Glutinous Rice Cakes are farm produce that the Giay offer their ancestors when praying to them for good health, luck, and another bumper crop. The cakes are carefully made, representing the respect and feelings of people for their ancestors.
The Giay ethnic group, which has about 38,000 people, lives mainly in Lao Cai, Ha Giang, Lai Chau, and Cao Bang provinces. They are called by different names such as Dang, Pau Thin, and Xa. Like other minorities of the Tay-Thai group, the Giay grow wet rice and raise domestic animals and fowls.
The Giay’s glutinous rice cakes have lozenge shape with two tapered ends. They also call it hump cake. The villagers say that they carefully choose materials to make good cakes. They pick the leaf wrap in the forest, sort out the best quality glutinous rice grown in their fields, and husk green beans. Mixed lean and fat pork is sliced and seasoned with many kinds of spices, including cardamom. Dexterous women carefully wrap the cake in leaves. The cake should have a nice lozenge shape and each slice should have three layers – rice, green beans, and pork.
Giay women wrap the cakes on a table and never put the cakes on their laps. The cakes are soaked in water for 3 to 4 hours before being boiled for about 10 hours. The first cakes taken from the stove are placed on the ancestral and land genie’s altars.
Puffed rice is a must-have at a party or New Year celebration. They select round, uniform grains of rice to make delicious puffed rice. Roasted rice blended with sugar is moulded by a big bowl. The cakes have the aroma of glutinous rice, molasses, and ginger.
Cakes made from glutinous rice powder are often served at New Year parties or given to relatives and friends as gifts. They begin making cakes 3 or 4 days before New Year’s Eve. The Giay have handed down their recipes for rice cakes from generation to generation as a cultural heritage of their group.