Hoi An locals busy preparing traditional cakes for Doan Ngo festival
From the early the morning, Le Thi Ty's family (Cam Chau ward, Hoi An city, Quang Nam province) has busy preparing the last batch of u tro cakes for the Doan Ngo Festival, the second most significant festival in Vietnam, behind the Lunar New Year holiday, which falls on June 18th (the fifth day of the fifth Lunar month) this year.
Le Thi Ty (right) joins her family members making u tro cake.
U tro, a pyramidal sticky rice cake wrapped in banana leaves, is one among the typical dishes favoured during the festival. Every year, starting from the second day of the fifth lunar month, Ty and her bakers are busy making cakes. Ty shared that her family has been doing this job for three generations. Each year, she only makes cakes for three days, from the 2nd to the 4th day of the fifth lunar month.
U tro is carefully made every stage, from preparing the materials to the cooking period which lasts for six hours. Du Thi Anh, 64, said she has made cakes for almost 40 years. Every year, she joins her sisters at Ty’s house to support her in making u tro cake. Work starts from midnight until midday. In the three days, she can make up to 5,000 cakes, earning over one million dong.
Making u tro requires meticulous preparation at every stage.
This year, Ty’s bakery has produced 30,000 cakes for Hoi An and Da Nang.
Arriving to buy 50 cakes, Phan Thi To Yen said: "Every year, on the occasion of Doan Ngo, I come here to buy u tro cake to offer it to my ancestors, along with flowers, fruits and other traditional dishes, wishing for prosperity and happiness.”
A cooked u tro cake.
For Ty, although not many in Hoi An still maintain the job, making cake is not only for income, but also to keep her traditional family business. Doan Ngo is a time for her to join her relatives in the bustling three day period, to remember the old folds of the old town of Hoi An.
Tet Doan Ngo is a traditional festival held on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month in the year. This festival is also popular in China and Korea.
In Vietnam, Tet Doan Ngo is also known as “Tet sau bo” (insects killing festival). Farmers on this day get rid of all pests to start growing their crops for the new season. Tet Doan Ngo is also an occasion when the Vietnamese people show their gratitude to others.
Just like how banh chung is the soul of Tet (new year holiday), banh u tro is a prime traditional food of Tet Doan Ngo. Banh u tro is pyramidal sticky rice cakes wrapped in bamboo leaves. The sticky rice is soaked in fine, soft ash water, which gives bánh ú tro a transparent look and a light texture. That’s why “ash” (tro) is part of the banh’s definitive name. People often eat these almost tasteless tiny cakes with white sugar./.