“Pia” cake – Soc Trang’s traditional sweet snack

Tuesday, 24/01/2023 10:30
The confluence of three ethnicities in the Mekong Delta province of Soc Trang, that of the Kinh, the Hoa and the Khmer, makes it a great place to discover the beauty of different cultures and observe distinct customs.

The distinctive festivals, landmarks and other features also open a door to the Mekong Delta province’s unique culinary specialties influenced by its cultural diversity.

Pia cake (a cake filled with durian, shredded lard, salted egg yolk and mung bean paste), an unique culinary specialty of  the Mekong Delta province of Soc Trang  (Photo:VNA)

For hundreds of years, the Pia cake (a cake filled with durian, shredded lard, salted egg yolk and mung bean paste), originally of the Hoa (Chinese) ethnic minority people, has been served and given as gifts by Soc Trang residents. The cake has a tender and soft crust outside and juicy and flavourful cream inside.

The Pia cake is served on special occasions during the year, including weddings and the Full Moon Festival. This round cake is seen as a symbol of fullness and family reunion.

The cake has a thin multi-layered crust made of flour and filling of durian, mung beans and taro with or without salted duck egg. The outer part can be uncovered layer by layer. As the cake is cut, the aroma of the filling is appetising.

It’s said that Hoa people brought a similar cake to Pia from China to Vung Thom, Soc Trang when they migrated to the south of Vietnam in the 17th century. Over time, the cake’s recipe was adjusted to match the taste buds of local people and it developed into a provincial specialty.

Traditionally, the Pia cake was made only for the Full Moon Festival and Tet (Lunar New Year). As with other such food items, the cake is now made and sold all year round. It has a shelf life of up to two months, instead of a fortnight.

In order to make an attractive, tasty Pia cake, bakers have to exercise sophisticated skills at several stages.

To make the crust, they mix the flour with sugar and finely mill the mixture into very thin layers.

The filling of durian, mung bean, taro and salted duck egg, or durian, steamed mung bean, taro and sugar is grounded into fine paste and added with a bit of pork fat before being used to cover salted duck egg.

The baker then applies a layer of oil and egg yolk to the cake before putting it in a traditionally-made earth oven for baking at an average of about 270 degrees Celsius. After 7 – 10 minutes, it is turned over and applied with more layers of oil and egg yolk, and baked for another 10 – 15 minutes until it turns yellowish brown. Today, gas-fired and electric stoves are more popularly used by Pia bakeries for the convenience they provide.

The Soc Trang Pia cake is special because the aroma of fresh durian is irreplaceable.

Soc Trang now has more than 50 Pia bakeries, most of which are located in the communes of Phu Tam, Thuan Hoa and An Hiep in Chau Thanh District. Though the process of making a pia cake is similar, each bakery has its own secret to create a distinctive taste and flavour.

Currently, with improved quality and promotion, many enterprises have started selling their product not only in other areas of Vietnam, but also in foreign countries like the US and Cambodia.

Today’s Pia cake varies a lot from the traditional version. Its fillings now include not only mung bean, taro, durian, salted egg, but also lotus seeds and pineapple./.

CPV (Source: VNA)