“Thuan” cakes, once a popular gift for Tet (Lunar New Year) in Vietnam’s southwest, are now the star of the cooking class at Victoria Nui Sam Lodge’s La Giang Restaurant.
Every weekend at La Giang Restaurant’s experiential kitchen at Victoria Nui Sam Lodge, a member of Thien Minh Group (TMG), guests can smell the pleasant aroma of ginger wafting in the cool mountain air. That is the signature aroma of “thuan” cakes fresh out of the oven, baked by the lodge’s very own guests.
“Thuan cakes are scented with juice from ginger, pineapple, and lime. For the dough, we use baking powder, duck eggs, oil, salt, and sugar. I let the dough rise for 4 hours. Once the dough has risen, it’s poured into a hot mold under a charcoal fire. On Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, we organize complimentary classes for guests to learn how to make these delicious cakes,” said Mr. Tran Thai Don, Head Chef at Victoria Nui Sam.
Cooking class participants learn how to mold their own cakes under the enthusiastic guidance of a team of professional and dedicated chefs. “The most important thing when making this kind of cake is the heat. The fire on top and bottom must be adjusted so that the oven is evenly heated, and then the cake will be very delicious. We teach this and other cooking tips to the guests for them to truly enjoy their stay with us,” said the head chef at Victoria Nui Sam.
According to Mr. Don, each thuan cake-making lesson includes the recipe as well as stories behind the dishes of the Mekong Delta, helping visitors from other provinces and even other countries to have a broader view of the life and culture of the region.
“On traditional Tet holidays, people make this cake because it symbolizes fertility and is a sign of prosperity, peace, happiness, and joy all year round,” Mr. Don explained.
For Mr. Don, baking is an art form, and bakers are artists. After the cakes come out of the oven, they are usually enjoyed with tea. “We have jasmine, chrysanthemum, and lotus tea. Each flavor of tea is different, with its own characteristics, but any of these teas goes well with this type of cake,” Mr. Don said.
Baking cakes and sitting down to a cup of tea is one of the ways Victoria Nui Sam Lodge helps guests slow down and really enjoy their vacation. One of the simple pleasures of life is sipping a hot cup of tea while nibbling on a spongy “thuan” cake in the beautiful, peaceful natural scenery of sacred Sam Mountain, bathed by the afternoon sun as the clouds lazily move across the clear blue sky.
“People often think of material things when we talk about food. But sometimes we forget that our souls also need to be fed,” Chef Don added as he raised a cup of tea with a smile.