|A worker is seen with her tofu skin. Mỹ Hòa Village has 27 households making the food product. — Photo dantri.com.vn|
Many provinces in the Mekong Delta have craft villages making tofu skin or beancurd sheet, but the food product made in Mỹ Hòa Village, Bình Minh Town in Vĩnh Long Province, is a specialty, unique in taste.
The village is on the bank of the Cái Vồn River in Mỹ Hòa Commune. In the past, you could only reach the area by boat. Now you can get there by crossing the Từ Tải Bridge over the river
Night or day, the village is always bustling, and the tofu skin here is golden, fragrant, crispy, and full of nutrients.
"My family's tofu skin making craft has been passed down from our ancestors for more than 70 years," Ðinh Công Hoàng, a workshop owner, said.
"Although there have been ups and downs, the village still has 27 households with more than 200 workers producing about seven tonnes of tofu skin per day. The work not only brings economic value to the locals but contributes to the formation of the village's cultural characteristics."
Hoàng's workshop is large, with about six rows of ovens, making hundreds of kilograms of tofu skin every day.
|To make tofu skin, the soy milk in the pan should be maintained at about 70 degrees Celsius only. — Photo dantri.com.vn|
Preserving village culture
In the 18th and 19th centuries, social upheavals pushed many Chinese migrants to the south of Việt Nam, bringing with them several traditional crafts to the new land. At that time, a man named Châu Xường, his wife and two sons from Guangdong, China, migrated to the south and chose Mỹ Hòa to work as the first tofu skin makers.
The ancient craft was passed down by their family, but they hired some local residents to help. Gradually, the Vietnamese in the village embraced the Chinese tofu skin making and learnt the production secrets. A busy craft village was formed.
Little has changed in the processing steps and production tools. Machines have replaced some stages in the production process to meet increasing demand. However, the process mostly requires the skilful hands and the experience of workers.
According to Hoàng, to get the product, first, soy milk is poured into an open shallow pan that is heated continuously with firewood or coal. When the soy milk boils, a rich, fatty film of coagulated proteins is formed on the surface of heated soy milk. The worker just lifts the sheet away and hangs it on a bamboo pole to dry. Normally, in every 25 minutes, a new beancurd sheet is formed and lifted away.
|Tofu skin is also rolled into string, which is often used to make veggie spring rolls. — Photo dantri.com.vn|
The soy milk boiling stage is critical because it determines the success or failure of the batch. In the past, the tofu skin makers mainly used straw; later, they burned rice husks, firewood and coal instead.
Tofu skin in Mỹ Hòa is made from clean soybeans and does not use chemicals. Natural purity is a factor that defines the village's brand. The tofu skin here has been recognised as a 3-star OCOP (One Commune – One Product) product in the province.
The tofu skin craft in Mỹ Hòa Village has also been recognised by the culture ministry as a National Intangible Cultural Heritage.
"Mỹ Hòa tofu skin named as a national intangible cultural heritage is a joy, honour and pride of the craft village," Nguyễn Thanh Cần, chairman of Bình Minh Town's People's Committee, said.
"To preserve and promote this traditional craft village, the locality has determined that it is necessary to deploy many support solutions to improve economic efficiency for the local people to maintain and expand this profession."
Meanwhile, Nguyễn Xuân Hoanh, deputy director of Vĩnh Long Province's Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism, said the province has 23 traditional craft villages, including Mỹ Hòa tofu skin craft village. Its products are very diverse and famous throughout the region, especially for vegetarians, and as gifts for tourists.
"As a national intangible cultural heritage, the craft village is the pride of its artisans and local people. It brings opportunities to promote and develop the village and attracts tourists to Vĩnh Long," Hoanh said. VNS
|Soy milk is poured into open shallow pans. A rich, fatty film of coagulated proteins is formed on the surface of heated soy milk..Mỹ Hòa tofu skin craft village has existed for over a hundred years. — Photo courtesy of Mỹ Hòa Tofu Skin Foundation|