While passing by Mrs. Dinh Thi Dam in the hamlet of Binh Trung, Long Hoa district (near Rach Suc Bridge, Vo Van Kiet street), we couldn’t stop appreciating the unity of her family in the manufacture of “bánh tét lá cẩm” (Violet cylindrical glutinous rice cake). Every morning, her daughter and daughter-in-law take care of grating coconut and cooking the beans; her husband pops sticky rice while Mrs. Dam prepares the packaging and cooking materials. Ms. Dam said it became a habit as the whole family gets together to make cakes, and then free to do their own businesses every morning. Around 11 o'clock, the cakes are put on sale.
Twenty-four years ago, Ms. Dam inherited her father's cake making business. Of their five brothers and sisters, two follow the trade. The second child of the family, her sister Dinh Thi Hoa Xuan makes bánh ú and bánh lá dừa. Mrs. Dam is specialized in bánh tét lá cẩm with the characteristic violet color, the flavor of coconut milk and with different fillings: beans with fat, sweet beans, bananas, or mixed.
Moreover, Mrs. Dam makes bánh ít, bánh ú and bánh tét nước tro (bánh tét with rice soaked in ash) ... which are appreciated by many customers. Every day, in addition to the cakes ordered, she prepares them for passers-by. Very happy, Mrs. Dam said: "Many passers-by have tasted my cakes and then have become my “loyal customers”. Currently, I regularly order cakes for consumers in Saigon, Hanoi, Tra Vinh, Ca Mau and abroad.” Thanks to that, the income from her family's traditional craft is relatively stable. After deducting expenses, Mrs. Dam earns 300,000 VND/day. The days of Tet, the number of cakes sold is multiplied by 10, which brought her a significant income.
Mrs. Linh is about to take the cooked cakes out. Photo: My Tu
Mrs. Dam loves and is proud of her chosen profession. On the one hand, the cake is a source to feed the family; on the other hand it is one of the traditional cakes of the homeland. Mrs. Dam enthusiastically stated, “I have benefited from local attention that has facilitated my participation in popular traditional cake contests, I am trying to maintain the family’s cake flavor and I hope our traditional cakes craft will grow more and more.”
Mrs. Tran Thi Linh, her daughter-in-law, shared her desire to represent a recipe for their cakes and sell it to the guests. In addition, there is the presentation of their cakes via the Internet to spread the flavor of these cakes to more customers.
According to Ms. La Thanh Thuy, President of the Long Hoa Women's Union, the locality is very interested and encourages households specializing in folk cakes to participate in fairs or festivals at the district or city level, for representations and sales. At meetings and conferences, the locality also gives priority to ordering traditional cakes for serving guests. On the other hand, the local authorities also create good conditions for families when they need access to loans from the Social Policy Bank for investment and development of their profession.
In addition to the traditional local cakes, Ms. Truong Thi Luyen's husband and wife cake, in the hamlet of Binh Yen A, is more and more popular. This cake is from the center of Vietnam, adapted to the taste of the Southern region through the hands of craftsmen. Ms. Luyen has been sticking to this cake for over 30 years, and is currently making cakes according to customer orders.
Ms. Gon has been sticking to bánh lá dừa for nearly 20 years. Photo: My Tu
As for Ms. Nguyen Thi Gon who also lives in Binh Yen A and a "pro" of bánh lá dừa. At first, she had quietly learned the craft but then she cleverly prepared delicious and attractive cakes. Thanks to this bánh lá dứa craft, Ms. Gon was able to raise her five children to successfully complete their studies and now have stable work, after the death of her husband (almost 20 years ago). Ms. Gon said, “Now that I'm old, my children have advised me to stop making the cake, but I really like this job, how can I stop.” Whenever I was ill and impossible to work, I was really sad and I missed my cakes ".
In the hustle and bustle of modern life, few families prepare their own cakes that require effort and skills. Thanks to the skilled artisans, the traditional cakes of Vietnam always keep their own flavor, meeting the needs of society in a timely manner. And the traditional cake business has also brought a better life to the workers.
Can Tho Newspaper - Translated by Hoang Dat