It is your first time in Vietnam’s capital city and you have no idea about things to do in Hanoi? For Vietnamese history scholars, the Temple of Literature, Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, Vietnam Museum of Ethnology, and Hoa Lo Prison Museum are places to visit.
For Vietnamese culture lovers, Hanoi Old Quarter and some handicraft villages such as Bat Trang Ceramic Village, and Van Phuc Silk Village, are must-stop. And if you are a food lover, a Hanoi street food tour is what you are looking for.
Banh Cuon (Vietnamese roll rice cake)
Vietnamese roll rice cakes (Source: Internet)
Vietnam is an agricultural country, one of the largest rice exporting countries in the world, then, it is no surprise that rice is used in all meals from breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner and even snack. Among all of the rice dishes in Hanoi, Banh Cuon – a Vietnamese traditional cake made from rice powder has been one of the capital city’s popular breakfast items and essential to any list of must-try Hanoi street food.
So, what is banh cuon? It is a thin, wide sheet of steamed fermented rice batter filled with a mixture of strong-flavored pork, minced wood ear mushroom (moc nhi), and minced shallots. Another popular version is banh cuon filled with pork and shrimp. The pale white rice batter itself is silky smooth, soft and rather bland but otherwise goes well with the saltiness of Cha Lua (Vietnamese pork sausage) and the dipping fish sauce called Nuoc cham – a separate bowl of clear amber dipping sauce and the freshness of bean sprouts. In order to make the dish more perfect, a drop of an essence of Ca cuong (belostomatid) – a giant water bug, can be added. However, ca cuong is scarce, quite expensive and not easy to find.
From its attractive appearance to its special taste, banh cuon has its distinct features to attract a colony of avid fans.
Where to go for banh cuon in Hanoi?
Banh cuon Ba Hoanh (Source: Internet)
- Thanh Van rice cake: No. 12-14 Hang Ga Street, Hoan Kiem District;
- Banh cuon Ba Trieu: No. 101 Ba Trieu Street, Hai Ba Trung District;
- Banh cuon Ba Hoanh (the rice cake of Ms. Hoanh): No.66 To Hien Thanh Street, Hai Ba Trung District;
- Banh cuon Gia An – 25 Thai Phien Street, Hai Ba Trung District;
- Banh cuon Nguyen Binh Khiem – No. 19 Nguyen Binh Khiem Street, Hai Ba Trung District.
Banh Tom (shrimp cake)
Shrimp cakes (Source: Internet)
The stunning flavor of Hanoi shrimp cake is created by the pretty simple but fresh ingredients including battered and deep-fried sweet potato and shrimp. In spite of the easy-to-find ingredients, thanks to the love and experience of local cooks, these cakes win all people’s heart. Banh tom can be found at many restaurants in the capital city but the best version is thought to be West Lake shrimp cakes. What sets this version apart? The point must be the fried shrimps caught from the West Lake, which have the taste of the firm, mild and sweet meat that cannot be found elsewhere.
The way of making shrimp cakes seems to be simple, too. First, the cook makes the dough with wheat flour, cornstarch, a little of baking powder, egg, pepper, salt, sweet potato, turmeric powder, and freshwater or coconut water. Then, he/she will dip the paste into the cooking oil and place the whole-shaped shrimps on top. It will be deep fried for about 5 minutes until the shrimp pancakes emerge and turn golden brown. The final step is to take them out of the fat, cut them into smaller pieces and serve the customers.
In spite of the oil, you do not need to worry about the greasy feeling. As this Hanoi-originated dish is commonly wrapped with lettuce, herbs, and pickled vegetables and dipped in a great dipping fish sauce.
West Lake shrimp cakes (Source: Internet)
Just after one bite of the shrimp cake, you will feel the harmonious taste: the sweetness of sweet potatoes and fresh shrimps, the freshness of fresh vegetables, pickled papaya, and herbs, and the saltiness of dipping fish sauce called nuoc cham. Such a perfect appetizer! Meanwhile, the attractive flavor and the bright orange color come from the natural flesh of the sweet potatoes and a bit of turmeric powder in the batter.
Where to go for shrimp cake in Hanoi?
- Address: Thanh Nien, Ba Dinh, Hanoi
Vietnamese roll rice cakes and shrimp cakes are only two among a wide range of cakes to try on a Hanoi street food tour.