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Old 10-12-2009, 06:28 AM   #1
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Cai Be traditional craft villages

When touring the Mekong Delta region, tourists can visit several floating markets. Two of the largest and busiest of these markets are separated by My Thuan Bridge, namely Cai Rang in Can Tho City and Cai Be in Tien Giang Province.

These markets are similar in that they are where locals buy and sell a variety of daily foods, fruits and equipment from boats of all sizes. But Cai Be offers something different for tourists to explore.

After experiencing an early morning floating market of Cai Be, tourists can ask boatmen to take them to nearby households that specialize in making coconut candies, banh trang dua (coconut girdle cake) or banh com (crispy rice popcorn). A worker who makes coconut candies described the process.

First the mix of coconut milk, mach nha (processed from young grain) and sugar is cooked for 40 to 45 minutes.

The mix is then poured into wooden lines of a mould so that the “candy sticks” can be easily cut into small rectangular pieces. Finally, before being hand wrapped in paper each piece is covered by a very thin lay of girdle cake.

“We can make 130 packets of coconut candies with some 40 pieces in a packet in a day,” she said, adding that when pouring, cutting and packing, their hands are filmed over with coconut oil so that the work is smooth and clean.

Ms. Muoi, who runs a howhere banh trang dua are made said that in one day she can make about 100 pieces of banh trang dua and 500 banh nem (a kind of small girdle cake), which are both made from rice powder and coconut milk.

“When grilled, they taste different from those in the Central and the North, and more delicious thanks to the combination of rice and coconut,” she added.

Meanwhile her brother, Mr. Ba, makes bamboo grids to dry the cakes. He can make two units a day, on which some ten girdle cakes can be dried within two to three hours. He added that many households in the village earn their living by making products which are sold in Cai Be Floating Market.

In recent years, tour operators have included visits to these villages in their Mekong Delta tours. Local and foreign tourists enjoy both watching the traditional process of making the candies and buying these reasonably priced items as snack foods or souvenirs.
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