Cỗ lá, the food tray that demonstrates Mường ethnic culture in Hòa Bình
For Mường ethnic people, especially those living in Hòa Bình Province, cỗ lá (literally means a food tray displaying several dishes) is more than just a popular food. The food tray represents Mường culture and is an integral part of important occasions, weddings, funerals, New Year or new house celebrations.
A traditional food that has been kept and inherited from generation to generation of Mường people, cỗ lá is unique – from the selection of ingredients to the way of cooking and the food presentation – through which to present the conception of human life of Mường people.
Bùi Xuân Phú and wife Nguyễn Thị Vi run Mường Thàng Quán – a restaurant specialising in Mường dishes in Hòa Bình City for 20 years. To create the distinctive yet natural light sweetness of the dishes, all dishes presented on cỗ lá should be prepared with wild leaves and vegetables collected in forests or gardens.
“Depending on the scale of the event, a cỗ lá should consist of at least seven different dishes, including the compulsory ones of cỗ ngọn (slices of boiled pig liver, heart, and maw), boiled pork, chả lá bưởi (grilled pork in pomelo leaves), grilled pork in banana leaves, gà đồ măng chua (steamed chicken with sour bamboo shoots), rau đồ (steamed wild vegetable), and canh loóng chuối (soup cooked with wild banana stem),” Vi said.
The Mường woman also said that it takes at least one and a half hours to prepare a cỗ lá because “you have to finish cooking all the dishes before displaying them all on the tray.”
To grill the pork, Vi said that it’s necessary to marinate with lá mắc mật (clausen indica leaves) and hạt dổi (wild pepper) to get the aromatic flavour for the meat.
The steamed chicken with sour bamboo shoots should be chopped into bite-sized pieces before mixing with sour bamboo shoots and a little bit of salt, then wrapped in banana leave and steamed for about half an hour.
“The tip to making this dish good is the ingredients. Hen is preferred as its texture is more tender. To make the sour bamboo shoot, we use only the bamboo shoot of giang (a kind of green-trunk bamboo) as it retains the natural sweetness after being fermented,” Vi revealed her cooking tricks.
The savoury and palatable canh loóng chuối is cooked with wild banana stem, pig bone, and lá lốt – a kind of aromatic leaves.
Her husband Phú said there are some rules for the presentation of cỗ lá.
“The presentation of a cỗ lá for a wedding or festive event must be different from the one for a funeral,” he said. “A tray must be spread with a banana leaf cut in half. However, for the wedding, the tip of the leaf has to point out; on the contrary, for a funeral, the tip has to point in.”
In the old days, Mường people used only wild banana leaves to spread on the tray. But nowadays, when finding wild bananas is inconvenient, they can replace by other kinds of banana leaves, except the aromatic banana “because it has lots of acrid resin that can harm the taste and flavour of the food displayed on it,” Phú said.
He also said that to prepare cỗ lá for important occasions such as weddings or new year celebrations, each family has raised pigs and chicken for a year before butchering the best ones to offer to the ancestors.
In the past, wealthy families used an engraved copper tray to display cỗ lá while ordinary people used the bamboo tray.
According to the 65-year-old restauranteur, seating arrangement rules had to be followed in the old days.
“In the Mường stilt house, the side with windows has been specified as the ‘upper place’, which is for elders only, and the younger ones sit next, in order from old to young,” Phú said.
Due to modernisation, traditional custom has been fading. Many can not speak the Mường ethnic language, and they don’t use the correct Vietnamese word when they mention cỗ lá.
“Many of our guests, especially the young ones, when they place an order for cỗ lá, instead of asking for a mâm cỗ lá (a tray of cỗ lá), they used mẹt cỗ lá (flat winnowing basket of cỗ lá). In our culture, the flat winnowing basket is used to offer food for the Hungry Ghost,” Phú said.
Nguyễn Xuân Tùng, a tourist from Hà Nội, said that although he had many chances to taste cỗ lá when he travelled to many places in the northwestern region, the one he sampled at Mường Thàng Quán is the best.
“It’s not only about the food, but about the rich ethnic culture presented through every dish, especially the traditional customs and stories told by the restaurant owners, who are authentic Mường people,” Tùng said. — VNS
Playground by Google equips children with cyber self-protection skills
HÀ NỘI — Children can learn how to protect themselves and embrace cyber civility though diverse interactive activities taking place at the Children’s Palace in Hà Nội.
