Visitors to Hanoi don't miss seasonal treats

Hanoi is full of particular dishes from the capital of the North, with special cakes being counted among them.

For Hanoi-based food blogger Cong Vu, the Covid-19 pandemic had changed many things among his habit of eating outside.

He was forced to prepare food by himself at home but vividly miss the street foods, which he can’t cook. He also missed the ambiance of food stores in the Old Quarter. 

“I’m so happy that all of my favorite food stalls have already resumed their business and the rhythm of life has returned to normal now,” he told The Hanoi Times.

Visitors to Hanoi don't miss seasonal treats
Young Hanoi people like to hang out with friends and have dinner outside rather than prepare food by themselves at home as their parents did. Photo courtesy of Cong Vu.  

Indeed, there are hundreds of types of food found everywhere in the capital, in tiny eateries or in the bamboo baskets of street vendors.

Traditional Northern Vietnamese cakes or banh are made seasonally, with ingredients such as green bean, sticky rice, sugar, water chestnuts, lotus seeds, and peanuts. Many are wrapped in dried or fresh banana leaves, encasing a sweet inner surprise. Let’s discover some seasonal cakes of Hanoi for the fall-winter that Hanoians rarely cook at home.

The floating dumpling or Banh troi

Rice flour and sugar fillings are the main ingredients. First, the flour is mixed with water. The amount of water is important, otherwise, the dough becomes too glutinous or too dry. The recipe for Banh troi, or “marble cake”/ “floating cake”, sounds quite simple but it is not so easy to make properly. Delicious food can make the eater feel the freshness of well-done dough and smell the charming fragrance of its filling. “Thus, you should order some to try yourself at home, or better, take the chance to hang out with friends at the food stall in Hanoi’s Old Quarter Area,” Vu suggested.

Then, pieces of the cake are rounded with sugar inside and boiled. The fragrance will indicate when they are ready, and when the marble-pattern creations float to the surface, they are picked and placed on plates and sprinkled with some white roasted sesame before being served.

Visitors to Hanoi don't miss seasonal treats
The wonderful piping hot Banh troi tau served at late artist Pham Bang's food store. Photo: Cong Vu

Another variation of Banh troi is Banh chay, which is bigger dumplings and stuffed with a sweet green bean puree. Banh troi tau, meanwhile, is made with dumplings of a similar size to those of Banh chay but are stuffed with black sesame puree, and the syrup is flavored with ginger and must be served warm.

Hanoi’s young people opt for another choice in winter to avoid the evening chill: going to a popular Banh troi tau shop in the center of the Old Quarter in Hanoi, at 30 Hang Giay.

None seem to mind sitting cramped on baby-sized plastic stools on a crowded street corner to enjoy these sweet, steamy treats at reasonable prices of around VND30,000 ($1.3) per portion.

Young sticky rice and its delicious sweet variants 

Banh com has a distinct flavor and fragrance made from young rice, called com. Com is made from young glutinous rice, harvested when the rice begins to ripen, and still contains milk and fragrance.

First, the rice is selected, thrashed, sieved, and washed in large washers to eliminate the thin grains that float to the surface. At this stage, it turns yellow from the original green color.

To produce a type of soft com, the rice must be pounded before undergoing the most important stage which is drying in a large iron pan over a wood fire. Pounding and drying techniques are often kept within the household and never passed on to daughters, as once married they are likely to reveal the secrets to their husband's family.

Visitors to Hanoi don't miss seasonal treats
The Banh com (young sticky rice cake), Xoi com (steamed young sticky rice with lotus seeds), and Che com (young sticky rice paste) are prepared by Ms.Man. Photo courtesy of Tiem Co Man

Expert cooks know how long the pounding and drying should take, the frequency of each pounding, how the heat of the fire should be adjusted, and the techniques of choosing good rice and good firewood. The finished product, which must be soft, sweet, and fragrant, then finds its way to customers, covered with lotus leaves to retain its moisture and to give the com the fragrance of the leaf.

There are few things more delicious than a simple dish of green rice in a lotus leaf with bananas. Com is also used to make other popular desserts such as Banh com (green rice custard) and Che com (sticky rice sweet soup).

 

The fresh newly made com may be pureed and stuffed with green bean paste and fresh coconut to make Banh com; or cooked with cassava flour to make the Che com. It costs VND10,000 (US$0,5) and the best is found in Banh Com Nguyen Ninh or Nguyen Ninh Sticky Rice Custard at No. 1 Hang Than Street. Meanwhile, the Che com can be found at any sweet food stall in Hanoi’s streets for around VND30,000 ($1.3) per portion.  

