In Tày ethnic group language, bánh pẻng phạ or bánh trời (heaven cake) has put Bắc Kạn on the map as one of the traditional speciality centres of Việt Nam.
The cake has been ranked first among the top 100 Việt Nam’s specialities by VietKings.
The cake came into being from the province’s Ba Bể District, with ingredients including sticky rice, tea, pork fat, sugar and traditional wine (locally known as rượu cuốc lủi,) according to local elderly Nông Thị Lựu.
Pẻng phạ cakes of the Tày ethnic group help to make Bắc Kạn one of Việt Nam's speciality centres. Photo danviet.vn
The sticky rice should be of quality and fragrant (locally known as khẩu nua pái). It is ground to become powder which is later mixed with a cup of wine and strong tea, instead of pure water as with others cakes, said Lựu, adding that the wine and the tea create the unique characteristics of the cake.
Other steps include: cutting the mentioned wet powder into pieces and shaping it in a round form to put in an oil cooking pan over medium fire until it becomes brown-yellow. Then, putting it into a molasse pot for several minutes.
Tày women making pẻng phạ (heaven cakes) to welcome the New Rice crop. Photo travelmag.vn
The last step is to roll it on a tray with roasted sticky rice powder, Lựu said. The completed dish is light and sweet thanks to the molasses, the pungent flavour of wine, harsh and fragrant notes of strong tea, and the buttery taste of sticky rice powder.
“The cake is significant of our Tày ethnic group because it has never been lacked on our altar to worship our ancestors and God at big anniversaries and celebrations like Tết or New Rice crop.
“The Tày people believed that their ancestors and God would enjoy the cake and it will bring luck and health for them all year round,” Lựu said.
Different from makers in Ba Bể, the birthplace of the cake, Tày people in the province's Chợ Đồn District add gấc fruit to their pẻng phạ cake, which gives it a beautiful colour and buttery taste. Photo travelmag.vn
Different from Lựu in Ba Bể District, Hoàng Thị Vường in Bắc Cạn’s Chợ Đồn District, adds gấc (Momordica cochinchinensis or gấc fruit) to make bánh pẻng phạ and calls it bánh trời gấc (Sun gấc cake).
“ My gấc trees a lot of fruits so I try to add the fruit as an additional ingredient to make the cake. First I thought to make the cake more colourfull but when my family members try it, they said it is more tasty, fragrant, tough and soft. Children and elderly like it so much,” Vường said.
She said however that to have a tasty bánh gấc trời, she has to choose glutinous gấc fruit which contains much nutrition, deep red colour and more greasy.
The process of making the Sun gấc cake is nearly the same as the Sun cake made by Ba Bể cookers but most important technique is how to fry it over medium fire until it becomes crispy enough.
Visitors to Bắc Kạn like to purchase pẻng phạ cakes as a special gift to their relatives and friends. Photo danviet.vn
Vường has won a success with her cake, which as sold well not only in Bắc Cạn, but also in other cities and provinces like Hà Nội, Hải Dương, Phú Thọ, Khánh Hòa, Bình Phước and many others.
An official from the Bắc Kạn Centre for Tourism Promotion said the cake is not only a traditional dish of the Tày people but also a speciality of visitors and travellers to the province.
“People who do not have a chance to visit Bắc Kạn but wish to try the cake can order it online via FB and Zalo,” he said, noting that many guests told him that they would never forget the special characteristics of the cake. VNS