Coconut trees help create an iconic image of Bến Tre, the land of many rivers. The ubiquitous trees support the local residents’ livelihood while also providing a source of cultural inspiration for literary works. They symbolize the people’s strength and compassion. Coconut candy, which has existed for more than 100 years, is a humble yet appealing treat for visitors to the province.
Coconut candy villages in Bến Tre
According to the residents, coconut candy first appeared in Mỏ Cày District, Bến Tre Province in the 1930s. Initially known as Mỏ Cày candy, it was a homemade treat served to guests during festive seasons or the Tết holiday. Since 1970 it has become more well-known and been produced on a larger scale. Because of this, the specialty has gained popularity and become a staple in Bến Tre visitors’ gift baskets.
Nowadays, the journey to the land of coconut trees is a fascinating one. Tourists can witness the entire candy production process and get hands-on experience making these treats in several of Ben Tre’s famous handicraft villages.
Coconut candy-making process
Coconut candy is relatively simple to make with widely available ingredients. Candy makers’ keen eyes ensure each component is of the highest quality.
They are meticulous during production.
The three main ingredients are malt syrup, sugar, and coconut. For malt, candy makers soak freshly harvested glutinous rice with uniformly round grains in rainwater until they sprout before boiling. In the old days, evaporated cane juice was often used to make coconut candy, but it has been replaced with refined sugar for easier preparation. Dry coconuts, which contain little to no water, are preferred for their rich, thick flesh.
Makers remove the coconut shells, grate the flesh finely and squeeze out the milk. They mix this liquid with malt and for flavor add durian, pandan extract, coffee, or other ingredients.
Next, they give the mixture a good stir. They pour it into a pot and keep stirring on low heat for about 30 minutes until it thickens.
When the mixture is caramelized, it is poured into non-stick molds and let sit to cool. After the mixture is hard, the makers cut it into small cubes and package them for consumption. Although coconut candies are now widely produced all over the country, nothing can match those in Ben Tre. They are not simply a sweet delicacy but reflect the people’s pride as well. To them, coconut candy is the symbol of their humble and endearing hometown.
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