Brown Rock Sugar Craft Village in Northeast Vietnam

Bo To sugar, handmade from sugarcane, contains no preservatives and is often chosen as a gift in Tet for its strong sweet taste.

Quang Hoa district, Cao Bang's key sugarcane field, accounts for about 70% of the province's sugarcane growing area. Besides selling fresh sugarcane, the district is known for its tradition of making craft sugar.

If you visits Bo To village near Tet you can feel the enthusiastic atmosphere of local people making craft sugar. The village roads are covered with bagasse, while the air smells like candy.

The village has about 150 households, almost all of whom follow the craft sugar profession. Due to the good quality of sugarcane and honey in Cao Bang, the craft sugar is sold out wherever it is made, bringing an income of VND 50-100 million (US$2,174 - 4,348) per household per year.

Brown Rock Sugar Craft Village in Northeast Vietnam
The photoset was taken by Ha Cuong and his friends in Bo To sugar village, about 60km from Cao Bang city. (Photo: VN Express)
Brown Rock Sugar Craft Village in Northeast Vietnam
Local people harvest sugarcane before the Tet holiday. Bo To has 150 households, mainly of Tay and Nung ethnic groups, of which 85 are sugar producers. (Photo: VN Express)
Brown Rock Sugar Craft Village in Northeast Vietnam
Bo To has over 30 hectares of sugarcane fields. To make 20-30 kg of sugar, 100kg of fresh sugarcane is used. (Photo: VN Express)

To make the traditional sugar, pressed sugarcane juice is poured into hot pans to be boiled. While boiling, the cook stirs the liquid and takes out the foam created on the surface of the liquid. The boiling process takes several hours.

When the liquid turns golden and rich, the pan is removed from the stove, and the liquid is poured into a stirring machine, then into the molds.

It is left in the molds for two hours to cool down and harden, then cut into small pieces.

Brown Rock Sugar Craft Village in Northeast Vietnam
Sugarcane juice is put into a large iron pan to cook for about 4-5 hours. Bagasse is used to heat the pan instead of charcoal. (Photo: VN Express)
Brown Rock Sugar Craft Village in Northeast Vietnam
The process requires a lot of time and effort. (Photo: VN Express)
Brown Rock Sugar Craft Village in Northeast Vietnam
When the juice becomes thick, the cook lowers the heat to avoid the liquid getting burned. (Photo: VN Express)

According to Ha Thi Lam, this is a traditional profession that has been passed down for generations. Lam said that in the past, people made sugarcane juice using buffalos, but they have modern machines.

Lam's family has been in the business for a long time. She mostly sells products to traders, but sometimes brings sugar to the market herself.

Local people use the sugar to make banh xeo, banh khao, sticky rice candy bar (che lam), and floating rice balls for Tet.

Many other households are also busy with work as Tet approaches. Charcoal stoves and machines are operated at full capacity to meet customer needs.

“Thanks to the profession, the family has an additional source of income. Thanks to that, we can have a bigger house and better machines for farming," said Ha Thi Lam.

Brown Rock Sugar Craft Village in Northeast Vietnam
The sugar pan is taken off the stove, and stirred to quickly cool down. This step helps the color of the sugar go shiny brown, not too dark oor light. (Photo: VN Express)
Brown Rock Sugar Craft Village in Northeast Vietnam
The liquid is poured into the mold and spread evenly. About 30 minutes later, the liquid cools, forming a large sugar cube. (Photo: VN Express)
Brown Rock Sugar Craft Village in Northeast Vietnam
The sugar is also used to make pulled candy. The process takes 45 minutes to pull the sugar by hand.(Photo: VN Express)
Brown Rock Sugar Craft Village in Northeast Vietnam
The finished product is cut into pieces and sold for VND 25,000-30,000 (US$ 1.1 - 1.3) per piece. (Photo: VN Express)
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