Vietnamese Sweet Specialities You Should Try – Part 01
We especially made this Vietnamese traditional cuisine series for food and culture lovers to enjoy. In this first part of our traditional cuisine food series, we would like to introduce Vietnamese steamed cakes, which are not just visually attractive and tasty, but also good for your health.
Bánh Bò – Vietnamese Steamed Rice Cake
“Bánh Bò” was brought to Vietnam during the Chinese colonization and was adapted by local people, who came up with a smaller and more colorful version of this popuplar sweet treat. In Vietnamese, the word “bò” can mean either “cow” or “to crawl”, so this cake’s name could originate from its cow’s udder-like shape, or by the act of “crawling” upwards, as it becomes puffy when it’s steamed. “Bánh bò” is easy to recognize, due to its eye-catching apperance and its beautiful flavor. It has a soft, moist and spongy texture, with a slightly sweet taste. The cake’s mildly creamy coconut milk flavor is enhanced by the slightly crunchy texture of roasted sesame topping. Sometimes coconut milk sauce is added, making it even more tasty. “Bánh bò” tastes best when it’s warm or at room temperature, as it will get harder in cold weather.
Bánh Tằm Khoai Mì – Vietnamese Silkworm Casava Cake
“Bánh Tằm Khoai Mì” is a speciality originating from the Southern regions of Vietnam, which is favored by both kids and adults. Although it is a relatively simple dessert, made with from cassava roots, sugar and coconut milk, “Bánh Tằm Khoai Mì” is very fun to eat. Besides the bright and lovely colors, its chewy texture and stretchy consistency will bring you the enjoyable experience of playing with the cake before eating it. While eating, you can sprinkle some roasted sesame, peanuts, and salt and sugar in the mixture, to enhance the flavor. If you are looking for a good treat for your kids, this is the one!
Bánh Gai – Vietnamese Ramie Cake
If you ever travel to the Nothern provinces of Vietnam, such as Nam Dinh, Hai Duong, Thanh Hoa, etc, you should definitely try this traditional sweet dish called “bánh gai”. It is made through a traditional method, which requires the utmost care and attention of a skilled chef. The cake’s skin is mainly made with glutinous rice flour and “gai” leaf (green ramie) extract, which gives this dessert its distinct black color and a deeply aromatic fragrance. The chewy outer layer is then stuffed with a mixture of steamed mung bean paste, shredded coconut and pork fat, in order to bring out its exquisite flavor. Hand-wrapped “bánh gai” is a perfect gift to give in Vietnam.
Bánh Da Lợn – Vietnamese Steamed Pandan Layered Cake
If you are a fan of jelly, you would probably enjoy this dessert, as well. This cake is made with tapioca flour, rice flour, fresh pandan leaves and mung bean paste (sometimes taro and durian are added for more flavor). Its texture is very jelly-like and a bit sticky, but not as sticky as mochi, and has the pleasant fragrance of pandan leaves. The layers of the cake offer a perfect blending of softness and jelliness, and the richness of mung beans is perfectly balanced by the pandan tapioca layer. It’s really delicious!
In Vietnamese, this cake literally means “pigskin cake” due to its appearance. The name reflects the agriculture-oriented life of local people in the past, as pork used to be a special kind of meat in Vietnamese cuisine, which was usually reserved for special occasions. When pork was rare and expensive, eating a piece of “veggie pigskin” was an affordable way to have something special on holiday time. Besides being eaten as desert, “Bánh Da Lợn” is also a special offering for worshiping your ancestors on Death Anniversary.
Bánh Cốm – Vietnamese Green Young Sticky Rice Cake
Made with the youngest sticky rice grains of “nếp hoa vàng”, a special kind of sticky rice that yields smallish round grains, “Bánh Cốm” is one of the best sweet specialites to try when visiting Vietnam. This special type of rice is grown in autumn, and only harvested at midnight, when it is in the exact ripe stage. The grains are then dried and toasted, to bring out its delicate flavor, through a 700-hundred-year-old traditional process. “Bánh Cốm” is wrapped with banana leaves in a square, and tied with red string. It contains a chewy green layer of young sticky rice on the outside, and stuffed with mung bean paste and shredded coconut on the inside. The fragrance of the green sticky rice is so good that it makes this iconic cake irresistible- but eat it one small bite at a time, since “Bánh Cốm” is very sweet!
Besides being used as an offering to one’s ancestors on Tet holiday, this tasty dessert, which is also viewed as a symbol of eternal love, is also traditionally given to the bride-to-be’s family as a gift in engagement ceremonies.
Bánh Phu Thê (Bánh Xu Xê) – Vietnamese Husband & Wife Cake
According to an old legend, “Bánh Phu Thê” was named by the Vietnamese King Ly Anh Tong. While he was away for a battle, his wife personally prepared this delicious dessert and sent it to him. Touched by her love, he named the cake Husband and Wife. That is the reason why “Bánh Phu Thê” always goes in pairs tied with red strings. Traditionally, it has a bright yellow color, but now you can also find it in green or red. Like other Vietnamese steamed cake wrapped in leaves, “Bánh Phu Thê” is also made with tapioca flour, mung bean paste and coconut, but it has a distinctive sweetness and stickiness that represent the bonds of loyalty of the couple. The golden layer, the white shredded coconut and the yellowish mung bean paste add a warm and intimate tint to the cake. It’s aesthetically pleasing look makes eating it even more enjoyable! The dessert is usually offered by the groom in engagement ceremonies, and it’s part of many wedding banquets.