A cake from a land of cultural confluence
For hundreds of years, the pía cake (a cake filled with durian, shredded lard, salted egg yolk and mung bean paste), originally of the Hoa people, has been served and given as gifts by Soc Trang residents.
The confluence of three ethnicities in Soc Trang Province, that of the Kinh, the Hoa and the Khmer, makes it a great place to discover the beauty of different cultures and observe distinct customs. The distinctive festivals, landmarks and other features also open a door to the Mekong Delta province’s unique culinary specialties influenced by its cultural persity.
The round cake is said to symbolise fullness and family reunion. (Photo: Internet)
The pía cake is served on special occasions during the year, including weddings and the Full Moon Festival. This round cake is seen as a symbol of fullness and family reunion.
The cake has a thin crust made of flour and a filling of durian, mung beans and taro with or without salted duck egg. The outer part can be uncovered layer by layer. As the cake is cut, the aroma of the filling is appetising.
It’s said that the pía cake first appeared in Soc Trang in the 17th century when Hoa people migrated to the south of Vietnam. Over the years, pía cake was adjusted to match the taste buds of other people and it developed into a provincial specialty.
In the 19th century, Dang Thuan, a native of Vung Thom Village in Chau Thanh District was the first to start a business selling pía cake. He passed on the cake making skills to younger generations.
Residents of Soc Trang Province traditionally made and served the pía cake during weddings and the Full Moon Festival. It is now available all year round. (Photo: quehomemade.com)
Traditonally, the pía cake was made only for the Full Moon Festival and Tet (Lunar New Year). As with other such food items, the pía cake is now made and sold all year round. It has a shelf life of up to two months, instead of a fortnight.
In Vietnam, durian is known as an ‘addicting’ fruit. Even those who do not like its pungency at first, become ardent converts.
In order to make an attractive, tasty pía cake, bakers have to exercise sophisticated skills at several stages.
To make the crust, they mix the flour with sugar and finely mill the mixture into very thin layers.
The filling of durian, mung bean, taro and salted duck egg, or durian, steamed mung bean, taro and sugar is ground into fine paste and added with a bit of pork fat before being used to cover salted duck egg.
The baker then applies a layer of oil to the cake before putting it in the oven at an average of about 270 degree celcius. After 5-7 minutes, it is turned over, and baked or another 10 minutes until it turns yellow.
The Soc Trang pía cake is special because the aroma of fresh durian is irreplaceable.
Salted duck egg yolk and pastes of mung bean and durian make up a pía cake’s filling. (Photo: Internet)
Soc Trang now has more than 50 pía bakeries. Currently, with improved quality and promotion, many enterprise have started selling their product not only in other areas of Vietnam, but also in foreign countries like America and Cambodia.
Today’s pía cake varies a lot from the traditional version. It fillings now include not only mung bean, taro, durian, salted egg, but also lotus seeds and char siu or pineapple./.