Make your own traditional cakes in Cần Thơ

Update: August, 17/2018 - 12:00
Friends from far: An increasing number of foreign tourists have visited Sơn Islet in Cần Thơ Province since community-based tourism was introduced to the area. — VNA/VNS Photo Thanh Liêm
Viet Nam News

By Thanh Liêm

At Phan Kim Ngân’s house, visitors can make their own local traditional cakes and enjoy a buffet consisting of nearly 50 kinds of cakes. Ngân’s is one of many households offering community-based tourism services on Cồn Sơn or Sơn Islet, located in Bình Thủy District in the southern city of Cần Thơ.

Nguyễn Thu Liễu’s family from the northern city of Hải Phòng visited Ngân’s house during their three-day trip to Cần Thơ Province in early July.

“We arrived at the islet during a rainy spell so we could not visit all the places that we had planned to, but we still enjoyed our trip and had fun making our own cakes here,” said Liễu, after pouring powder into a mould to make kẹp cuốn (egg roll with black seasame) – Ngân’s dish that won a silver medal at the fifth southern traditional cakes festival in 2016.

Matriarch: The family of local Phan Kim Ngân (second from right) welcomes around 80 tourists who wish to try making local traditional cakes a day. — VNA/VNS Photo Thanh Liêm

Her cake-making process is entirely manual and traditional. It demands meticulous skill, which many tourists find challenging but fascinating.

Every day, Ngân’s family welcomes around 80 tourists who wish to try making local traditional cakes under her guidance.

Over her 40 years of making southern traditional cakes, Ngân has always tried to preserve their original taste and traditional methods of preparation. She personally makes 50 kinds of cakes to serve tourists.

Since 2015, her family and 17 other households on Cồn Sơn Islet have offered community-based tourism experiences. Ngân’s home has also been included on the lists of must-visit destinations on the islet.

Try your hand: Tasting and making their own southern traditional cakes are exciting experiences for tourists to Sơn Islet in Cần Thơ City. — VNA/VNS Photo Thanh Liêm

Community-based tourism has offered her family more stable income, but the 53-year-old host hasn’t changed her lifestyle much. Wearing a loose-fitting blouse – the typical southern Vietnamese women’s shirt – and a bandana, Ngân enthusiastically instructs tourists on how to make cakes and tells the origin story of each cake.

Ngân is now the head of the club gathering all area households involved in community-based tourism. In the upcoming years, the club plans to eliminate plastic bags in tourism activities in order to contribute to environmental protection.

Local specialty: Sơn Islet boasts a variety of eye-catching and delicious southern traditional cakes. — VNA/VNS Photo Thanh Liêm

Preserve national character

The model of community tourism was first introduced to Cồn Sơn in September 2016 by the local department of Culture-Information with the principle of non-competition, meaning that each household specialises in certain kinds of cakes. For example, Phan Thị Kim Phước’s family will make in cakes, which are made of flour, green beans and and stamped with an auspicious Sino-Vietnamese character such as Thọ for long life. Ngân’s will make lọt cakes with flour, coconut milk and palm sugar syrup. Nguyễn Thị Út’s household will focus on xèo (sizzling) pancakes made of rice flour, water, turmeric powder and meat and served with fresh vegetables.

Tourists to Cồn Sơn contact the households whose cakes they’d like to try ahead of time. By the time they arrive, the dishes they wish to taste will be ready and brought to the household where they are staying.

Other farming activities that tourists can experience when they visit the island include bailing out the water from the pond, observing snakeheads flying off the water, rowing boats along narrow canals and harvesting fruits like rambutan and pomelo. They can also join their host to cook southern specialties like mắm or snail hotpot.

Piece of cake: A tourist has fun making cakes at Phan Kim Ngân’s house – one of many households offering a community-based tourism service in Cồn Sơn Islet. — VNA/VNS Photo Thanh Liêm

According to Phan Thị Nguyệt, the vice chairwoman of Bình Thủy District’s People’s Committee, the community-based tourism of Cồn Sơn Island will be developed along with the preservation of natural surroundings and local cultural identities.

In the years to come, the local authorities will implement and incentives for households offering community-based tourism service. The first members of Cồn Sơn tourism club will be provided with favourable conditions for working and improving their tourism services, she added.

Noting that Cồn Sơn tourism has resulted from the cooperation among neighbourhood residents, as well as their joint efforts in preserving traditional cultural values, Lê Văn Tâm, the vice chairman of Cần Thơ City’s People’s Committee affirmed that Cồn Sơn has become a tourism hotspot of the city, which needs to be promoted and expanded. — VNS