THE peng pha is the best-known specialty of the Tày ethnic group in the province of Bac Kan (North). This traditional cake is ranked at the top of the list of 100 Vietnamese specialties, nominated by the Vietnam Records Organization (Vietkings).
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|Peng pha is classified among the best of Vietnamese gastronomy.|
In the Tày language, “peng“means cake and”pha” means sky. Thus, the peng pha is also known as sky cake. Because of this meaning, the Tày generally make it for important occasions, such as the New Year or the Lông Tông festival (the festival of going down to the fields).
“The Tày frequently prepare peng pha for Lunar New Year’s Eve, which they then place on the ancestral altar. We believe that at this time our ancestors return among us to celebrate the New Year“, declares Hoàng Thi En, living in the town of Cho Ra, district of Ba Bê, province of Bac Kan. And adding that by offering these cakes from heaven, they wish to express their respect and gratitude towards their ancestors. They address also prayers for a promising new year, marked by a favorable climate and good harvests.
The ranking of peng pha topping the list of 100 Vietnamese specialties nominated by Vietkings is no coincidence. THE peng pha is special, not only thanks to its ingredients and its unique recipe, but also because of its close link with the cultural and religious life of the Tày ethnic group in this region.
Every family, every secret
|Peng pha is known as sky cake.|
Sticky rice plays a central role in the creation of sky cakes. To get a fragrant and moist cake, the cook should opt for a variety of glutinous rice grown on cool-climate mountains, known as nep nuong. Once the rice is ground, it is carefully kneaded until a soft and smooth dough is obtained. Then it is shaped into small balls the size of a longan.
To cook, heat pork fat in a pan, then place the cakes in it. We cook them until they take on a yellow tint, then we remove them and let them drain to get rid of excess fat. The cakes are then dipped in cane sugar then coated with cooked flour.
Although the steps for preparing sky cakes are not complex, each Tày family has their own secret to transforming these simple ingredients into delicious cakes. “For delicious cakes, the cook must precisely control the temperature of the fat and the amount of water added to the cane sugar. In this preparation we use exclusively pork fat. We avoid edible oils because with them, the cakes lose their fragrance and risk bursting.“, underlines Hoàng Thi En.
Nowadays, sky cakes are no longer just a traditional dish among the Tày, but have also become a specialty offered to tourists during their visit to Ba Bê Lake. It is a well-known tourist site in the province of Bac Kan and where a significant number of Tày people are recorded. “The increase in the number of visitors to Ba Bê represents a promising opportunity to showcase sky cakes. It could become a flagship product in promoting local tourism development“, estimates Hoàng Ngoc Thâm, director of the Center for Culture, Sports and Communication, Ba Bê district.
THE peng pha based on momordic
With the desire to discover local gastronomic treasures, since 2016, Hoàng Thi Diên, residing in the town of Bang Lung, in the district of Cho Dôn, has created heavenly cakes based on momordique. This product was recognized as conforming to the 3-star OCOP standard of Bac Kan Province in 2021. Thanks to his enthusiasm, Mrme Diên has been able to make Vietnamese and foreign visitors appreciate the delicious flavor of its sky cakes. “Skycakes have been an integral part of my life since I was born. The Momordics (a cucurbit, editor’s note) have many nutritional values. This is why I chose to incorporate momordique into the sky cake recipe.reveals Hoàng Thi Diên.
Recently, Bac Kan province has undertaken numerous initiatives to promote and exhibit its tourist attractions as well as its OCOP certified agricultural products. These actions contribute to the preservation and promotion of the traditional values of ethnic minorities in Bac Kan province.
“Bac Kan province is full of unique products from local ethnic communities. These products arouse keen interest among visitors who are encouraged to go there to discover them, experiment with them and even participate in their making. Thanks to tourism promotion efforts, it is hoped that Bac Kan gastronomy, particularly peng pha, will gain notoriety“, underlines Lâm Ngoc Du, deputy director of the Bac Kan Culture and Tourism Promotion Center.
Anyone who has had the chance to taste the peng pha cannot forget its special flavor, mixing the sweetness of sugar, the richness of fat and the characteristic aroma of glutinous rice flour. This is why this sky cake is appreciated by all generations, and is ranked among the best in Vietnamese gastronomy.