Mao Dien rolled rice pancake – special treat for visitors to Bac Ninh hinh anh 1The Mao Dien rolled rice pancake is special for a thin layer of fried onion flakes spread on it (Photo: VNA)

Bac Ninh (VNA) – The fine combination of rice, fried onion flakes and charming sauce makes “banh cuon Mao Dien” (Mao Dien steamed rolled rice pancake) unforgettable to anyone who tastes it.

Mao Dien commune of Thuan Thanh district, the northern province of Bac Ninh, is renowned for being home to not only many good learners or barley-sugar but also a delicious dish, “banh cuon” – steamed rolled rice pancake.

None of local residents remembers when the food dates back to. They only know that it is a long-standing dish and the making of rolled rice pancake has been passed down from generation to generation.

In the past, the production mainly involved women. “Banh cuon” was made manually, and it took more steps to make this dish than others.

The attractiveness of the Mao Dien rolled rice pancake is created by fried opinion flakes, so preparing this type of topping is a meticulous work. Firstly, the dry cover of onions, more specifically shallots, is removed, and then they are washed and fried until releasing nice smell. Later, the fried onion is ground, and it is only spread on steamed rolled rice pancake after the pancake cools down.

Previously, local women had to select the best rice grains, soak them in water for several hours, grind the soaked rice by stone mill, and filter the mixture of rice and water to remove sourness before applying a thin layer of the liquid to a cloth atop a pot of boiling water to steam.

To make a basket of 35 – 40kg of “banh cuon”, people had to work continually for 5 – 6 hours. All the steps required carefulness, cleverness, patience and briskness.

Mao Dien rolled rice pancake – special treat for visitors to Bac Ninh hinh anh 2A woman in Mao Dien commune makes rolled rice pancake (Photo: VNA)

Every day, at 2 or 3 o’clock, local women began carrying “banh cuon” to villages and markets far and wide to ensure people could have a delicious breakfast to start a new day.

Making “banh cuon” was a strenuous work but did not generate much income. Locals had to use by-products like unwanted dough or rice bran to farm pigs to improve their families’ income.

In recent years, machinery has been used in the production process, helping to raise the productivity by 10 – 20 times compared to the manual method while saving effort, time and material.

Mao Dien commune has been equipped with 12 modern machines with high capacity which produce “banh cuon” for more than 200 households to sell. Each machine is able to make 350 – 400kg of “banh cuon” per day in winter and 600 – 700kg per day in summer, generating 7 million – 8 million VND (300 – 340 USD) in profit every month.

Whether the food is sold well or not depends on each people’s business skills. Each household can sell from at least 50 – 70kg to 200 – 300kg of “banh cuon” a day, earning an average monthly income of 2 million – 9 million VND.

To meet consumers’ growing demand, residents in Mao Dien now produce two types of “banh cuon”, one applied with fried onion flakes and another with wood ear mushroom. The dish is now sold not only in Bac Ninh province but also other localities.

Mao Dien rolled rice pancake – special treat for visitors to Bac Ninh hinh anh 3People in Mao Dien commune make steamed rolled rice pancake (Photo: VNA)

A number of famous restaurants in Hanoi capital and the nearby provinces of Hung Yen and Hai Duong have also sold this famed specialty of Mao Dien. Enjoying this dish, many people even confuse it with “banh cuon Thanh Tri” (Thanh Tri rolled rice pancake), which is a popular delicacy of Hanoi.

Vu Van Manh, Vice Chairman of the Mao Dien communal People’s Committee, said “banh cuon” has long been an indispensable gift for every visitor to Mao Dien. Realising the economic effectiveness of producing “banh cuon”, many local households have expanded production and made the dish better known among consumers in Bac Ninh and other localities.

There are about 200 households producing and doing business in rolled rice pancake in the commune at present, creating jobs for hundreds of people with an average per capita income of 5 billion – 6 million VND each month.

However, he admitted, the craft is also facing numerous difficulties, especially in terms of manpower, as experienced makers are becoming fewer and fewer while most of young people choose other jobs to do.

Besides, “banh cuon Mao Dien” has yet to have its own trademark, so the advertising of the dish to consumers in other localities remains modest, Manh noted.

Facing this fact, the local administration has devised several solutions to maintain and develop the craft, including boosting communications to raise residents’ awareness of ensuring food safety, improving product quality and teaching the pancake making to younger generations, and coordinating with relevant agencies to build a trademark for the specialty and ensure stable sale.

In the short term, authorities will boost introducing the food to visitors to Bac Ninh who will be “ambassadors” helping to popularise the local delicacy far and wide, the official added./.