‘Pomegranate’ cake adds color and sweetness to Tet in Saigon

By Phong Vinh    February 1, 2019 | 03:33 pm GMT+7

The attractive pomegranate-shaped cake is traditionally made for the Lunar New Year celebrations in Saigon’s Chinatown.

Pomegranate cake adds color and sweetness to Tet  in Saigon


In the Cho Lon area in District 5, more specifically in the Phung Hung Market, temporary stalls spring during the Tet season to sell this special cake. These stalls are typically opened by families who have lived in the area for decades.

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Among the many traditional cakes favored by Saigonese during the Tet season are pomegranate cakes, which stand out for their unique shape, and eye-catching red petal tops. The cake is named after pomegranate because it is shaped like one, not because it is made with the fruit.

Elders in the area say the pomegranate cake is usually offered to the Kitchen God on the 23rd day of the 12th lunar month. Many people also buy the cakes for displaying them in the house until the end of Lunar New Year celebrations. It is believed that the cake will bring good things for the whole family, especially love. 

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Luong Van Long, 54, has been making the cake for more than 30 years in District 5. "Like some other families, my family always sets up a pomegranate cake shop on Nguyen Trai Street every year," Long said.

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Making and shaping the cake requires effort and skills.

"Cooking the sugar, mixing the rice, squeezing them in the mold, peeling, making the sesame coat, painting the color ... are some basic steps. There are nearly 10 stages to go through before the cakes reach the customers," Long said.

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The cake’s filling is made with split roasted peanuts, lotus seeds, sticky rice and malt. The filling is placed in a thin piece of rice flour nearly as big as the palm. The cook can make the cake in oval or round shapes. Here, Long uses scissors to shape the petals on top of the cake.

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Nguyen Thi Hai, 55, a District 8 resident is working at Long's bakery for the first time this year. "Thanks to this work, I know a unique part of Chinese culture for the New Year celebration," she said.

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Hai is in charge of painting food color on the petals of the pomegranate cake. The finished cake is not just eye-cathing, it also carries the pleasant aroma of sesame seeds.

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Before frying the cake, another person has to shape the cake again to make it round, check the firmness of the crust and the petals.

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The cake is deep fried with the petals facing down. "This way, the petals cook first, ensuring the firmness of the cake before they are turned around," Long said.

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After frying, the cake is left in a separate basket for the oil to drain. The crust, with an appetizing golden color, is covered with a layer of sesame.

The pomegranate cake has a sweet, slightly fatty taste with a pleasant aroma. For Chinese people, pomegranate cakes are ordinary cakes often sold on the street, but they are also indispensable New Year offerings. On regular days, the cakes are offered to request blessings of having children. 

Each kilogram of the cake costs around VND200,000 ($8.67). The cake are made in different sizes for customers to choose from.

 
 
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