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Vietnamese couple maintains long-standing family tradition of rock sugar production

Friday, October 18, 2019, 16:22 GMT+7
Vietnamese couple maintains long-standing family tradition of rock sugar production
Rock sugar is broken into small pieces and well packaged. Photo: Tran Mai / Tuoi Tre

A couple from central Vietnam has spent their entire life making rock sugar to maintain a family tradition that has been passed down to them through several generations.

Dong Van Chinh, the 67-year-old owner of the Bang Lam sugar factory in Quang Ngai Province, along with his wife have been crowned the masters of rock sugar production – the process of crystallizing caster sugar – thanks to their decades of experience honing their technique.

“My family has a secret know-how about sugar making that distinguishes our products from others’,” he said.

Chinh found his interest in making rock sugar at a very young age through his grandfather’s stories about the tradition and trips with his father to Thu Xa Village, the largest and most historic sugar trading port in Vietnam, to sell their family’s products.

He shared that making rock sugar is a challenging and exhausting process that requires meticulousness and patience while waiting for the purified caster sugar to crystallize as it boils in a concoction of eggs and lime water.

Once crystallized, the sugar is poured into a hand-sewn thread basket where it sits until the molasses is drained out – a process which takes about seven days. 

Afterward, the sugar is broken into small pieces, packaged, and sold.

Dong Van Chinh carefully stirs a large pot of sugar. Photo: Tran Mai / Tuoi Tre

Dong Van Chinh carefully stirs a large pot of sugar. Photo: Tran Mai / Tuoi Tre

“That’s why people sometimes find small threads still attached to the crystals while eating rock sugar,” he said

Nguyen Thi Lam, Chinh’s 62-year-old wife, said the success of making rock sugar depends on the crystallization process that both she and her husband have spent their entire life mastering.

She also shared that many people from across Vietnam have visited Thu Xa Village in the hope of learning how to make rock sugar, but most have failed. 

One pair that stood out to Lam was a father-son duo from the Mekong Delta province of Vinh Long.

“They even offered to pay us VND100 million [US$4,350] to teach them at their house for a week but I turned them down,” Chinh recalled, explaining that she did not want to leave her hometown.

However, Chinh worries that the end may be near for his family’s tradition, considering his children have opted for career paths that do not involve making rock sugar.

“I just hope they would reconsider this job one day so that I don’t feel ashamed for not being able to pass down what I’ve been taught,” Chinh said.

Many people across the country, especially well-recognized Vietnamese comedian Hoai Linh, have visited the Bang Lam sugar factory to observe the steps to make rock sugar and taste the specialty treat.

“It makes us very happy," said Chinh about the chance to share their family tradition with people from all around Vietnam.

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