Experience Mekong Delta's snacks in Saigon

Curated by BuffaloTripJune 17, 2017 Viewed: 465

Dishes originating from the Southwest Vietnam (Mekong Delta) such as bánh Bò, bánh Chuối, chuối Nếp nướng, bánh tai yến attract a lot of Saigonese. On a rainy November day, what could be more exciting than enjoying a hot dish and discovering its interesting stories?

Delicious taste of steamed, fried and baked banana cakes

Steamed banana cake

These three dishes originate from the South West of Vietnam. In old days, the Southwestern land was so rich that banana trees grew in bushes. While people were travelling on the rivers to catch fish and shrimp, they would pick up any bananas if they some. They hung them up above their stove for ripening. In each of their meals, people had banana with their rice and baked fried fish to replace vegetables.

When bananas are ripened, apart from exposing them to sunlight for drying, people in the South West also squeeze bananas with coconut milk, ginger and ground roasted peanuts to make banana candies. When there are visitors to their homes, the hosts use a knife to cut the candies and invite the guests.

Gradually, creative housewives created an interesting new dish: steamed banana cake.

The main ingredients for making this cake are ripe bananas, flour, tapioca, sliced coconut and coconut juice. In a summer afternoon at the old gardens, girls just stand at the other side of the road and say “Come over and enjoy some banana cakes”. Then, one of the girls goes into the kitchen, gets some bananas to slice them and mix them with the above ingredients and some seasonings such as salt and sugar are added too. She puts some coconut to the mixture. The ingredients for making banana cakes are ready. 

As time goes by, people in the South West of Vietnam create other new types which are fried and baked banana cakes. One interesting thing about this kind of cake is that bananas which are used for making cakes must be Siam to make a unique taste. To make this cake, soft ripe bananas are selected. Bananas are firstly put on a clean cutting board lined with a plastic sheet. In the next step, another cutting board is used to flatten the bananas. The flattened bananas are put into the flour mixture so that they are covered with a layer of flour. The next step is putting them into a pan with boiling oil for frying. Adjust the fire stove until the cakes turn bright yellow. The girl quickly put the cakes out of the pan for drying the oil. Now she is waiting for guests to drop by and enjoy the cakes.

Fried banana cake

In addition to fried banana cake, Saigonese also like baked bananas wrapped with a banana leaf. In comparison with steamed banana cakes and fried banana cakes, it is more complicated to make baked bananas because the bananas are baked with shredded coconut. Firstly, sticky rice flour is mixed with coconut juice and doughed until the mixture is sticky. Ripe bananas are peeled and kept in salt water. After a while the bananas are taken out. In the next step, the banana is covered by a flattened piece of flour. The flour covers the banana perfectly. The bananas with flour are then wrapped with a sheet of banana leaf and are put for grilling over a fire. The fire should be a suitable size so as not to make the cake to be spoiled. The cakes on the grill are rotated to be cooked evenly. When guests drop by and order a cake, the seller cut the cakes into four pieces and serves the guests with a cup of coconut juice. With the rich taste of coconut, the aroma of sticky rice flour and the typical sweetness of bananas will attract a lot of diners. 

Baked bana cake

The simple pleasure of bánh cam, bánh tai yến and bánh bò

Banh cam duong

With its simple characteristics, when creating bánh cam,the people in the Western area named the round cakes after the orange fruit in their garden. The cake got its name as “cam” but there is not any orange is used to make this cake.

At first glance, bánh cam is quite similar to the doughnuts of the Northerners. The ingredients to make this kind of cake are sticky flour mixed with rice flour in a suitable portion to make the cake crispy when being fried. The doughnuts of the Northerners are made from sticky rice flour which makes the cakes soft and sticky. The inner core of the cakes is made from ground green beans and the outer layers of the cakes are covered with melted yellow and brown sugar and some sesame. bánh cam is sweet, crispy and very tasty. 

Bánh tai yến also originates from the South Western region and has spread its fame to Saigon. The ingredients to make bánh tai yến include rice flour, tapioca flour, coconut milk and sugar. All the ingredients are mixed in suitable portions and then fried until it turns a bright golden color. The most difficult stage of making this kind of cake is frying it so that the cakes expand fully and beautifully. To fry this kind of cake, oil is heated until it boils; then the mixture of flour is poured into the pan. The manipulation should be quick and steady to make a round shape. When the center of the cake inflates, its outside turns yellow; and when the cake has a shape of a cone upside down, the cake is taken out. The cake is placed on tissues for absorbing the oil; and then served on a dish.

Banh tai yen

There are various recipes to make bánh bò. The Westerners can make a variety of bánh bò such as bánh bò hấp, bánh bò rễ tre, bánh bò xửng và bánh bò nướng. It is said that this kind of cake was introduced to Vietnam by Chinese people. Over time, this cake has evolved and is suitable for parties. 

Banh bo

The ingredients used to make bánh bò simply include rice flour, sugar, coconut and yeast. However, the quality of the cake depends on how the flour is risen. At first, there was steamed bánh bò served with bánh tiêu. The South Westerners created baked bánh bò (in some places, bánh bò is made with milk, which is how it earned its name). This dish soon became a favorite food for children. 

Sitting in a small room on a rainy day, some tasty bánh bò is enough to satisfy. At this time, whether it is bánh bò, , tai yến or bánh cam,  though they are simple, they appeal people to enjoy and remind them of the countryside when they were in their childhood. 

Enjoy dishes at:

Ngon Restaurant 
160 Pasteur, Ben Nghe, Dist 1, HCMC. Tel:(08)38277136
26 Tran Hung Dao, Hanoi. Tel: (04) 3933 6133