Like some regions in the Mekong Delta, Tra Vinh grows a lot of cassava. Its roots make the main ingredient for the famous Tra Vinh chupatty, a local snack served during the country’s largest festival Tet.
It’s not known when the Tra Vinh cassava chupatty was first made, but the tradition has been passed down through generations. The sweet crispy cake is made not only for Tet, but for almost any traditional celebrations as an offering to the ancestors.
During the last days of the lunar year, villages around the province would be busy making the cake.
Big, floury cassava roots are chosen. Their cover is removed and they are boiled, and then left to get cool. Sugar is melted.
Strong men crush the boiled roots in mortars while women add sugar continuously until the mixture gets soft and sweet all over.
The mixture is made into balls and the balls rolled into thin round layers like plates. The plates are then put on mats or grates to get dry.
All the work is done through the night and the wet cakes will be ready for the first light of the day. When the cakes get dry, another step to have a perfect Tra Vinh cassava chupatty is to bake it on straw fire.
Usually, one family will make much more chupatties than they need, so they can give their friends and relatives as a festival present.
On the last day of the lunar year, when many Vietnamese people make offerings to invite the souls of their ancestors back home to celebrate the new year with them, Tra Vinh people bake their chupatties and put them on the altar to call their ancestors home.
Cassava chupatties are now present at many markets and bus stations these days. The makers have added milk or banana oil for tastier cakes.
Tet with sugar and glutinous rice
Glutinous rice not only makes the famous banh chung and banh day.
Quang Nam Province in the central region has a special Tet snack called banh to, simply made from glutinous rice and sugar, plus a little ginger juice.
The cake is made with flour from the best type of glutinous rice and the sugar that is pressed manually from sugar canes.
The mixture is poured into a small bamboo basket, put on banana leaves or the like.
Then, the baskets are steamed in a big pot. They are put on a grate, also made of bamboo, which is around five centimeters from the water in the pot.
The lid is put on and the cakes are cooked by the steam, so it takes rather long for the cakes to be doned.
Some roasted sesames are scattered on the cakes immediately after they are taken out of the pot. The sesames will stick to the cake and make it look good.
The last thing is to put the cakes to air in one or two days, until they get rough.
Then they are ready for serving. But many people prefer to grill or cut the cake into pieces and fry them, so they look and smell better.
According to old people in the province, banh to first appeared in the late 18th century when local residents made the cakes to offer to Emperor Quang Trung, who was worried about food supply when leading his army to fight Chinese invaders under the Qing Dynasty during the spring of 1789.
Since then, people in the province have been making the cake every Tet season to commemorate the country’s great hero and celebrate his victory.