Shrimp cake

Banh tom Ho Tay or West Lake’s shrimp cake is one of the first things Vietnamese tourists coming to Hanoi think of trying. The famed dish is named after West Lake, the largest and most beautiful in the capital and the home to the shrimp that form the basis for Banh tom Ho Tay.

Visitors to Hanoi don't miss seasonal treats
 A Hanoi's beer-killer dish- the West Lake’s shrimp cake. Photo: Cong Vu

However, there is more to West Lake shrimp cake than just shrimp. The spongy dish is made from thinly-sliced potato or sweet potato, rice flour, and a host of other ingredients. After frying, the dish has the bright yellow of sunlight and a perfect accompaniment to its signature sauce made from garlic, vinegar, sugar, chili, fish sauce, salt, pepper, and small pieces of carrot and green papaya.

“I was very impressed with the shrimp cake the first time I tried the dish. It was tasty but a little bit too crunchy and fatty for westerners,” Huge Noland-an Australian expat in Hanoi told The Hanoi Times.

“A tip for the first-time tryer: dip the pie into the sauce before eating. The sweet-and-sour sauce and fresh salad will help balance the taste,” he stated.

These days, as it becomes more popular, the rice flour in the dish is increasingly replaced by wheat flour and the shrimp are brought in from other sources around Hanoi besides the famous West Lake.

Many restaurants around West Lake, near Phu Tay Ho (West Lake Pagoda), now specializing in Banh tom. The price for a portion is around VND60,000 or $2.6 per person.

Hot khuc pie

The main ingredients of Banh khuc are khuc leaf, which is grown on the banks of the Red River, and sticky rice. The boiled leaves are first pounded into a pulp then mixed with sticky rice flour to make a dark green mixture, before being rolled into portions the size of a child's fist.

Visitors to Hanoi don't miss seasonal treats
The Banh khuc is one among the should-not-to-miss specialties of Hanoi in the fall winter. Photo: Cong Vu

Each piece is then be rolled in boiled, ground green peas and meat, half fat and half lean, which has been soaked in pepper. Finally, Banh khuc is layered into a large steamer, with each layer covered with carefully-soaked sticky rice, until the pot is full. The cakes are then steamed on low heat until a delicious aroma permeates the air.

“Having a hot Banh khuc as a late-night snack is one of the great joys of any Hanoian in a cold chili winter,” Cong Vu stated.

His comment may be wrong that a few loves Banh khuc. The cake's lovers believed that the fragrance of sticky rice blended with the scent of khuc leaf, green peas and spiced meat leaves an indelible impression to diners.

One of the most famous Banh khuc is Banh Khuc Co Lan, made by Ms. Lan in the Old Quarter's Cau Go Street. The price is VND25,000 ($1) each.

Source: Hanoitimes

A look at Com cake – Hanoi’s favorite treat

A look at Com cake – Hanoi’s favorite treat

People often have fond memories when they see Com cake, as this is a must have in happy occasions, like weddings or Lunar New Year.

Troi and chay cakes for Cold Food Festival

Troi and chay cakes for Cold Food Festival

Many Vietnamese people are preparing ingredients to make bánh trôi (floating cake) and bánh chay (small balls made from green bean paste wrapped in a shell made of glutinous rice flour) for Hàn Thực (Cold Food) festival.  

 
 

Other News

.
Hanoi launches bike tours
Hanoi launches bike tours
TRAVELicon  25/11/2021 

Joining the “VGreen’s Bike Tours”, travelers will have the chance to visit famous tourist sites and learn about the daily lives of artisans in the capital’s craft streets.

Binh Lieu in the ripe rice season
Binh Lieu in the ripe rice season
TRAVELicon  24/11/2021 

In the ripe rice season, people from hamlets in Binh Lieu District, Quang Ninh flock to the fields to harvest crops.

Tho Ha Village famed for rice paper and crackers
Tho Ha Village famed for rice paper and crackers
TRAVELicon  25/11/2021 

Located close to the peaceful Cau River, Tho Ha Village in the northern province of Bac Giang has developed a name for itself thanks to its original ancient architecture and specialty products – rice paper and crackers.

The autumnal Y Ty in the Northwest
The autumnal Y Ty in the Northwest
TRAVELicon  23/11/2021 

Y Ty is the name of a highland commune in Bat Xat District of Lao Cai, a province in the northwest of Vietnam. Autumn comes giving Y Ty a gentle and passionate beauty distinctive of this region.

Danang rice vermicelli with fish paste
Danang rice vermicelli with fish paste
TRAVELicon  26/11/2021 

What characterizes bún mắm nêm Da Nang (Danang rice vermicelli with fish paste) is its stronger flavor as well as the addition of pork, slices of boiled pig’s ears and beef bologna.

