Snacking, Quang Nam style

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Banh beo (steamed rice pancakes), one of two Quang Nam snacks sold at a stall in Tan Binh District, Ho Chi Minh City / PHOTOS: GIANG VU

Nguyen Thi Sau's stall is one of numerous stalls and restaurants that sell Quang Nam's dishes in the neighborhood around Ba Hoa Market in Tan Binh District.

Compared to others, the six-year-old stall is a sparse establishment with only a long table used as a counter and three small tables to serve customers. Its menu is simple with just two kinds of rice pancakes: banh dap and banh beo, which are often eaten as snacks.

But Sau's stall is always crowded with customers who come for the snacks that are made with native, distinctive recipes.

Banh dap, which is literally translated as cracked/smashed rice pancakes, is made with two kinds of rice papers: the white, thin and kind of sticky (usually called banh uot wet rice pancake) one placed on the dry, crispy, brittle one.

Its topping is dried chopped shallots and fresh shredded spring onions fried in peanut oil, giving the pancake a fatty taste and a good smell.

Banh dap is typically eaten by breaking it into pieces (hence its name), and dipping it into a sauce whose ingredient is mam cai a kind of fermented and salted fish paste that is native to the central region.

Like other sellers, Sau adds chopped garlic and red chili, and sugar to the sauce to tone it down, but she also adds sliced shallots which are fried in oil. Her sauce has a good balance between the sweetness and saltiness, a balance that is rarely found at other stalls, and even fancy restaurants.

 

Banh dap (cracked/smashed rice pancakes) is eaten with a dipping sauce that is mainly made from a kind of fermented and salted fish paste

Dipping a piece of banh dap into the signature sauce, one is easily struck by its strongly contradictory textures and tones.

The second dish sold at Sau's stall is banh beo (steamed rice pancakes), which is among the most popular dishes in Hue's cuisine.

However, unlike its Hue cousin that is small and thin, Quang Nam's banh beo is thick and big.

The topping is also different with a thick and red mixture of chopped pork, peanuts and crushed small shrimps fried in flour, instead of dried shrimp, shredded spring onions fried in oil, and bread crumbles.

Sau, 60, said she cooks the topping mixture with peanut oil brought from Quang Nam and already processed with chive bulbs which are also a native plant.

The simplicity and nativity of Sau's recipes has not just provided a taste of home for Quang Nam natives, they have also made believers of people from other parts of the country.

BÁNH ĐẬP, BÁNH BÈO BÀ SÁU

Address: 2B Ca Van Thinh Street, Ward 11, Tan Binh District, Ho Chi Minh City

Open hours: 7 a.m. 12 a.m.; 2 p.m. 8 p.m.

Prices: banh dap (VND8,000/each), banh beo (VND13,000/dish)

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