It was a modest rice wafer topped with sesame and green beans that brought the delicate aroma of Vietnamese food to the table.
Rice wafers conjure up images of country girls or elderly women trudging through the alleyways of Hanoi shouting "Who wants some rice wafer?" which has long become a rarity these days.
People now sell millet rice cracker whilst riding their bikes or motorcycles, and they're marketed using small, hand-held speakers. There aren't many rice wafer shops in Hanoi now since they are deemed an old-fashioned treat rather than a "trendy" one.
Photo: Duc Tran
Rice paper, millet and green beans are the major ingredients in a rice wafer. It takes creativity and years of practice for a baker to create a tasty rice paper from scratch.
The rice paper you choose must be crispy and aromatic with sesame, or else it will not taste as good as it should. Rice paper that is too limp will result in a chewy cake that will be less enjoyable. After cleaning, millet has to be steeped in diluted lime water for about two hours, then cooked with three times the millet's volume and salted until mushy and thick. After steaming, the green beans are mashed and formed into balls.
A delectable millet rice wafer wrapped over a variety of mouthwatering ingredients. (Photo: Dovi)
Using a rice paper, the vendor skillfully distributes a fragrant yellow millet layer on top of a flawless layer of green beans. In order to improve the sweetness of the green bean layer, a thin coating of white sugar is evenly sprinkled over the top. Grated coconut can also be included if desired. The final step is to fold the plain part of rice paper all the way up. For the folded cake not to shatter or overflow, the baker must have great dexterity as well as solid hand grips.
If you've ever had rice paper, you know how delicious it is. It has a crisp texture, sweet and nutty flavor, and a little crunch. To this day, the fragrant rice cake that was formerly wrapped in newspaper brings back pleasant memories.
With rice paper, we get a combination of rice paper crispness, sweet and rich taste of green beans and freshness of millet all in one bite. The mouthwatering rice cake, neatly wrapped in rice paper, rekindles fond memories.
With traditional flavours of chè (sweet soup) dishes, Chè Bà Thơm has become a famous brand in Quan Thanh Street, Hanoi for more than 40 years, and is still loved by diners today.
Hanoi is full of particular dishes from the capital of the North, with special cakes being counted among them.