Sate your sweet tooth with bánh bó

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Central Vietnam's traditional cake brings together sticky rice and candied fruits in a rich festive dish

Bánh bó, which literally means "bundled cake," is slice of glutinous rice flour goodness speckled with candied fruits

One of the best things about Tet (Lunar New Year) is all the delicious foods you are allowed to eat without worrying about the calories. Already, bakers and confectioners across the city are beginning to display packaged gift boxes with different breads and sweets that are popular during the country's biggest festival of a year.

Tet is the time of the year when sweet cakes are in abundance, and none is sweeter than bánh bó, a typical fruit cake from central provinces of Quang Ngai, Binh Dinh and Thua Thien-Hue.

Bánh bó, which literally means "bundled cake," is a slice of glutinous rice flour goodness speckled with candied fruits.

In homes in the central region, many people make their own bánh bó. Every one in the house gets involved in the process of chopping fruits, kneading dough and assembling the sweet festive cakes.

To make the cake from scratch, buy a variety of fresh seasonal fruits such as ripe tomatoes, kumquat, carrots, winter melons, ginger and pineapples. The kumquat gives it a little sourness and the ginger adds some spice. Dice all the fruits into tiny pieces.

In a pot of water, add sugar and diced fruits and simmer until the water reduces by half and has the consistency of thick syrup. Now set the candied fruit aside and let cool.

For homemade rice flour, wash, drain and dry the best quality glutinous rice you can find. The better the rice, the silkier the cake will be.

Roast dry rice on low heat until it becomes fragrant, but ensure that it doesn't brown. Ground this rice into fine milky white flour, and sift it.

In a separate bowl, boil sugar and water with a few drops of vanilla. Don't reduce the water much or the cake will become too sweet.

Add this sugar syrup to the sifted flour and knead with gentle hands until you have a soft dough.

Flatten the dough with a rolling pin. Put all the candied fruit into the center of the dough, then knead again to mix the fruit well with the dough. Now, shape the dough into a cube and cut one centimeter thick slices. Wrap the cake in cling wrap to store it in a cool and dry place.

The finished bánh bó is fragrant and sweet. The colorful cake brings together a variety of tastes and textures perfect for the festive season.

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