The profession of making red rice paper in Hai Phong

Every day, 10 households in Du Hang Kenh ward, Le Chan district, sell more than 4 tons of fresh rice paper, the main ingredient of the famous crab cake in Hai Phong.

At 4:30 a.m. every day, Mrs. Nguyen Thi Thoi, 55 years old, at Lane 152, Ho Sen Street, Du Hang Kenh Ward, and three family members wake up to start the day of making rice paper. Near her house, dozens of households also turned on the lights and turned the production machines. In the 80s and 90s of the last century, the whole ward had up to 100 working households, now there are only 10 households.

Mrs. Thoi used three quintals of delicious rice, soaked it in clean water for about an hour, and then put it in an electric mill. Rice is milled into a liquid, milky white powder and then put into a coating machine. One kg of rice will give at least 1.5 kg of fresh rice paper.

10 years ago, this job was still done manually by boiler, like rolling rice paper. Now every home has a coating machine, which is fast and less strenuous.

Cake dough is made from delicious rice.  To color the cake, people will cook sugar into water and then mix it into the flour.  Photo of Le Thanh Tan
Cake dough is made from delicious rice. To color the cake, people will cook sugar into water and then mix it into the flour. Photo: Le Tan

Rice flour will be steamed, passed through a rolling machine, thin as a silk strip, and then put on a bamboo screen to dry. To get the type of red rice paper commonly used in crab cakes, people will use cane sugar cooked into water to create color. “Du Hanh Kenh rice paper does not use additives,” Ms. Thom confirmed.

During the steaming process, Ms. Thoi must focus on controlling the thickness of the cake and the temperature of the boiler. “It’s easy to say, but if you don’t have experience, it’s spoiled. Rice that doesn’t soak for an hour in the summer, 8 to 10 hours in the winter won’t work. A gritty dough will cause the cake to warp, if the temperature isn’t enough, the cake will break…” , she explained.

After about 4 hours, hundreds of cakes are released from the oven. In mid-November, when it was sunny, Mrs. Thoi loaded the cake onto the trailer and brought it to the drying street. The cake is only exposed to the sun and it will shrink, it is still moist to the touch. Fresh cakes, consumed during the day.

Bright red rice paper is the main ingredient of the most famous crab cake in Hai Phong city.  Photo of Le Thanh Tan
Bright red rice paper is the main ingredient of the most famous crab cake in Hai Phong city. Photo: Le Tan

Du Hang Kenh ward is in Le Chan district, is one of the four central districts of Hai Phong city , so the land is crowded with people. The people who make rice paper have to bring the rice cake to the sidewalk, alley or any empty place to dry the cake.

The drying stage is like drying rice, you have to look at the sky, look at the ground, and look at the clouds. If it’s sunny, it only takes more than an hour to dry the cake. If it rains heavily, you have to leave the cake in the drying house. When bringing the cake out to dry, people have to stand guard, when it rains, they call each other to collect it. “Some days bring out, collect dozens of times. But even if there are hundreds of times like that, you still have to do it, otherwise the batch of cakes that day will be ruined”, Ms. Thoi explained.

Every day, Mrs. Thoi’s family sells more than 3 quintals of rice paper, priced at 15,000 VND (0,7$)/kg. “With a small bakery like my house, my annual income is more than 200 million VND (8,000 $), neither too high nor too low. But none of our children have followed the profession because of hard work, staying up late, getting up early,” Ms. Thoi Tam the.

Thuy's family invests in synchronous machinery, so they can produce 1 ton of cakes/day.  Photo of Le Thanh Tan
Thuy’s house invests in synchronous machinery, so it can produce one ton of cakes/day. Photo: Le Tan

Currently, there are two households in the craft village investing in machinery, both coating and drying in a line. The cake is steamed and then run through a drying machine system more than 20m long to dry, then curled, for about 5 hours, it can be cut into fibers.

As one of two large-scale production households, 62-year-old Nguyen Thi Thuy said her family makes more than a ton of cakes every day, earning about 500 million VND/month. “Gradually, small and handicraft establishments will not be able to survive because this profession is hard. I hope that my children and grandchildren will not only follow the profession but also apply science and technology and advanced advertising methods. to bring Du Hang Kenh rice paper products to more markets,” Thuy said.

According to Mr. Vo Tien Dung, Chairman of Du Hang Kenh Ward, the profession of making rice paper in the ward has existed for nearly 100 years. Currently, every day households bring about 4 tons of fresh cakes to the market. In addition, some households also make dry cakes, pack them and sell them to remote provinces. However, due to the process of urbanization, the craft village is located in the middle of the city, so the area of ​​production land is shrinking, only a few houses have the economic potential to invest in a closed system for stable production.

The local government wants to turn Du Hang Kenh fresh rice paper into an OCOP product (one product for each commune and ward). But with the current tight land conditions, Mr. Dung said maintaining the profession “has been a success”.

Photo: Internet (