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Delicious Dao Xa altar trays

Visitors to the Elephant Procession Festival in Dao Xa commune, Thanh Thuy district, can’t help but be fascinated by the locals' beautiful altar trays. Every year, near the festival, the inhabitants of area 4, Dao Xa commune, prepare trays of offerings to the village Tutelary God on the festival day.

Delicious Dao Xa altar trays

Every year on January 28, the Dao Xa community house’s primary celebration day, the altar trays is revered.

One week before the celebration, the elders of Area 4 will gather to establish a list of items to purchase for the altar trays. The altar trays will have a fruit tray, honey cake, braised sweet soup, altar chicken with flowers, betel and areca, sticky rice...

Delicious Dao Xa altar trays

Fruits are chosen from the garden to offer on the fruit tray.

Fruit trays, honey cakes, braised sweet soup and chicken are all distinctive to Dao Xa. Observing each step of altar trays preperation to really appreciate the sophistication and meticulousness that epitomizes the people’s devotion to the local god.

Delicious Dao Xa altar trays

The key materials for the fruit tray include green bananas, grapefruit, Buddha’s hand, oranges, and tangerines.

The fruit tray is the Dao Xa altar’s first standout feature. The locals have extremely rigorous standards for people picking fruits. The fruit tray presented on the major festival day is pyramid-shaped, with a bottom diameter of around 50cm and a height ranging from 80cm to 1m. The fruits are stacked high, plump on all four sides, and the pointed top is embellished with ornate and beautiful flowers. The fruits are carefully chosen. The fruits must be huge, spherical, and smooth, with a steady reduction in size from the bottom up.

Delicious Dao Xa altar trays

The fruit tray features a tall pyramid form that tapers towards the top.

First, three bunches of green bananas support the fruit tray, representing the descendants' strong vitality and sincerity in gifting to their ancestors. Next, three huge, spherical, delicious grapefruits represent a rich crop and a wealthy life. Small grapefruits, oranges, and crimson tangerines are placed in an aesthetically pleasing pattern. The fruits are securely fastened with thinly whittled bamboo strips, ensuring that not a single fruit falls off the palanquin while being transported around the village.

Delicious Dao Xa altar trays

Braised sweet soup is made by boiling green beans and roasting them till browned.

Honey cakes and sweet soup are two common varieties of cakes on the Dao Xa worship platter. Honey cake is made with wonderful plain rice that has been soaked in water for 8-10 hours, with the water changed every two hours. After soaking, crush the rice with water to get a white, aromatic liquid.

Delicious Dao Xa altar trays

Molasses cakes are made by combining glutinous rice flour, water, and molasses.

Delicious Dao Xa altar trays

Stir the rice flour mixture over the fire.

After combining, place the mixture in a cast iron saucepan over medium heat and stir thoroughly. The villagers alternated using a bamboo pole around the size of a bamboo pole to stir. Stir continually until the dough is thick, malleable, and heavy, then leave aside to cool.

Delicious Dao Xa altar trays

Pull the cooked cake dough and wrap it with washed dong leaves.

The cold dough will be pulled and wrapped in dong leaves to form cakes approximately 10cm in diameter and 10 - 20cm long. Finally, steam it in a cast iron kettle for one to two hours.

Delicious Dao Xa altar trays

Braised sweet soup is made by steaming green bean powder and cooking it with molasses.

Braised sweet soup is made with peeled green beans that have been roasted till golden, pounded into powder, cooked, and combined with molasses to form a smooth stew that is reddish brown in color and has a sweet scent. The chef will transfer the mixture to a wooden mold. The final result will be square chunks of braised sweet soup.

Delicious Dao Xa altar trays

In addition, flowers, betel and areca nuts, oan cakes are required on the altar.

Another distinguishing aspect of the Dao Xa worship tray brand is the chicken tray. Castrated roosters are grown for more than a year, are huge, have lustrous feathers, and are visually appealing. Chicken meal must also contain corn and rice to ensure that the birds peck a glossy golden hue. The act of killing and cooking a chicken is likewise an art. People do not do open surgery; instead, they cut into the abdomen, remove the neck, and clean the insides.

Delicious Dao Xa altar trays

Once the chicken is butchered, it will be stitched and molded.

The next stage is to make it both attractive and robust so that it does not crack when boiling, which requires a specialist to complete. After being sewed, the chicken will be placed on a stand in a kneeling or standing posture, then immersed in boiling water and simmered at low heat for 5-7 hours until properly cooked.

On the major festival day, during the palanquin parade to the village common house, two ceremonial chickens kneel next to the fruit tray, surrounded by honey cakes, braised sweet soup, and sticky rice, making the worship tray appear more magnificent and reverent. Mr. Nguyen Ngoc Thanh of Area 4, Dao Xa commune stated, "The custom of crafting altar trays is inherited and has persisted for many decades. Even when life was harsh and lacking, the village elders would prepare the worship trays as properly, respectfully, and tastefully as they do now."

In the days preceding up to the festival, people in Dao Xa commune’s administrative districts are busy preparing feasts to gift to the local tutelary god in exchange for a year of good weather and prosperity for hundreds of families. The brilliant and skilled hands, as well as the fragrant and polite hearts of the people here, have helped to elevate the Dao Xa community home celebration to the status of National Intangible Cultural Heritage.

Thuy Trang


Thuy Trang

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