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Chinese cake shop for more than 30 years, selling 500 bowls a day

HAI PHONG – Ms. Nguyen Thi Chuyen’s Chinese dumpling shop in the Le Chan district has been open since 1989 and is always crowded with customers.

At the end of the afternoon on the first day of the year, in the cold weather with drizzle, more than 10 people gathered on the sidewalk in front of 159 Hai Ba Trung’s house, slurping and enjoying a dish.

In the small bowl usually used to eat rice, there is a piece of white cake, soft and smooth. On top of the cake, there are more papaya, shrimp, and roasted meat. Before giving it to the guests, the hostess added a spoonful of dipping sauce. Ms. Chuyen, 61, the owner of the restaurant, said it was Chinese cake, a dish originating from the Chinese people.

Chinese cake shop for more than 30 years, selling 500 bowls a day
Chinese cakes, strange street food, attract customers in Hai Phong. Photo of Le Tan

Ms. Chuyen has an aunt named Hoa, a bride in a Chinese family in Hai Phong, so she learned how to make this cake. “Mrs. Hoa was one of the first people to sell this dish in Hai Phong. When I worked with her in 1985, she had been selling it for 30 years,” recalls Ms. Chuyen.

Working for Mrs. Hoa and then being transferred to the profession, in 1989, Ms. Chuyen sold privately in front of the gate 189 Cat Dai. By 2021, she will move back to her current location. According to the shop owner, the cake is made from flour, white, smooth and dry, sharper than the traditional Vietnamese cake, because it is steamed with a wooden tray. To make cakes, Ms. Chuyen and her husband had to get up at 4am to soak rice. “Must use good quality plain rice, not mixed with glutinous rice, otherwise the cake will spoil,” said Ms. Chuyen.

The rice is then mixed with a little salt and then ground into water. While grinding flour, her husband Chuyen went to the coal stove and put a pot of water on it to steam the cake. When the water has boiled, the flour is poured into layers 1 cm thick on a tray measuring 60 x 15 cm for steaming. “The cake is poured from 6 am, then sold at 7 pm, make a new batch in the afternoon, do not refrigerate”, Ms. Chuyen said.

Chuyen’s restaurant is always crowded with customers. Photo: Le Tan

In addition to the cake part, this street food also has papaya, shrimp and meat. Green papaya is peeled, washed, diced, boiled in boiling water and then mixed with a little cashew powder. Bacon cut into bite-sized pieces, shrimp cut beard and then roasted together. The accompanying ingredients are kept separately, when they are sold, they are poured on top of the cake to make it beautiful and convenient to scoop for customers.

A bowl of Chinese dumplings costs from 12,000 to 20,000 VND ($1=25,000 VND), depending on the amount of food. “Some people like to eat a lot of cakes, others like to eat a lot of papaya and shrimp. Children can’t eat spicy. They have to choose customers to sell,” said Ms. Chuyen while scooping up the cake.

The restaurant is located on the sidewalk, so the layout is very simple. Ms. Chuyen sat behind the cake tray, surrounded by bowls, spoons, fish sauce and vinegar. Guests come to eat and sit on small chairs, without a table, so they lean back to face each other. “It’s so simple, but it has existed for more than 30 years, selling 500 bowls a day,” said Ms. Chuyen.

Ms. Luu Kim Duong, 44 years old, residing in Hai An district, said that the dish is a blend of the fatty taste of bacon, the sweetness of shrimp, the crunchiness of papaya and the softness of cake. Meanwhile, Ms. Nguyen Thi Minh Hoa, 55, a tourist from Hanoi, said that in Hai Phong, there are still some places with Chinese cakes such as Co Dao market, Luong Van Can market, and May Da market. The best is still Mrs. Chuyen’s.

The cheerful and agile Mrs. Chuyen has been selling castor cakes since 1989. Photo: Le Tan

Currently, Ms. Chuyen’s boat cake has been put on the map of delicious dishes introduced by the Hai Phong Department of Tourism.  ( According to vnexpress )

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