November 1, 2022
HANOI — Tofu skin production has helped many people in a Vĩnh Long village earn a stable income.
The famous tofu skin craft village in Mỹ Hòa Commune, Bình Minh District, Vĩnh Long Province has existed for more than a hundred years.
In recent years, as more people have become vegetarian, tofu skin, which is an essential ingredient of vegetarian dishes, has been much embraced, bolstering production activities in Mỹ Hòa Commune.
According to the Vĩnh Long Province Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism, in 1912, Châu Xường from Guangdong, China, together with his wife and two sons Châu Khoánh and Châu Sầm, moved to Việt Nam.
They brought with them the traditional craft of making tofu skin and chose Mỹ Hòa as a place to settle down.
Châu Sầm is the grandfather of Nguyễn Văn Công, who said that from the original seven pans to make tofu skin, the establishment now has 36 pans.
Mỹ Hòa tofu skin craft village is located along the river in Mỹ Khánh Hamlet, and Nguyễn Văn Công’s family is one of the oldest tofu skin producers here. Công has recently passed on the profession to his son.
According to Công, his family’s establishment makes 80 kilogrammes of tofu skin from 200 kilogrammes of soybeans everyday and with a selling price of VNĐ120,000 (US$4.8) per kilogramme of finished tofu skin, his family can cover all living expenses during 15 to 20 days of work every month.
In the months with significant full moon days such as January, July, October and December of the lunar calendar, workload will be more heavy due to the increase in demand for vegetarian food using tofu skin.
The whole process of producing tofu skin is done by members of Công’s family. Now that Công is old, he only helps his children when needed.
“My family consists of me, my wife, daughter, son and five grandchildren. This heirloom profession not only feeds us but also supports five children, of which one is studying at university,” Công said, adding that all products must meet food hygiene and safety standards.
Though the making of tofu skin is mainly passed down in the family line, some still hire neighbours to help. Gradually, many locals in Mỹ Hòa have learned how to make tofu skin, thereby forming a crowded craft village.
Quality tofu skin in Mỹ Hòa is not only used in vegetarian dishes, but has become an essential ingredient in many savoury dishes.
Nguyễn Thị Xuân Hà, Công’s daughter, said that it is very crucial to choose the most quality soybeans to make delicious tofu skin.
“This is a difficult job with each shift lasting for a day and night. Workers have to stay awake all the time because the oven’s heat must be maintained at about 70 degrees Celsius in order for the soy water to form a layer on the surface pan. In about 10 minutes, a new layer will be created, which will be cut and hung on a pole to dry,” Hà added.
The whole process of forming pieces of tofu and taking them out of the pan to dry takes place in a split second. Tofu skin makers have to repeat the process until the pan runs out of water.
“When I was in my twenties, I went to HCM City to work as I found this heirloom profession to be too tough. After a while, I decided to help my father and gradually got used to and liked this job. As challenging as it is, I have earned enough money to take care of my family and my children’s education,” she said.