Black glutinous rice cake (“Bánh chưng đen”) is wrapped in a long cylinder, which is somehow similar to the Southern glutinous rice cake or “bánh gù” of the Giay ethnic people. However, the typical glutinous rice cake of Tay ethnic people in Bac Son District (Lang Son) with the unique glossy black color always arouse the curiosity of a lot of tourists. Hence, it is not an exaggeration to say that any Bac Son Valley trekking tours without enjoying black glutinous rice cake are not perfect.
The unique specialty of the Tay people
From lunar October, the Tay people have started to prepare the very first steps to make the black glutinous rice cakes. After the crop harvest, people select the big, strong and yellow sticky rice straw, dry and burn them to ashes. After that, they rub carefully, select the finest powder and then mix it with sticky rice to create the glossy black color.
Black glutinous rice
In some other places, people even use “nuc nac” trees in the forests to create that black coal powder and mix it with glutinous rice. The Tay ethnic people will continue to stir until the rice grain is completely mixed with that coal powder. The interesting point of this kind of glutinous rice cake is that all of the ingredients from glutinous rice, vegetables to pork, green beans, etc. are the highland products.
To have a delicious black glutinous rice cake, the rice must “meet the standard”: big and round seeds and then be added a pinch of salt. The pork must be the sliced pork bellies marinated with spices, dried cardamom along with pepper and chili powder. Finally, the filling of glutinous rice cake consists of crushed mung beans mixed with green onions and pepper and it is wrapped in fresh wild “dong” leaves.
The filling inside a black glutinous rice cake
Black glutinous rice cakes must be wrapped by hand. The cakes are about 30 cm in length, 6 – 7 cm in diameter and are tied with long strings. Before boiling the cakes, people often soak them in cold water once, put them in a pot full of water, boil for 4 – 5 hours, then take them out.
Making a black glutinous rice cake is not easy. Therefore, when choosing the bride, Bac Son people often pay much attention to the girls who are skillful enough to make a beautiful and delicious black glutinous rice cake.
Beautifully wrapped black glutinous rice cake
When enjoying, people usually make use of the strings wrapped outside to cut the cake into several rings. Looking from the outside, the cake feels sticky with yellow mung bean paste, green onion and pepper. Just by having a look, this typical specialty of the Northern Highlands can enthrall any visitors during their Bac Son Valley trekking tours.
In particular, besides the normal black glutinous rice cakes, there is another option for you to enjoy this famous specialty of Bac Son cuisine, which is the grilled black glutinous rice cake. Put the whole wrapped glutinous rice cake on top of the charcoal oven until the scent of sticky rice, cardamom and pepper awakens the senses of everyone.
Only a piece of black glutinous rice cake can have the special flavor of glutinous rice and pork, the sweetness of mung beans, the strange flavor of wild leaves, etc. It is definitely an unforgettable taste. Thus, it is not strange that this dish has always been highly recommended by many Vietnam travel agencies or Vietnam local tour operators.
In the past, this kind of glutinous rice cake only appeared on some special occasions such as holiday, Tet festivals, etc. However, currently, black glutinous rice cake has become a popular specialty that anyone to Bac Son can enjoy and buy as a gift. Black glutinous rice cake can keep its delicious flavor for a long time, until the end of lunar January.
The Tay ethnic people wrap glutinous rice cakes together
During the period near Tet festival in the Highlands, there is nothing better than sitting next to the boiling glutinous rice cake pot, drink a few cups of sweet corn alcohol, talking the story of the old year and the new year. It can be one of the interesting experiences of foreign tourists in their Bac Son tour.