Enjoying a much-loved cake from the Ta Oi people of Thua Thien Hue
Update: Mar 22, 2022
“We are lucky to have a chance to enjoy a special dish (locally known as banh a quat or loved cake) made by the Ta Oi ethnic people of A Luoi District of Thua Thien Hue Province,” said Hanoian Nguyen Thi Bang.

Bang said her group recently toured the Viet Nam National Village for Ethnic Culture and Tourism in Dong Mo, 40km east of Ha Noi, to join Ta Oi people making the cake.

Two Ta Oi women making a quat cakes. Photo danviet.vn

Maker Ho A Don invited Bang and her group to join the Aza Tet of the Ta Oi, which has been redisplayed at the Dong Mo site.

“Among offerings for worship, a quat cake should never be missing.”

When a Ta Oi girl gets married, she often makes several a quat cakes to give to her husband’s family as a dowry, said A Don, adding that when a mother visits her daughter at her in-laws she also brings these cakes as gifts for them.

Almost all Ta Oi girls are taught how to make the cakes when they are young by their mother or grandmothers, A Don said.

The Ta Oi ethnic people place importance in the a quat cakes, among other offerings to worship their ancestors. Photo danviet.vn

She told the story of a legend: long ago, there was a young Ta Oi man named Ta-tui who was very intelligent and strong. At the time, local people did not know how to cultivate and raise livestock, so they had a very hard life. Ta-tui learned ways of growing rice and raising buffaloes from other villages and came back to help the villagers.

The villagers escaped from hunger and some even became rich. Ta-tui also helped locals to build the village’s communal house, so they could get together to exchange views on village issues.

When Ta-tui died, God turned him into a very strong buffalo - very useful for the locals. To keep his image, respect and remember him, the Ta Oi people make a quat cake, the two sides of which look like buffalo horns, to celebrate big anniversaries such as Tet or a new rice crop, A Don said.

The ingredients to make the cake include black glutinous rice (locally known as nep than) which has a gentle fragrance and sweet soft flavour.

“We call it Cu-Char or heaven pearl. Our elders said the cake symbolises a faithful and loyal love of the Ta Oi.

A bamboo basket displaying the special black glutinous rice used to wrap a quat cakes. Photo danviet.vn

The cake is wrapped in fresh forest leaves known as la dot (thysanolaena latifolia), which should not be too old or too young, otherwise, they might tear. The cake has two tops, representing the buffalo horns.

After being wrapped up the cakes are tied in couples; the larger cake represents a man and the smaller a girl. The cakes are soaked in water for two hours before being boiled, to ensure that they are soft.

The boiled cake has a pinkish-black colour, said A Don, adding that nowadays the cake is not only made for big holidays such as anniversaries, Tet or wedding parties but also for dear guests visiting the A Luoi mountains.

The attractive violet colour of the a quat cake. Photo danviet.vn

Bang’s friend Nguyen Thu Lan, said: “I’ve heard about the cake a long time ago, but not yet has a chance to visit A Luoi to try it. It’s lucky for us that during the visit to Dong Mo tourism site in Ha Noi, we can make it ourselves and enjoy it on the spot. The cake has a buttery taste and a sweet fragrance. I can feel the flavour, the simple and warm behaviour of the Ta Oi people, from the cake.”

Quynh Ngum, head of A Luoi District’s Ta-ay Hamlet, said: “Our traditional culinary was wrapping up a quat, which is never lacking at important village festivals and family parties. We placed importance on the habit of making the cake, which has been handed down from our ancestors. The cake helps us to express respect and thankfulness to God who had given us with life and things to eat every day.”

Quy Duong

VNS - vietnamnews.vn - March 22, 2022