Culture Culture

06/02/2022 - 07:18

Nibbling five-tiger jam on New Year's Eve

In the New Year of the Tiger, Mr. Tran Thanh Quang (Hue City) meticulously cut a tiger shape from green papaya and potato to make a five-tiger jam for guests.

Cutting the tiger shape is quite an elaborate task

The five-tiger jam is a variation of Mr. Tran Thanh Quang, the culinary heir of Nguyen Phuc Ung Vien, the 4th generation descendant of Emperor Minh Mang, to give to relatives and friends to enjoy during the Lunar New Year of the Tiger.

He experimented with many ingredients such as the papaya, potato, winter melon and carrot. Through trial and error, the papaya and potato were found to be tough and pliable enough to be shaped into a tiger.

The process of shaping the tiger is quite elaborate and meticulous, requiring Mr. Quang to be careful in every detail. With his eyes still focused on trimming, Mr. Quang said: "Shaping a tiger is more difficult than other animals. It is easy to cut the face with eyes and whiskers, but in order to capture the image of a tiger, he needs to pay attention to the details of the body, head, legs and tail. That is why the folk saying goes "Hoa ho hoa bi nan hoa cot” (It is easy to draw the outer shape but more challenging to capture the air of the tiger). Because he made everything by hand, it took Mr. Quang up to 3 days to shape a modest basket of jam.

After this stage, the raw materials were soaked in lime for about 2 hours and then rinsed with clean water. After blanching in boiling water, the ingredients were rinsed again to remove the lime smell. Then, the papaya and potatoes were soaked in sugar for about 5 hours until the sugar dissolved completely. One kilogram of raw ingredients uses 800 grams of sugar.

To shape the five tigers, the batch of jam was dyed into 5 colors by Mr. Quang. All were naturally dyed. The red color from gac fruit (Momordica cochinchinensis), green from pandan leaves, brown from coffee, yellow from gardenia and the natural white. Pandan leaves were pounded and squeezed to get the juice 3 days prior to dyeing so that the color can settle. The gardenia flowers were cooked to extract the color. The gac fruit’s flesh was pureed for the red color. Coffee was simple, but brewing process must be monitored closely to ensure that the jam does not turn black.

After preliminary processing, the process of making jam also requires meticulousness. In order for the tiger-shaped jam to be intact and for the details on the tiger's body not to break off, each batch of jam, Quang only cooked about 20 slices of jam. During the process of making jam, he did not use chopsticks but had to turn each piece of jam by hand gently and skillfully...

Nibbling five-tiger jam is also a pleasure of the New Year of the Tiger

The five-tiger jam dish seems simple, but making it is quite a feat. A batch of jam takes Mr. Quang 5 days. “Every step is important, from trimming the shape, soaking with lime to boiling and cooking. I must pay attention to the heat because if it is just a little too hot, the flavor will be compromised. The part that needs skills is that when cooking the jam, it still retains the shape of the animal," said Mr. Quang.

According to Mr. Tran Thanh Quang, from the symbol of this year's zodiac, he came up with the idea of ​​making five-tiger jam to welcome the new year. The shape of the five tigers were inspired by the style of Trong village’s folk paintings. The five colors of the jam plate represent the five elements. This is also a type of jam made according to the traditional method but shaped like a fancy and lively tiger, suitable for the New Year of the Tiger.

Not only as a prayer of luck and prosperity for the new year, this fun and lovely shaped jam also prompts the audience to reflect on the bravery, composure and calmness full of power of this year’s zodiac animal.

In the cold weather, with a cup of hot tea, admiring the colorful jam plate and nibbling on a slice of tiger jam, tasting the crunchy and chewy jam, the sweet and fragrant taste of pandan leaves and coffee... is an interesting experience during the Lunar New Year of the Tiger.

Story and photos: Minh Hien