2017, Here We Go!


Have a wonderful new year, everyone.  Please stay safe.


Soak Them Eggs!

girl egg

Hi all Taobabes and Taodudes!  This is just a quick reminder to all those who are going to be making Trung Thu cakes to start soaking them eggs!

Here’s how you do it.

Salted Eggs

8 cups water
4 Tbs salt
1/2 cup of wine (any old cooking wine will do)
1 tsp sugar
4 star anise cloves (optional)
1 cardamon pod (optional)

Bring water to a rolling boil.
Add  salt, wine, sugar, anise and the cardamon.
Allow to boil for a few minutes and then turn off the heat.
Allow the salt water to cool to room temperature.
Meanwhile, gently place eggs in a large jar.
Then pour the salted water over the eggs until completely covered.
Make sure the eggs are completely submerged in the water. Use some object like a small bowl or plate to place on top of the eggs.  I sometimes ball up a wad of aluminum foil and shove it into the mouth of the jar to keep the eggs under water.
Cover tightly and set aside until 3 days before Trung Thu.

And we will be back with the cake directions at that time.  Enjoy the rest of the summer, y’all.

Ancient Việt Dynasty (Part 2): Bách Việt



(Continued from Ancient Việt Dynasty (Part 1): Văn Khoa Đẩu)

I am one of those individuals who never learned my people’s ancient history from a classroom.  Everything I have learned all came from ancient books which I have had to painstakingly translate and/or decipher, using a very thick ancient Viet dictionary.

Famous foreign sources (Chinese) usually have English translations, so that is a great help, but most ancient Viet books have never been translated.  This means I have to do most of the grunt work myself.

Then, I have to dig through modern archaeology, geology, oceanography, paleontology, human, animal, and plant genetics, and various other studies, including vulcanism and plate tectonics in order to piece together the fragments of ancient writing that prove what modern scientific findings allude to.

It’s slow going, and most of the time, I am scrambling about in the weeds, trying to find the relevant material from amongst seemingly random stuff.


Having said that, there is plenty of material on Bách Việt ancient civilization, and it has been a serious lack of diligence on my part that I have not gone into detail about this very important subject, so I will rectify the situation and address this crucial information.

Up until this point, I’ve been talking about the one-hundred Việt tribes throughout my website, but I never really defined who the Bách Việt were.  

So—here we go.

Bách Việt


In ancient times, the Han Chinese referred to those living south of the Yangtze (Trường Giang river) collectively as Bách Việt, which means the one-hundred Việt tribes.

In the Sách Hán Thư (漢書), an ancient Han documentation, it is written:  

Within five miles from Giao Chỉ to Cối Kê (within the region south of the Yangtze river), the people of Bách Việt can be found everywhere, each group with its own individual regional customs.  [1]

According to ancient Han Chinese historian La Hương Lâm (羅香林) the Bách Việt people have the same ancestral origins with the House of Hạ (the royal lineage of the kings of Hạ.

Furthermore, Neolithic archaeology excavated from Quảng Tây (Quanxi) and north Vietnam, with emphasis on the aggregate ancient tombs found within these areas show that the Bách Việt people have their origins in the south, with close association with the Hòa Bình and Bắc Sơn civilization from Vietnam.  [2]

This explains who the Bách Việt are, but what does the word Bách Việt mean?  Well, here’s a surprise for you.  Regional dialect linguists have ascertain that the phonetic sound of the word 越 (Việt, Yue, Yueh) may be associated with the hemp plant since the region south of the Yangtze river is where it was found to be mass cultivated.  [3]


Now that may seem the ultimate in coolness, but there is more relevant meaning of Bách Việt.  The word Việt (越) is also associated with the word việt (鉞 ) which means a giant axe, an ancient weapon of giants in the far past, and also the symbol of the power of the royal emperor. 

Many giant axes have been found in the region of Hàng Châu (Hángzhōu 杭州 ) with plenty of solid evidence that those axes were invented in the southern regions.  In fact, the first historical mention of the people of Bách Việt from the ancient Han writings describe a people who wielded an unusual weapon that they called a Việt.  [4]


This Việt weapon was a diamond-polished stone axe–unheard of six-thousand years ago, and something that the Han Chinese did not have.  It was the sole invention of the people living south of the Yangtze.  Although modern archaeologists label them as Chinese because they were found within the borders of modern-day China, they are actually of Vietnamese origin.  [5]

The group of the one-hundred-tribes of Bách Việt consisted of  the Câu Ngô aka Wu (句吳), Ư Việt (於越), Dương Việt (揚越), Mân Việt (閩越), Nam Việt (南越), Đông Việt (東越), Sơn Việt (山越), Lạc Việt (雒越) and Âu Việt (甌越, 西甌).  

