'Banh ngai': A specialty of Tay ethnic group in Lang Son

'Banh ngai' (wormwood cake) is one of famous specialties of Lang Son’s Tay ethnic group.
'Banh ngai': A specialty of Tay ethnic group in Lang Son
'Banh ngai': A specialty of Tay ethnic group in Lang Son

Wormwood is a kind of wild vegetable now planted by farmers. It can be used to treat with many ailments such as muscle pains, abdominal pain, back pain, low blood circulation, upset stomach and fever. It is particularly healthy and nutritious for pregnant woman.

There are many tasty dishes cooked from wormwood. They include wormwood with eggs or chicken, hotpot and the cakes.

The cake’s ingredients include special glutinous rice, which is fragrant and only planted in the province. It also has sesame and sugar cane locally known as 'phen' sugar that is often packed in a rectangle shape.

Making tasty 'ngai' cake requires carefully chosen fresh wormwood, quality glutinous rice and light yellow 'phen' sugar.

The most difficult thing about making the cake is ensuring the wormwood keeps its green colour without becoming bitter.

There are two ways to deal with wormwood: boil it in lime water or ash water.

Tay ethnic peple often use the first way for its simplicity but several elderly people use the second way by using bamboo ash water to make the cake more fragrant with an aromatic flavor.

After boiling for an hour, the leaves should be carefully cleaned, cut into pieces, drained and stirred on a light flame to reduce their bitterness.

The glutinous rice should be soaked in water for six to eight hours and drained before cooking to turn it into sticky rice.

The dough is kneaded into a small ball and then formed into a round cake which includes condensed ground roasted sesame mixed with yellow phen sugar. The cakes are steamed for five minutes and left to cool.

A quality cake gets its fragrance from glutinous rice and wormwood. It has the sweet flavour of sugar, the light flavour of ngai leaves and the nutty flavour of roasted sesame.