Surfside rice cakes make a splash in Saigon

TN News

Email Print

Phan Rang's namesake cheap eats make for a filing, easy meal


Banh can Phan Rang at Dat Restaurant

According to Sau Hong, people at banh can Phan Rang to remember. "The dish is simple and rural," said the owner of Quan 327/8 which specializes in the savory regional pancakes. "Eating them is deeply nostalgic for people who are far away from their countryside homes."

Beyond their Proustian powers, these cheap, crunchy rice cakes offer diners a great way to fill up at any time of the day.

"In Phan Rang Town, the pancake is so popular that people eat it every day," Hong says. The restaurateur says she only hires local girls from Phan Rang. They can be seen toiling over portable clay ovens - popping rice flour in and out of clay trays at tables.

Thanks to their great taste, the dish has spread from the sleepy seaside town to bustling Ho Chi Minh City.

Banh can literally translates to "bite-sized bread."

Generally speaking, they consist of lumps of rice flour that are quickly cooked in a red hot clay oven.

Like all simple foods, banh can Phan Rang is tricky to pull off.

You can try these stellar treats at the following HCMC spots:

QUAN 38 - BANH CAN PHAN RANG
154 Nguyen Dinh Chinh Street, Phu Nhuan District
Tel: (08) 3 844 2418

DAT - DAC SAN PHAN RANG
147 bis Truong Dinh Street, District 3
Tel: (08) 3 843 7390

BANH CAN PHAN RANG
327/8 No Trang Long Street, Binh Thanh District

The cook must be patient, nimble and tough enough to endure the heat that pours out of their open ovens. Making an ideal dough can be difficult. Thin batter will yield mushy, pulpy pancakes, while dense dough inevitably burns.

The perfect banh can Phan Rang is crispy on the outside and spongy on the inside. They're generally served with a selection of dipping sauces and dollops of scallion oil aka mo hanh.

"In the countryside, the pancakes are served up plain, with a little mo hanh on top," Hong said. "In Saigon, other ingredients have been added to the mix, like grilled meatballs, pork skins, and quail egg to add variety."

In the end, the key to good banh can Phan Rang is in the dipping sauces.

Nuoc mam dau phong (fish sauce with peanut), nuoc mam xoai xanh (fish sauce with green mango) and mam nem (anchovy paste) are common pairings for the cakes. The green mango varietal, we're told, is a Saigon favorite.

And who could argue with the price? For VND30,000-35,000 you get a plate of ten tiny pancakes.

More Arts & Culture News