A green island amidst the azure sea
A green island amidst the azure sea
TRAVELicon  24/11/2021 

Ly Son Island off the coast of Quang Ngai Province in Central Vietnam is said to be the “azure island” as the seawater is so azure and pure that it gives visitors a feeling of seeing through the seabed.

HCM City proposes welcoming international tourists with vaccine passports next month
HCM City proposes welcoming international tourists with vaccine passports next month
TRAVELicon  22/11/2021 

HCM City has proposed welcoming international tourists with vaccine passports beginning in December. 

Mexican sun flowers bloom in Da Lat
Mexican sun flowers bloom in Da Lat
TRAVELicon  22/11/2021 

In early November, the weather in Da Lat is gradually warmer, taking place in the rainy season in October. This is the time when Da Lat is dyed golden by Mexican sun flowers.

Catching field mice in Gia Lai
Catching field mice in Gia Lai
TRAVELicon  21/11/2021 

The practice of capturing field mice during the rice harvest season (May-June or October-November) in Dak Doa in Gia Lai Province draws a great many people here for firsthand experience of it.

Railway through Central of Vietnam listed among six amazing Asia train journeys
Railway through Central of Vietnam listed among six amazing Asia train journeys
TRAVELicon  21/11/2021 

The train passes through marvelous Vietnam's central scenery of water buffaloes graze in wide-open fields, humble villages flit by, and impossibly green fields.

Quang Nam welcomes first foreign visitors with the "vaccine passport"
Quang Nam welcomes first foreign visitors with the "vaccine passport"
TRAVELicon  21/11/2021 

On November 17 and 18, Quang Nam welcomed 159 international tourists after nearly two years of suspending international commercial flights due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Ba Ria - Vung Tau promotes eco-tourism at national park
Ba Ria - Vung Tau promotes eco-tourism at national park
TRAVELicon  21/11/2021 

The southern province of Ba Ria-Vung Tau has planned to establish 17 eco-tourism areas under a tourism development project at its Con Dao National Park until 2030.

International tourists to Phu Quoc must use IGOVN and PC-Covid apps
International tourists to Phu Quoc must use IGOVN and PC-Covid apps
TRAVELicon  21/11/2021 

Foreign visitors to Phu Quoc Island are required to install and use the IGOVN immigration application and the PC-Covid epidemic prevention application during their time in Vietnam.

Da Nang expects to welcome over 10,000 foreign visitors
Da Nang expects to welcome over 10,000 foreign visitors
TRAVELicon  20/11/2021 

The central city of Da Nang anticipates that it will welcome more than 10,000 foreign visitors over the coming months when it enters a new normal.

Mang Den, an attractive eco-tourism destination in Kon Tum
Mang Den, an attractive eco-tourism destination in Kon Tum
TRAVELicon  22/11/2021 

Mang Den is a small town surrounded by mountains and rich forest flora. It has a cool and mild mountainous climate all year round and is home to the Mang Den national eco-tourism area in Kon Tum Province.

Traveloka and Kien Giang join hands to promote Phu Quoc and welcome foreign tourists
Traveloka and Kien Giang join hands to promote Phu Quoc and welcome foreign tourists
TRAVELicon  19/11/2021 

Traveloka and the southern province of Kien Giang have cooperated to promote local tourism through the “Live Fully” program, which aims at popularizing the images of Phu Quoc Island as a safe and friendly destination for foreign visitors.

HCM City proposes three-phase pilot plan to welcome international tourists
HCM City proposes three-phase pilot plan to welcome international tourists
TRAVELicon  19/11/2021 

HCM City has just proposed a pilot plan to welcome back foreign tourists from December after a long closure due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The magnificent beauty of Toc Tien Waterfall, Dong Chau Forest in Quang Binh
The magnificent beauty of Toc Tien Waterfall, Dong Chau Forest in Quang Binh
TRAVELicon  23/11/2021 

Located in the south of Quang Binh Province, adjacent to Quang Tri Province, Dong Chau - Khe Nuoc Trong Nature Reserve in Le Thuy District has a tropical forest ecosystem at an altitude of nearly 700m above sea level.

The beauty of bamboo waterwheels in Dien Bien Province
The beauty of bamboo waterwheels in Dien Bien Province
TRAVELicon  20/11/2021 

The waterwheels have become an iconic image which is commonly seen in villages of the Thai ethnic group in the mountainous areas.

Da Nang hotels open but have few guests despite big discounts
Da Nang hotels open but have few guests despite big discounts
TRAVELicon  19/11/2021 

Although hotels in Da Nang reopened a month ago and are running attractive promotion programs, they still have few guests.

 
 
 
Leave your comment on an article

OR QUICK LOGIN