All these names are still in use today, in various phonetic forms.  These kingdom states were documented as being part of the empire of Emperor Hùng, collectively called Văn Lang (aka Lĩnh Nam).


As you can see in the image above, half of Giang Nam was part of the lands belonging to the kingdom state of U Việt, one of the loosely held kingdom states of Bách Việt.

Since this was a very wealthy region, even by the standards of the day, Ư Việt, along with Mân Việt, were the first to fall into Han Chinese hands.


By the time The Trưng Sisters had begun rallying the people of Bách Việt, the remaining kingdom states looked like this.

The loss of Giang Nam (Ư Việt and Mân Việt) was heartbreaking for my people.  We wrote songs and poems, documenting this loss, one of which is a famous folk song called Lý Giang Nam.

This song, although simple in format and contains only a few words, is actually very important for various reasons.  I will detail these reasons in my next posting about Lý Giang Nam

(to be continued)


[1]  Book of Han

[2]  Jiangnan

[3]  Bach Viet

[4]  Rìu

[5]  Diamond-polished stone axe


Moon Cakes (Part 2): Molds


While we are waiting for the right time to ‘salt them eggs’, we need to start thinking about molds.  Yes, I am talking about cake molds.  No I’m not talking about some fungus growing on dead things.

In ancient time (heck, even to this day) we used molds that look like these:


The cakes come out like this:


But you know what:   I like these molds better.

Because nobody said mooncakes have to look like mooncakes.   And I happen to love dogs.

(cringe)  My ancestors are gonna kill me.


I’ve tainted the ancient sacred methods of mooncake making with my blasphemous dog-shaped molds.

But oh well…

Of course, you can also go wild and use other types of molds.  There are fairies and flowers and fish and all sorts of shapes you can imagine.  The only criteria is that it has to be deep enough to support the filling inside.

Here are a few fun selections.

So there you go.  Find some fun molds and we can start making interesting mooncakes.  And if anybody objects, just tell them Taobabe said it was ok.


Taobabe’s Temple Pilgrimage

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This is not one of my serious posts, just a few pics of me, doing my pilgrimage through Vietnam.

The babe in me cringes, but I’m all about truths, and this is my truth.  These are not glamour shots, so please be kind.  I just thought my readers would like to see me in my traveling gear, during my visit to these ancient temples.

Bách Việt Barbarian Woodworkers


(Continued from Bách Việt Barbarians)

It’s shameful, how utterly barbaric tattoos look on a body.  Of course, no civilized guy is going to go all tribal and ink himself in such uncivilized manner, would he?

But I digress.  We’re talking about wood–and before you even go there, no, it’s not of the male persuasion.


The first thing that the Bách Việt barbarians need in order to build their ships is wood.  Since wood comes from forests, these barbarians are going to have to send some of their kinsmen to go into the forest and fell a huge number of logs.

I hear there’s an entire industry revolving around the technology of felling logs, but eh.  What do I know. 

These logs would then have to be transported to some type of a barbarian-esque mill in order to process the rough cut logs.  Some need to be cut into straight planks that can then be joined together.  Some need to be curved using special barbarian techniques, of which I would love to go into detail, but due to the limited scope of this article, I can’t.  

But wait a minute.  I haven’t even gotten to this part yet.  We’re still stuck at log-transportation, which will require some barbaric ingenuity.  Since we’ve been told that these barbarians don’t have horses, we have to figure out another method of transportation.  

Lucky for these troglodytes, there are other animals that are better suited to the task of hauling than the average workhorse, such as elephants and buffalo (see my earlier post on Damn Stubborn Water Buffalo), so we will go with that.  


Hmm.  But wait a minute.  These animals need to be cared for, which means there has to be some type of animal husbandry system setup to take care of these animals.  This means these Bách Việt barbarians also had to have a fully-functioning agricultural system to feed all these animals and people who are doing the work of shipbuilding.  This requires a sophisticated food production system.  

