In recognition of rice

Rice is so important to Vietnamese that cooking contests are held all around the country.

LE BICH on January 10,2020 10:07 AM

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Rice cooking contests reflect the lives of farmers in Vietnam and show respect to rice as the country’s most important agricultural product. The grain is offered at worshipping ceremonies for the saints of villages as a prayer for a prosperous and healthy year, before being given to local people.

Some say these contests originated in a bid to have enough rice for soldiers to eat before leaving for battle during wartime. Others believe it is simply for entertainment at festivals. Some places retell the story of Phan Tay Nhac, a general under 18th Hung King 18 in about 258BC, who equipped his soldiers with good fighting skills and also taught them how to cook rice in difficult conditions.

Depending on the customs of each locality, rice cooking contests vary. One may be held in the middle of the family yard while others see a big fire started or include more activities within a festival. Wherever and however they take place, winners must have cooked rice that is quick to make and tasty. The winning rice is considered a valuable item for worshipping the saints and presenting them with offerings.

GIA DU VILLAGE, PHU THO

On the 12th day of the first lunar month, villagers in Gia Du village in Tam Nong district, northern Phu Tho province, eagerly hold a festival to make a fire to cook rice to commemorate three generals - Ngoc Anh, Ngoc Thanh, and Ngoc Thanh (whose names are actually different in Vietnamese) - who helped them fight the enemy and protect their territory.

In the morning, an old man with a good reputation in the village for worshipping is carried in a palanquin to the communal house. He holds a sharp knife in his hand to split a bamboo tree into two pieces to start the festival. On both sides of the route are people standing and cheering.

In recognition of rice

The rice cooking contest is between two teams. Each team has five men and four women and is given one piece of bamboo. Team members are assigned strict tasks. Men take charge of lighting and maintaining the fire, while women focus on pounding the rice. When all preparations are done, everyone in the team focuses on controlling the fire to cook good rice.

The whole team then focuses on adjusting the heat of the fire to cook fragrant and tasty rice. When the rice is ready, it is placed into a porcelain bowl. The grains must be white and well-cooked with a delicious taste. Two bowls are offered for worshipping the saints before the results are announced. Sometimes, there is no winner of everything - instead one team wins for making the best fire and one for the best pounded rice. The most important thing is that the contest creates excitement, fun, and solidarity among teams and entertainment for the local community. The rice is then offered to everyone to enjoy.

In recognition of rice

To start a fire, a short piece of dried bamboo is prepared with a bundle of straw inside. Each team then uses a knife to stab at the fresh bamboo and then puts the dried bamboo into the cuts. They then pull the bamboo back and forth until it creates a spark.

In recognition of rice

In the communal house yard, the women in each team rhythmically pound the rice. When it becomes fine white grains, it is cleaned and then put into a pot for cooking. Water used to cook the rice comes from pure rain drops.

In recognition of rice

THI CAM FESTIVAL , HANOI

Taking place on the eighth day of lunar January, the rice cooking contest in Thi Cam village in Xuan Phuong ward, Nam Tu Liem District, Hanoi has been maintained by local people for many generations. The contest also re-enacts the story of General Phan Tay Nhac and his soldiers.

In recognition of rice

The rules are that the only materials ready for use are paddy and available firewood. Teams of ten, both men and women, must create their own fire and find water to cook their rice.

In recognition of rice

In the first stage of the contest, a drum is stuck and teams pound and screen their rice. The team that gets their rice white first is the winner.

In recognition of rice

The second stage involves making a fire and finding water. Teams must get a fire started by rubbing two old pieces of bamboo together, and is the most difficult part. They must also go about 1 km away to retrieve water. The team that has fire and water first is the winner.

In recognition of rice

Now to the final stage - cooking the rice. The team that finishes cooking first and has the best taste is the winner. Their rice is then offered to the saints.

DONG NHAN TEMPLE, HANOI

Every year, from the third to the sixth day of the second lunar month, a cooking contest is held at Dong Nhan Temple, also known as Hai Ba Trung Temple, in Hanoi’s Hai Ba Trung district, to commemorate Trung Trac and Trung Nhi, known as Hai Ba Trung (the two Trung sisters) - both national heroines who fought for the country’s independence.

In recognition of rice

The festival begins with incense being offered to commemorate Trung Trac and Trung Nhi. The festival also features activities such as cooking competitions, martial arts performances, folk songs, and performances of calligraphy, where everyone has a fun time.

In recognition of rice

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