The activities are among the Online Safety Playground event organised by Google on the occasion of International Children’s Day (June 1), aiming to raise awareness and enhance knowledge on self-protection and courtesy in the online environment for children and parents.
As summer comes, children have more time to go online. According to a survey by the Department of Children’s Affairs (Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs) in 2022, Vietnamese children are spending 5-7 hours a day on social networks. Vietnamese children must be equipped with essential skills and knowledge on selecting healthy, age-appropriate information for themselves. Moreover, parents in Viet Nam have become more concerned about their children’s online safety, and 64.1 per cent of parents have sought to improve their technological knowledge in order to teach their children about this topic, according to a survey by Google in 2023.
Understanding the practical needs of Vietnamese families, a discussion has been organised at the Online Safety Playground event to provide parents with comprehensive information on the topic of online safety for children. Featuring the family of the movie producer Lý Hải – Minh Hà, educational experts, and a Google representative, the discussion focused on improving parents’ skills and equipping them with knowledge about Internet safety, so that they are capable of guiding their children to effectively experience the online environment, especially in the summer when children spend more time on the Internet.
Alongside the discussion targeting parents, at the event, an interactive playground for children has also been introduced with many fun games, providing them with knowledge, while building up their self-protection skills and online courtesy.
This is also the first time educational games from the “Be Internet Awesome – Safer with Google” project have been deployed offline, helping children learn five fundamental rules: Be Smart – Be Alert – Be Strong – Be Kind – Be Brave while playing familiar games online.
At the same time, parents can experience many helpful content management applications such as YouTube Kids, YouTube Family Link, and YouTube SupeX. They will learn how to direct their children toward healthy content, and set restrictions to prevent children from accessing inappropriate content.
“Through the Online Safety Playground playground, Google and YouTube are committed to continuing to expand the programme to more schools, teachers, and students this year, thereby helping more children gain great benefits from the Internet in a safer space,” said Marc Woo, Managing Director for Việt Nam, Google APAC. — VNS
Sơn La festival promotes local tourism and ethnic culture
SƠN LA — Hundreds of artists staged a stunning performance to open the Sơn La Province’s Tourism and Cultural Festival on Saturday night at the Mộc Châu National Tourism Area in the northern mountainous province.
Standing vice-chairman of the National Assembly (NA) Trần Thanh Mẫn, former standing vice-chairwoman of the NA, Tòng Thị Phóng, Chairman of the NA’s Ethnic Council Y Thanh Hà Niê K’đăm, and Sơn La Provincial Party Secretary Nguyễn Hữu Đông, participated in the event.
Themed “The World’s Leading Regional Nature Destination”, the festival is an opportunity to connect cultural-tourism products, promote tourism development, attract investment in tourism, and simultaneously create distinctive tourism products.
Speaking to open the festival, the Chairman of the Sơn La Provincial People’s Committee, Hoàng Quốc Khánh, said that the festival is not only to create a new development step for Sơn La’s tourism economy but also to strengthen the cooperation between the province and other localities in Việt Nam and other countries.
“This is also an opportunity for businesses in the tourism industry to improve their product quality associated with conserving and promoting cultural identities,” he said. “The distinctive, professional, and attractive tourism products can magnet domestic and international tourists.”
The festival features an interesting agenda of diversified activities presenting unique local ethnic culture. Those include the plum harvesting festival in Mộc Châu District, home to the best plums in Việt Nam.
An off-road motor race in Vân Hồ District and a photo contest are also on the festival agenda. Festival-goers can learn about the rich culture of various ethnic groups living in the province through the display presenting traditional costumes and typical architecture or through a fair showcasing ethnic gastronomy and handicraft products made by ethnic people.
“Through their own experience at the festival, visitors will have an impression of special unique tourism products that present the ethnic identity of Sơn La Province as well as the warm hospitality of Sơn La people,” Chairman Khánh said. “They can also realise the transformation and development of the province, being a great place to visit.”
Also at the opening ceremony on Saturday, founder and president of the World Travel Awards, Graham Cooke, has given a trophy to honour Mộc Châu-Vân Hồ in Sơn La as “The World’s Leading Regional Natural Destination” in 2022. — VNS
A memorable summer with fireworks and fun festivals in Đà Nẵng
ĐÀ NẴNG Colourful fireworks performances at the Đà Nẵng International Fireworks Festival (DIFF), together with numerous cultural festivals at Bà Nà Hills, promise to offer tourists an unforgettable summer.
