors, however, domestic tourism could possibly salvage the flagging tourism industry with attractive packages and discount fares during the coming summer months.

Journey to Thu Duc heritage city
Journey to Thu Duc heritage city
TRAVELicon  10/04/2021 

Thu Duc City that is established on the basis of merging three eastern districts of Thu Duc, 2 and 9 has a diversified system of cultural heritages, including archaeological sites, tens of pagodas and temples, and ancient architectures.

 
 
 
Leave your comment on an article

OR QUICK LOGIN