Vietnam rice paper artisans roll with tradition

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In this picture taken on July 7, 2017, a dish holds rice paper rolls filled with sugar at a home in Thuan Hung Village in the Mekong Delta. The village is renowned for the quality of the rice paper produced by the villagers who take great pride in their homemade craft. Stuffed, rolled, baked or fried: rice paper rules in food-obsessed Vietnam, where hungry diners have spurned factory-made versions for homespun ones, propping up a thriving cottage industry in the Mekong Delta. / AFP / ROBERTO SCHMIDT
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In this picture taken on July 7, 2017, Nguyen Thi Hue cooks rice paper over a makeshift charcoal stove at the exit of a ferry crossing near Thuan Hung Village in the Mekong Delta. Stuffed, rolled, baked or fried: rice paper rules in food-obsessed Vietnam, where hungry diners have spurned factory-made versions for homespun ones, propping up a thriving cottage industry in the Mekong Delta. / AFP / ROBERTO SCHMIDT
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In this picture taken on July 7, 2017, Ha Thi Sau pours a rice and sesame mixture onto a hot fire stove as she and her daughter make rice paper at their home in Thuan Hung Village in the Mekong Delta. Stuffed, rolled, baked or fried: rice paper rules in food-obsessed Vietnam, where hungry diners have spurned factory-made versions for homespun ones, propping up a thriving cottage industry in the Mekong Delta. / AFP / ROBERTO SCHMIDT
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In this picture taken on July 7, 2017, 16-Year-old Dang Thi Bich Thien washes the dishes during a morning monsoon downpour at her home in Thuan Hung Village in the Mekong Delta. Thien and her family stopped making rice paper in the morning due to the weather forecast announcing rain for the rest of the day as the sun is essential to dry the rice paper properly. Stuffed, rolled, baked or fried: rice paper rules in food-obsessed Vietnam, where hungry diners have spurned factory-made versions for homespun ones, propping up a thriving cottage industry in the Mekong Delta. / AFP / ROBERTO SCHMIDT
Updated 24 September 2017
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Vietnam rice paper artisans roll with tradition

CAN THO, Vietnam: Stuffed, rolled, baked or fried: rice paper rules in food-obsessed Vietnam, where diners have spurned factory-made versions for homespun ones, propping up a thriving cottage industry in the Mekong Delta.
They’re a staple on dinner tables from north to south, eaten fresh with fish, fried with pork, or baked on an open flame and eaten like crackers — a popular bar snack.
But regardless of how they’re prepared, one thing most people in Vietnam agree on: homemade is always better.
“It’s better than the factory version, try it, it’s tastier,” Nguyen Thi Hue told AFP, offering a baked coconut version at her roadside snack stop in southern Can Tho province.
She sources her ‘banh trang’ in nearby Thuan Hung village, known for producing some of the finest in the Mekong Delta, long renowned as the “rice bowl of Vietnam.”
Some families earn a living making rice paper, even as factories have popped up producing creative flavours like salted shrimp, coconut or versions made with the notoriously potent durian fruit.
“Customers prefer those produced handmade in the village. We don’t use chemicals, they’re just natural,” said 26-year-old Bui Minh Phi, a third-generation rice paper maker in Thuan Hung.
He can earn $65 per day spinning the trade, or double that during the busy lunar new year period.
It’s a common sentiment in Vietnam, where many diners eschew fast food joints for home-style restaurants serving pho noodle soup or banh mi sandwiches like their grandmothers might have made it.
Rice paper making is a matter of family heritage for many like Ha Thi Sau.
On a recent morning in Thuan Hung, she tutored her daughter on the age-old technique she learned from her aunt: pour the sweetened batter — a secret family recipe — onto a pan, before transferring to a bamboo mat.
The operation remains a family affair: Sau’s son-in-law feeds the fire with rice husks, while her 83-year-old mother washes dishes on the river bank. Though other jobs are available in her village — once a rural backwater now dotted with modern cafes and mobile phone shops — she doesn’t dream of abandoning her trade.
“I’ve been making rice paper for so long, I don’t want to leave it for another job,” she said, as the scent of coconut wafted in the air.


UN: Global fight against AIDS is at ‘precarious point’

Updated 18 July 2018
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UN: Global fight against AIDS is at ‘precarious point’

  • ‘There are miles to go in the journey to end the AIDS epidemic. Time is running out’
  • Since the start of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s, more than 77 million people have become infected with HIV

LONDON: Complacency is starting to stall the fight against the global AIDS epidemic, with the pace of progress not matching what is needed, the United Nations warned on Wednesday.
The United Nations’ HIV/AIDS body UNAIDS said in an update report that the fight was at a “precarious point” and while deaths were falling and treatment rates rising, rates of new HIV infections threatened to derail efforts to defeat the disease.
“The world is slipping off track. The promises made to society’s most vulnerable individuals are not being kept,” the report said. “There are miles to go in the journey to end the AIDS epidemic. Time is running out.”
Michel Sidibe, executive director of UNAIDS, noted in the report’s foreword that there had been great progress in reducing deaths from AIDS and in getting a record number of people worldwide into treatment with antiretroviral drugs.
The report said an estimated 21.7 million of the 37 million people who have the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that causes AIDS were on treatment in 2017, five and a half times more than a decade ago.
This rapid and sustained increase in people getting treatment helped drive a 34 percent drop in AIDS-related deaths from 2010 to 2017. AIDS deaths in 2017 were the lowest this century, at fewer than a million people, the report said.
But Sidibe also pointed to what he said were “crisis” situations in preventing the spread of HIV, and in securing sustained funding.
“The success in saving lives has not been matched with equal success in reducing new HIV infections,” he said. “New HIV infections are not falling fast enough. HIV prevention services are not being provided on an adequate scale ... and are not reaching the people who need them the most.”
Sidibe said a failure to halt new infections among children was a big worry.
“I am distressed by the fact that in 2017, 180,000 children became infected with HIV, far from the 2018 target of eliminating new HIV infections among children,” he wrote.
Data in the report showed that overall among adults and children worldwide, some 1.8 million people became newly infected with HIV in 2017.
Since the start of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s, more than 77 million people have become infected with HIV. Almost half of them — 35.4 million — have died of AIDS.
The report said that at the end of 2017, $21.3 billion was available for the AIDS response in low- and middle-income countries. More than half of that came from domestic funding sources rather than international donors. UNAIDS estimates that $26.2 billion will be needed to fund the AIDS fight in 2020.
“There is a funding crisis,” Sidibe said. While global AIDS resources rose in 2017, there was still a 20 percent shortfall between what is needed and what is available.
Such a shortfall will be “catastrophic” for countries that rely on international assistance to fight AIDS, Sidibe said.