Magic of fireworks
The vibrant summer days in the coastal city of Đà Nẵng will begin with the return of DIFF 2023.
Taking place from June 2 to July 8 by the Hàn River, the event will feature stunning fireworks performances by international teams, including the UK, Italy, Poland, France, Australia, Canada, Finland and the host team Đà Nẵng.
Through five nights with five different themes: “Peace for Humanity”, “Love without Borders”, “Conquering Dreams”, “Dance of Nature”, and “World without Distance”, the fireworks performances will send the audience a special note honouring the recovery of world tourism after the COVID-19 pandemic.
During the festival, the night sky in Đà Nẵng will turn out to be a perfect backdrop for beautiful paintings created by colourful and splendid fireworks performances.
The Polish team will showcase the Firework Dragon, while the British team will stage the Light Up The World presenting the human resilience to overcome the global pandemic.
The host Việt Nam has prepared an extremely elaborate light show with the theme Đà Nẵng – Peaceful Timbre, Canada and France will amaze spectators with Northern Lights and Colours of Hope, while Italy and Australia will offer a feast of light and music.
Festivals at Bà Nà Hills
Alongside DIFF 2023, this summer, at Sun World Bà Nà Hills, tourists can enjoy several festivals, which are among a series of events called Bà Nà WOW Festival – Wonderland without Distance.
The best culture and art of different countries in the world will all be presented at the wonderland of Bà Nà. The bustling atmosphere of the German Oktoberfest will be recreated, offering tourists a chance to enjoy one of the biggest festivals in the world, where festival-goers can sip 20 different kinds of beer while enjoying famous cuisine.
During June, fans of Hallyu or Korean Wave will be able to “live their passion” with the Korean Cultural Festival. Trendy K-pop songs, exciting dances, popular dishes, and several traditional Korean games, will be presented at Bà Nà.
On June 3, Vietnamese celebrity singer Hồ Ngọc Hà will have her concert Love Songs – Love Vietnam, which is expected to be a special entertainment event for music lovers.
In July, visiting Bà Nà, any tourist who is in love with French culture and French wine, will be delighted with a series of activities honouring French culture, of which the celebration of “100 Years of Bà Nà Wine Cellar” will be a highlight.
Besides, tourism-magnet hotspots such as Golden Bridge, Moon Castle, and the French Village, promise to enhance the excitement of tourists visiting Bà Nà.
Specialities of ‘kimchi land’
Coming to Đà Nẵng this summer, alongside the DIFF 2023, guests can also enjoy a full agenda of impressive activities at Asia Park.
A hotspot for young people, the ongoing “M-Pack Festival & Carnival Street Food” features a beer and soju [a Korean alcoholic drink made from rice or sweet potatoes] festival, K-pop dance, and food carnival.
DJ parties will be held every Saturday with the performance of popular DJs. In addition, art shows presenting Vietnamese traditional art forms, and K-pop concerts will be taking place monthly until September 20.
If tourists want to fly high into the clouds and enjoy the Đà Nẵng City landscape from a bird’s-eye view, they should take a hot air balloon flight available for the first time at Asia Park.
Especially, Asia Park provides a special offer for pupils and students with all-in-one tickets for only VNĐ120,000. With this ticket, junior visitors can enjoy all the outdoor games and a ride on the Sun Wheel to contemplate the panorama of Đà Nẵng City from above. They can also enjoy puppet shows by guest artists from the Huế Theatre.
Shows across the city
The DIFF 2023 will not only light up the Hàn River but also bring the hectic atmosphere to every popular sightseeing spot across the city with numerous art and cultural shows.
During June, the Street Music and Magic programme will take place in Southern Park on the west bank of the Dragon Bridge.
Different kinds of Vietnamese traditional music will be presented every Saturday and Sunday night during June and July on the east bank of the Dragon Bridge, on Trần Hưng Đạo Road.
Exhibitions displaying antique ceramic objects, and traditional Japanese dolls are taking place at the Đà Nẵng Museum and the Đà Nẵng Museum of Fine Arts, respectively.
The photo exhibition The Colourful Conversation of Two Rivers at the APEC Park is another suggestion for visiting tourists. VNS
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