Culture Culture

25/01/2020 - 01:11

Precious jam offering to the king

It used to be reserved for kings, mandarins and nobles, Bat Buu jam (eight kinds of jam) is a delicate blend of flavors and colors of precious jams.

Ton Nu Thi Ha, the artisan, preparing to make Tet jam

Preparing for this year Tet, the elite culinary artisan Ton Nu Thi Ha entered the kitchen to make jam, which was her favorite dish to make when she was a student of Ms. Hoang Thi Kim Cuc. There were up to ten types of jam presented by the artisan, of which Bat Buu jam, the precious jams from the royal palace, was the one she meticulously prepared for with all her nostalgic heart.

On the table, the artisan prepared 8 materials: the Buddha's hand fruit of about 300gr; two oranges; kumquat, wax gourd, papaya, ginger cut into thin strips and lotus seeds, each 200gr; and 100gr of almonds. These are nutritious ingredients, which prevent colds and foster health.

"The name Bat Buu is probably derived from Buu Boi (meaning precious object), denoting valuable ingredients used for the health of the king," artisan Ton Nu Thi Ha deduced.

As a luxurious jam, made from of 8 types of ingredients, it takes an extremely meticulous process to make Bat Buu jam. Even the preliminary processing is also meticulous.

The most difficult is preparing the Buddha’s hand fruits. After thorough pricking and salting overnight, the Buddha’s hand fruits were boiled by the artisan three times and then squeezed well. Oranges were also squeezed (the juice reserved to cook jam), and the outer skin peeled (evenly so that after peeling, the oranges would be smooth and after cooking, still round as just picked). After their seeds were taken out, the oranges were soaked in salt water and then soaked in lime liquid overnight. Kumquat and wax gourd were also soaked in lime liquid to remain firm when making jam ...

As she peeled the wax gourd, Ms. Ton Nu Thi Ha said that in the past, from an early age, the girls of the ancient capital had learned to make jam. The young ladies in the palaces of the royal families must be more skillful.

Every Tet, noble families took care of making many delicious jam cakes to offer to the king, to the royal family and did them for the family to celebrate Tet. It is the tradition that is highly respected. Now, in the modern busy life, making jam is less maintained.

Bat Buu jam is a blend of many different types of jams

As a special kind of jam for kings, mandarins and nobles, Bat Buu jam is now lesser known, becoming a family secret of some families. From a writer's question about Bat Buu jams, Ton Nu Thi Ha made an effort to learn from the servants in the ancient palace, researched more materials to successfully recover this precious jam.

After preliminary processing of soaking in salt water and lime water, the stage of cooking jam also requires meticulousness. Buddha’s hand fruits, oranges and kumquats were put in a saucepan with sugar to make sticky jam. Wax gourd and papaya were used to make dry jam. In order to keep the distinct flavor of each jam, the lotus seeds were boiled and cooked separately, and so was the ginger ... Almonds are peeled and roasted and then cooked with licorice.

After the 6 types of jams are done, mix them with 200gr of malt, 300gr of honey, half a teaspoon of salt for about 5 minutes. Then, the heat was turned off and the jam was left to soak in the sugar for one night. The next day, the jam was cooked slowly on low heat and the almonds and lotus seeds were added at the end.

“The processing of traditional jam dishes is very sophisticated and elaborate, from the preparation of raw materials, care of using appropriate heat, to the distribution of the time to soak and slow cooking the jam. The secret to making delicious jam is not only in the preliminary processing stage but it must be soaked in natural sugar. The jam must be sweet without getting burnt,” Ms. Ha explained.

Also, according to Ms. Ha, the skill in making jam is that when slow cooking, the fruits in the jam retain their shape, have a shiny coating and a dry sugar filling, and keeping the natural fragrance. Making jam requires not only cleverness but meticulousness. Each ingredient requires much work and the jam takes three days to finish. Bat Buu jam is a mixture of sticky jam and dried jam so it is very unique.

The jam saucepan on the stove became more aromatic as it was cooked. The slices of clear, shiny jam in different shades: the white of papaya, the yellow of orange, kumquats, the amber color of honey, the malt mingled with lotus seeds, almonds, when poured on a tray looked mesmerizing and luxurious. The artisan Ton Nu Thi Ha also fancifully decorated the pretty small jam dish. Papaya was trimmed into flowers to decorate beautifully for presentation.

Picking up each type of jam to try, and taste the sweetness of the Buddha’s hand fruits, the cool sweetness of the oranges, and kumquat; the warmness of ginger, the crunchy taste of papaya, squash, and fatty lotus seeds, almonds…, then sip some tea. Experiencing Bat Buu jam is like wrapping all flavors of heaven and earth, of four seasons into one bite. Not only it is a prayer of luck and prosperity for the New Year, this noble jam is also an oriental medicine for clear voices and laughter of Hue people.

Story: Cat An

Photos: Ton Nu Thi Ha - Ai My