“Back then, around December 26, my parents would prepare a package of cakes. My father pulled the leaves, sharpened it, set the stove… Mother washed the sticky rice, chose pork, and cooked green beans as a variety of fillings,” he recalls.
From the “tiny” banh tet package…
He still hasn’t forgotten on the morning of New Year’s Eve, his father laid out the ingredients for wrapping the cake on a tray in front of the porch. Mother sat to help cover, tie. The boy Khai asked to put a sieve (smaller than the nia) to sit next to… learn a trade.
Initially, he asked his parents for a few cups of glutinous rice, crumbs to pack each adult wrist-sized cake. Which one is damaged, he discharges the sticky rice and redo it like a toy. “I gave it to my father to boil together. About an hour, the tiny cake was cooked, so I asked my father to pick it up and invite the children and friends in the neighborhood,” he said.
Next year’s New Year, his father began to teach how to pack beautiful cakes, soft, green, delicious, for a long time… Thanks to his skillful hands, at the age of 16, he sat down to pack cakes officially with his father.
When he was 17 years old, his mother passed away. “At this time, my father went to work far away, I alone took care of the fields, cooking, and taking care of my juniors. That year, I was assigned the task of wrapping cakes to eat and give to relatives,” he recalled.
The secret to lining papaya leaves to make Tet cakes greener
According to him, a delicious pot of banh tet converges many factors. The first step is the preparation stage. In the past, he went to the forest to cut bamboo, bamboo or bamboo. He said: “In order to make it last, I chose young trees with long eyes and thin stems soaked in water. Later on, I chose a string called live leaf instead because it was easy to find.”
Next is the banana leaf. He used banana leaves to make the cake greener. There were only a few in the garden, so he had to “order” others. After wiping the chalk dust, the leaves were cut into square pieces with a side of 40cm and dried to medium wither.
To the stage of choosing the folds. Previously, he spent a field specializing in growing sticky incense and wrapping cakes. Later in old age, his children go to work far away, he buys them from the market, but it must be the type of sticky rice that specializes in wrapping banh tet. He shared: “At night, I wash the sticky rice with warm water, take it out in a bamboo basket to drain. The better the sticky rice is, the longer the cake will be.”
Delicious cake thanks to the filling. He chose bacon, cut into two-finger-thick pieces, glove-long, and marinated to absorb. Chickpeas with shells are cleaned, cooked thoroughly, and pureed.
The most difficult stage is to fold. He spread three layers of leaves, filled with glutinous rice, filled with meat and beans, stacked them, then wrapped the leaves, fixed the two ends with two loose strands.
He set up the cake, one hand rotated, the other hand patted the sticky rice down evenly. “If you pat it a lot, the sticky rice will be tight, making it difficult to cook. If it’s too loose, the sticky rice will be loose and the cake will be pasty,” he said. The tie is also tight enough, the new cake is beautiful, not bulging here or there.
At the bottom of the pot, he layered thick papaya leaves to make the cake greener. The cake cooks for about 10 hours, change the water 3-4 times and keep the water level covered. He shared: “The water for cooking cakes must be clean, it is best to get water from wells with natural groundwater or rain water. Water contaminated with alum cake will turn yellow.”
Don’t worry about “lost”
He got married at the age of 25, giving up the process of soaking and filling for his wife, just like in the days of his parents. Then his wife died, and he alone wrapped the cake. He said that his wife soaked sticky rice, making the best filling.
Just like that, Tet came, he wrapped cakes again, waiting for his children to gather. His children confided that no matter where they go, they still crave the feeling of sitting next to a pot of cakes at the end of the year. They also tried on his behalf the first slice of cake, feeling that “putting your teeth into a slice of green cake, the filling is fragrant, fat, and melted in the mouth”.
He joked that he didn’t know how many pots of banh tet he could pack. His fifth son has the “quality” to follow in the cake-packing business, and also records videos of the three-packing stages to follow later. The other children at first also worked hard to “look” at three packages of cakes but had to… give in.
They once discussed going to the market to buy bread for their father to avoid hardship. But in the end, no one has the heart to take away the joy of his old age filled with memories.