Uoc Le’s pork paste making began around half a century ago. According to the village records, during the Mac Dynasty in the 16th century, a concubine in the imperial court who was a Uoc Le native helped villagers build the impressive village gate and taught them how to make pork paste.
Uoc Le people were hard-working and eager to make a fortune from their traditional job.
Village elder Nguyen Duc Hanh recalled, “90% of villagers used to make pork pies. As the Vietnamese saying goes ‘one cannot get rich without engaging in trade’, most villagers do business far from home. Some even went abroad to France or the US.”
Uoc Le’s products are diverse ranging from lean pork paste, beef dumpling, fried pie, pork and skin paste, to roasted cinnamon pork, and fermented pork roll. But the most notable products are lean pork paste and roasted cinnamon pork.
Making Uoc Le pork paste requires meticulous steps, from choosing the meat to the processing techniques. The meat should be the freshest rump part. Traditionally the meat was manually ground until it became pliable paste.
Now Uoc Le villagers use meat grinders which help them liberate labor force but they still maintain the traditional method.
Uoc Le native Nguyen Duc Binh, whose shop is in Khuong Dinh market in Hanoi, said, “It’s necessary to choose good meat if you want to turn out delicious products. It’s also important to balance the lean and fat pork meat. The meat is now ground by machine. The spices including fish sauce, honey, and salt are also important. A delicious pork paste product when cut open should have many holes inside.”
Roasted cinnamon pork is delicious thanks to the meaty taste of roasted lean pork, the fragrance of cinnamon, honey, and daylily.
Uoc Le villager Nguyen Dinh Duong said, “To make pork paste, all the veins and fat parts should be removed. The remaining lean meat is sliced and then ground with different kinds of spices and salt. The paste is wrapped by banana leaves and steamed for 60 to 70 minutes.”
“More fat meat is used in making chopped meat paste than in pork paste. Chopped meat paste are fried instead of steamed. 1kg of meat turns out 1 kg of pork paste while we often have 1.2 kg of chopped meat paste from 1 kg of meat,” he said.
Pork paste is indispensable in a Vietnamese feast, especially during holidays or Tet, the traditional New Year festival. Uoc Le villagers are proud of making the biggest roasted cinnamon pork paste loaf in Vietnam in 2003 to honor and promote the traditional craft.
Binh said, “It set the Vietnam record of biggest cinnamon pork paste loaf which used 170 kilos of meat, 50 kilos of fat, cinnamon powder, and spices. It weighed 200 kilos, was 4 meters long, and had a diameter of 50 centimeters. I was bestowed an artisan following successfully making the record pork.”
Every year on the first day of the first lunar month, Uoc Le people organize their village festival to honor the traditional craft.