Black glutinous rice cake: A unique dish of Tay ethic people in Lao Cai
NDO – 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.
According to Vang Thi Hoa, a 60-year-old Tay ethnic woman in Na Kim Hamlet, Bac Ha District, the making of black chung cake has been practiced and passed down for generations among the Tay ethnic community in Na Kim.
Every spring in the past, whenever the peach blossom tree in her garden were about to bloom, Hoa burned wood of nuc nac trees, which she had collected and dried since the beginning of the year, into ashes.
Varieties of black rice cake can be seen in other regions in Vietnam, with most of them being made from rice mixed with ash from straw.
However, Tay people only use ash from nuc nac trees to make the cake as they believe that nuc nac, a wild tree growing in the mountains and forests and along roads, can dispel evils.
Vang Thi Hoa said that the wood firing process takes from two to three hours, requiring a close watch on the temperature of the fire. The ashes are then crushed into powder and mixed with glutinous rice to turn it into black. The rice is pounded and then winnowed.
The cylindrical hand length cake is stuffed with black pig meat, pepper, mung bean, and black cardamom.
The cake used to be made only for traditional Tet festival, but now it is produced all year round as a specialties and souvenirs for visitors to Na Kim Hamlet. Hoa makes around 40 black ‘chung’ cakes every day, and sells them at the entrance gate of Bac Ha Temple.