But I digress.  We’re still talking about wood here.

Since wood boats don’t build themselves, they are going to need carpenters, and not just any old furniture carpenter, mind you.  They have to know about shipbuilding and the types of wood that would be required because, you see, you can’t just take any old piece of felled wood and bang them together with any old nails in any old way, and then sail that baby.  

OK, you MIGHT make it down a river with a lashed together raft, but to go into that Peaceful Blue (Thái Bình Dương) aka Pacific Ocean, you need to know a few more things.

Actually, you need to know A LOT more things!


Trust me, I know what I’m talking about.  You are looking at a person who knows the harsh reality of being stuck, clinging onto a tiny fishing vessel, crammed tight with desperate scared people, in the middle of Nowheresville-Pacific-Ocean, for weeks.

The waves are choppy.  The wind is strong.  The nights often bring rain, and when it rains, it pours.  It’s hard to sleep while clinging to the deck and trying not to fall overboard.  And the salt–the salt gets into everything.  It dries on your skin, your clothes, your hair.  It makes the boards of the ships dry and succumb to the effects of wind, air, and water, not to mention the physical wave action against joints and seams.

Even if you did have access to teak and other water-resistant types of wood (which our barbarians did have access to) if you don’t build the ship with treated wood, they won’t last long, out in this rough condition.  Do not presume to joke around with the Pacific Ocean.  You will die.

Seasoning wood requires an intimate knowledge of basic chemistry to prevent dry rot, mildew, and premature decay.  The wood (and canvas and cordage, of which the technology of textile must also have been mastered) must be steeped in some type of barbarically-derived solution of corrosive sublimate and water for a few days.  In modern times, we use a solution of chloride of zinc and water.  If you haven’t seasoned the wood properly, you will kill everyone onboard. [1]

I have no clue what they used back then, but this is just the first step.  We then have to know which types of wood to use for each separate area of a single ship.  If you use wood from the wrong kind of tree, in the wrong place, you will kill everyone onboard.

So anyhoo, let’s just assume that these Bách Việt barbarians had a seriously high level of woodworking technology.  The next thing we need to talk about is metalworking, because if you don’t use the right kinds of metal to hold the ship together, guess what–you will kill everyone onboard.  

(to be continued)

[1]  A Manual for Naval Cadets By John McNeill Boyd c. 1857

Moon Cakes (Part 1): Something Sweet


August is not high on anybody’s list as an important month, but for the Vietnamese, it is not only the ghost month (see my previous post Hungry Ghosts and the Vu Lan Season), it is also the month when we soak our eggs to make our mooncakes.

Wanna make mooncakes with me?  We can start by salting the eggs.

I usually get about two-dozen extra-large chicken eggs from the grocery store, put them into a plastic container with a tight lid seal, add water and salt, stick a label on the lid with the date-to-be-opened, and then shove the eggs all the way into the back of my refrigerator and wait the required time.

This date-to-be-opened is calculated by taking the day that Trung Thu lands on, and then adding three extra days.  For example, Trung Thu lands on September 15 this year.  If you subtract 28 days, you get August 18.  Add an extra 3 days and it drops down to August 15th, which is a Monday.

On that day, I will be soaking my eggs.  But today.

Today, I will be making the sugar glaze water and then storing it until the day when I need it.

Why so soon, you may ask.


It’s actually better to make it a year in advance, because the older it is, the better it tastes.  But you know what…we’re Taobabes.  We ain’t got the time or the space to store sugar glaze water for an entire year.  One month out is good enough for this Taobabe.

So here it is, the ancient recipe for the sugar syrup used to make mooncakes.  Make this and then find a nice cool place to store it.

Sugar Syrup

1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup water
1/4 tsp lye water
1/2 tbsp Lime juice

In a small saucepan, combine the sugar and water and bring to a boil.  Don’t stir the water.  You only want to swirl the pan occasionally to help the sugar dissolve.  Once the water boils, lower the fire and take it down to a simmer. 

Add lime juice and lye water during this simmering time.  Usa a wooden spoon and skim off the foam.

Simmer for 10-15 minutes until it is slightly thickened, then turn off the heat.

Allow for the syrup to cool and then store it in a jar with a tight lid, in a cool dry place.

And now, go outside and enjoy the remaining days of summer.


I’ll remind you when it’s time to salt them eggs; no worries.