Culture Culture

21/02/2018 - 17:27

Restoring royal sweet dishes of the Nguyen Dynasty

Each sweet dish is a story about a well-known fruit of the ancient capital: lotus seeds in Tinh Tam Lake, thanh tra grapefruit in Thuy Bieu, Huong Can tangerines, or trai va, a kind of fig found only in Hue, etc. The plan to restore the 47 types of royal sweets recorded in history books is the love of culture and passion of the young man Nguyen Phuoc Quy Than (descendant of King Minh Mạng). He is the founder and director of Nguyen Trieu Company.

Each sweet dish is a story about a typical fruit of Hue

Each dish is a story

Being the capital of the country for nearly 150 years, Hue is the place where the elite gathered and is now preserving the historical, cultural and artistic heritage of which the royal cuisine is a part. At the time, rare and precious species from all over the country were brought to the imperial capital. Hue therefore became a big museum of plants and fruits which become special ingredients for many delicious sweet dishes reserved for the royal court.

Each dish is a story about a specific fruit in the land of Perfume River and Ngu Binh Mount. For example, when eating banh thanh tra, you will feel the typical sweet taste of the fruit and the river in it. It is not only a dish but also the culture, the tradition, the royal heritage that Quy Than and his friends want to inherit, conserve and introduce to people.

Quy Than and his friends came up with the idea five years ago. It took them a lot of time to experiment and select ingredients and recipes so that the dishes are as good as those in the past.

They also met Mrs. Dinh (born 1921)_the last imperial maid of the Nguyen Dynasty, who now lives in Kien Thai Vuong Residence alongside An Cuu River, and the culinary artisan Ho Thi Hoang Anh, granddaughter of Ho Van Ta, the leader of Đoi Thuong Thien, the team responsible for preparing meals for the kings in Khai Đinh 's time and Bao Đai 's time to learn about the experience and secrets in making sweet dishes of the Nguyen Dynasty which have so far lost.

After a long period of trial, Nguyen Trieu Company has successfully restored some royal sweet dishes. Tasting the sweet dish made from lotus seeds , Mrs Dinh complimented: "Very tasty, very similar to what I used to serve to Queen Mother and guests. I've now found the familiar flavor."

"To develop and promote the royal cuisine of Hue, we have explored and successfully restored some sweet dishes. We try to employ local ingredients, keeping the basis of the dish in the old days but our products are improved so that they can last longer and meet the demand of the customer today," said Quy Than.

At present, royal sweet dishes are being sold at the chain of Mon Hue restaurants in Ho Chi Minh City and Đa Nang Airport. In Hue, they can be bought at Imperial Hotel, Phu Bai Airport and Bao Thanh Bakery.

Culture inside the product

Not only focusing on ingredients and quality, Nguyen Trieu Company also takes good care of packaging since "it is the appearance that catches customers' attention first but so far it has not been noticed enough."

"We would like the customer, both domestic and foreign, to understand the Nguyen Dynasty through our products. Every pattern on the box is meaningful. It requires the maker's love of his product so that he can put himself in it and pack it with the soul inside," said Quy Than.

Products are elaborately packaged

Looking at the package, one can see the royal culture of Hue shown in a luxurious and delicate way such as the meticulous patterns on kings' robes representing the royal nobility, the image of Buddha hand fruit on the princess' clothes in the Nguyen Dynasty representing wealth, luck, happiness and longevity.

For the young people who love traditional culture, the successful reproduction of these four sweet dishes from lotus seeds, thanh tra grapefruit, mango and pineapple is just the beginning. They still have a long way to go. Nguyen Trieu Company intends to continue with the 47 kinds as recorded in history books.

"Hue is a treasure. When a local specialty is internationally consumed, farmers will benefit. I am fortunate to be born and grow up in a royal family that has been running a bakery in Hue for a long time. My friends and I want to introduce Hue cuisine further. We hope in the near future, Nguyen Trieu royal sweets will be accepted abroad," said Quy Than.

Story: Ngoc Ha

Photos: Quy Than

 

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