Ant egg cake – late spring dish of the Tay people

TUYEN QUANG – Tay people go to the forest to get ant eggs, and mix more spices to make the filling, the outer shell is sticky rice powder wrapped in fig leaves.

Visitors to Nam Dip village, Lang Can commune, Lam Binh district this month will experience making ant egg cake, a traditional dish of the Tay people. For people from other regions, the first time hearing the name of ant egg cake is somewhat apprehensive.

Trinh Thi Chinh, a longtime baker in Nam Dip village, said that ant egg cake is a traditional dish of the Tay people for generations. During the Qingming Festival, cakes must be on the tray to worship ancestors. Every year, the Tay people only make ant egg cakes in the March and April of the lunar calendar because the main ingredient is black ant eggs, which are only available in this season.

The Tay people use fig leaves to wrap ant egg cakes into square packages without tying strings.  Photo: Huynh Nhi
The cake is filled with ant eggs, the shell is glutinous rice flour wrapped in fig leaves. Photo: Huynh Nhi

Black forest ant eggs are as small as a grain of rice, white, round, and abundant in lowland hills where there are many bamboo shoots. To get black ant eggs, you must choose a sunny, dry day so that the eggs do not get stuck in mud and the ants do not stick to the eggs.

“I and the bakers both go to the forest to get ant eggs, the operation must be very fast so as not to get ants and ant resin stick to the body”, Ms. Chinh shared, it usually takes 30 minutes to harvest each ant nest. Collect ant eggs into the forest from 9.30 am to 3.00 pm to go home.

After that, they continue the steps such as grinding glutinous rice flour to make cake shells, washing ant eggs, mixing spices, minced pork, dried onions… as fillings. If the ant eggs are not used up, the baker can refrigerate them and use them for 3 months.

To pack ant egg cakes, you need to take the soft kneaded upland glutinous rice flour, put the filling in the middle and wrap it up into round balls. The cake is then put in a layer of fig leaves, wrapped in a square and then steamed for 60 minutes. The pack of ant eggs requires 2-3 layers of leaves. The innermost layer is the tender young leaves, which have a fleshy taste, not acrid, the outer layer is the older leaves to fix the shape of the cake when steamed, not broken.

Put the ant cake in the steamer for 60 minutes.  Photo: Huynh Nhi
Put the ant cake in the steamer for 60 minutes. Photo: Huynh Nhi

When the cake is ripe, it turns yellow, just peel off the outer layer of old leaves, keep the inner layer of young leaves, and take a bite with enough fig leaves, shells and filling. The cake is most delicious when eaten hot, the aroma of fig leaves and sticky rice is fragrant, the fleshy taste of the leaves, the softness of upland sticky rice, the sweetness of ant eggs and rich spices blend together, without the pungent smell of ants. as many people imagine. However, diners who are allergic to dishes containing insects should not eat ant egg tarts.

If you have the opportunity to visit Nam Dip village, you should try making an egg cake of the Tay people and wait for the cake to be cooked, enjoy it on the spot. In addition, this place has many beautiful scenes, you can cycle through the fragrant rice fields, admire the soaring mountains with clouds, wade in Ngoi Trang stream, make thick cakes, eat rice. , foot bath with medicinal leaves…

After steaming, the ant egg cake is very fragrant and soft.  Photo: Huynh Nhi
After steaming, the ant egg cake is very fragrant and soft. Photo: Huynh Nhi

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