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Vietnam village makes some extra dough during Lunar New Year

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For decades milling rice has been a major vocation in Sa Dec, and the craft is now a tourist attraction.

In the fertile land along Nga Bat Canal in Sa Dec town, Dong Thap Province, 162 km west of Saigon, one can see chunks of dough drying in evenly arranged lines. No one knows exactly when this flour village came into being but there are families here who have been in the business of dough and cake making for three or four generations.

Vietnam village makes some extra dough during Lunar New Year - 1

Nguyen Van Toan, the owner of a flour making facility in Tan Phu Dong Commune, switched on his first furnace in 1986. He says: "It has been my vocation for more than 30 years. My child also does this. The family makes about three to four bags of flour daily, but close to Tet we make 12-15 bags to keep up demand."

Vietnam village makes some extra dough during Lunar New Year - 2

Many households carry on this traditional occupation along with pig rearing. Nguyen Thi Tu, 58, says: "This work doesn't fetch much profit. We make some profit by using the residue from making dough to feed the pigs."

Her family used to work manually, grinding the flour using a stone mortar. "It took all day to go through all the steps. Productivity was not high. Now we work with machines, so it reduces a lot of hard labor. It takes less time and fewer workers."

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To make flour, millers must go to rice warehouses to buy broken rice, the tips of rice grains that falls off during harvest or when they are dried or milled.

Vietnam village makes some extra dough during Lunar New Year - 4

The broken grains are put in a crusher with water to create a milky white liquid. The liquid is then put in a centrifugal mortar to remove the water and dried to get white patches of powder.

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The flour is then placed in a mortar to be smoothened and finally placed in a filter tank. The final step is to beat the flour, put it in a different tank and pump water into it. Workers add to the tank a bucket of hibiscus leaves-infused water. This mixture transforms in a few hours.

Impurities settle at the bottom of the tank and the flour floats to the top. The quality of the final product depends on this last process. The residue at the bottom is used to feed pigs, which is also the main source of income for many households in this village.

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The entire process of making the flour is repeated from 4 a.m. to 1 p.m. every day by the families of Tu and Toan.

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Fresh flour is often delivered directly to bakeries and noodles and ramen making facilities. Packaged dry flour is sold to big businesses and factories for making noodles but in larger quantities.

The fragrant, sweet pieces of rice cakes and aromatic fresh bowls of rice noodles in Sa Dec attract tourists from everywhere. During Tet, the Lunar New Year, the flour village is packed with visitors. For VND50,000 ($2.16), visitors can taste more than 20 different cakes.

Both Tu and Toan are passionate about keeping the traditional method of milling alive. Toan says: "This is a traditional craft of not only my family but also of this neighborhood. Everyone wants to preserve and promote it."

 

Source: VnExpress

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