News & Events

All hands on deck as rice cake village caters for huge demand

Vietnam News, January 19, 2004

THAI NGUYEN — As the lunar new year approaches, Bo Dau villagers race to pat their famous rice cakes into shape for the holiday season.

About 15km from Thai Nguyen City, the village is a hive of activity leading up to Tet. Cake makers are busy cleaning dong leaves and washing sticky rice to produce the cakes filled with green bean and pork.

Farmer Nguyen Thi Tam’s family is one of many in Bo Dau filling a large order for rice cakes. She estimated she would make more than 20,000 rice cakes this season. Normally, four people was sufficient to make rice cakes, but this year Tam had to hire three more labourers.

She said customers from Ha Noi and Hai Phong started ordering in early December, while Thai Nguyen residents put their orders in just 10 days before Tet. Tam said she would often deliver her product.

All 218 households in Bo Dau make rice cakes. The village is known for the traditional craft and its cakes’ unique mix of ingredients.

Villagers only buy glutinous rice from Bac Can Province, whose grains are of a fragrant variety and grown on terraced fields. A special mix of fragrant rice, green bean, pork, onion and wood ear mushroom is wrapped in the big, green dong leaves to produce the signature cake.

While the trade is primarily seasonal, rice cakes have become the main source of income for Bo Dau households.

Village head Nguyen Xuan Ban said families did very well with the craft.

"During Tet, each household sells several thousands of rice cakes daily. The trade even fetches some families VND10 million per season," he said.

Ban also said the number of customers ordering rice cakes was on the rise. Many people preferred rice cakes from the market and didn’t want to be busy making their own during the holiday, he said.

Nguyen Van Dung is also considered a rice cake "artisan" in the village.

He said his family made rice cakes all year round. He produces 300-500 cakes daily in the off-season and up to 1,500 cakes for Tet. He said he made a VND500-VND3,000 profit from each cake.

The cakes differ in price depending on the season and the size. Ordinarily, villagers often make round or small, square rice cakes priced at VND2,000 to VND5,000 each.

During Tet, shapes and sizes are dependent on customers’ requests. Prices range up to VND20,000 each. — VNS

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