Tuong Ban The Secret Is In The Sauce

(No.5, Vol.8,Oct-Nov Vietnam Heritage Magazine)

The mixture of soya and fermented sticky rice

Sticky rice and soya, two main ingredients for tương bần sauce; Brooding cooked sticky rice over a night;

The sauce in ceramic jars in the sun

Ban Yen Nhan Township, about 25km northeast of Hanoi, has been famous for ages for its trade of soya sauce good enough for kings’ dining tables. Today, the soya sauce trade village is a part of the My Hao District of Hung Yen Province. It’s popularity is growing even wider due to the fast- developing tourism industry. To satisfy the demand for soya sauce, the number one traditional specialty of Hung Yen, favored by tourists and customers from all over the country, many townspeople of Ban Yen Nhan set up roadside kiosks to sell it under the trade mark ‘Ban’ soya sauce.

Ban soya sauce has a rich taste and an eye-catching yellowish color. It is very suitable for northern traditional dishes such as rice flan, plain rice dumpling, boiled meat, pickled aubergine etc. It is also used to brine or simmer meats and fish. Ban soya sauce is made of simple materials, which include sticky rice, soya and salt. But that only means that the making takes a lot of work, time, skills and even some ‘secrets’.
First, the sticky rice is soaked for a few hours and steamed. The edible steamed rice is then spread on a flat basket and left for 48 hours to be covered with yellow mould.
Second, the soya is mixed with sand and fried until the soya aroma gets strong. The sand is sieved out and the soya is ground finely and soaked in a big jar, usually for 7 to 10 days, until it acquires a yellowish color.
The mouldy sticky rice is mixed with the water that was used to soak soya and ‘brooded’ for 24 hours, and then mixed thoroughly with the yellow soya and a certain amount of salt. The mixture is then put in a big covered ceramic jar, which is put out in the sun.
The fermenting process is closely watched and cared for. Every day, a worker opens each jar, stirs up the content and adds water if needed. When it rains, the jars are covered with nylon to prevent rain water from contaminating the fermenting sauce.
The fermenting and ‘caring’ period takes about 1-2 months, depending on the ‘quality of the sun’. After this time the sauce becomes thick and yellow like honey, aquires a rich taste and is ready to be bottled and sold..

Text by Le Khanh ; Photos by Nguyen Huu thanh
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