Huong Quynh

Just 50km from Hanoi, Phu Nhi Village is famous for its rustic tẻ cakes

Visitors to the former province of ha Tay often tour Duong Lam old Village, also known as “the land of two kings”. Duong Lam is a typical ancient northern village with an iconic banyan tree, wharf, titular temple and rustic local delicacies.

Son Tay locals produce simple foods that contain common ingredients. Tẻ cakes are used for sacrifice ceremonies, guest receptions or simply as a snack. Son Tay has many villages that produce this type of cake, yet those made in Phu Nhi Village are trademarked. It’s easy to stop and enjoy some tẻ cakes when touring sites in Duong Lam. Visitors who wish to learn how these cakes are made should walk another 1km to Phu Nhi Village and tour a tẻ cake workshop.

This traditional craft dates back over a century. Today, around 40 households in Phu Nhi continue this craft. Some workshops comprise three generations. mr. Nguyen Van Duoc, 89, of the hung Van tẻ cake workshop, is known for his skilful wrapping and tying of bamboo strings. “The peak season for making cakes is before the Lunar New Year,” said mr. Duoc. “Sometimes, my family produces up to 2,000 cakes a day, making orders in advance.”

Tẻ cakes contain plain non- glutinous rice flour. Unwrapping two layers of dong leaves and dried banana leaves, one sees the cake’s transparent cover and its filling of minced pork and jelly ear (mộc nhĩ) mushrooms. The secret lies in choosing the ingredients. The most important ingredient is the rice flour. Son Tay boasts a variety of fragrant rice. These “grains of heaven” are soaked and ground in the traditional manner, then cooked and processed. Fresh pork shoulder is sliced and stir-fried with grated jelly ear mushrooms and dried onions, then seasoned. Wrapping the cakes requires much skill to keep the filling in the centre. Wrapped cakes are neatly arranged in rows. Finally, the cakes are steamed for around 30 minutes. The hot, freshly steamed cakes are delicious. Visitors enjoy seeing their cakes being made. Green dong leaves are carefully washed and wiped while the powder and filling are processed to guarantee cleanliness. The fresh taste of these simple cakes leaves a lasting impression.