Bloating fern-shaped cake at Hang Bong market

Bloating fern-shaped cake (or Banh beo) is a familiar, strange and tasty food. An interesting fact about this cake is its name. The round and thin Banh beo looks like a leaf of green water fern (bloating fern, “beo” in Vietnamese), so that it is called Bloating fern-shaped cake (or “Banh beo”). According to some people, “beo” also means cheap in Vietnamese, the cake is cheap so that they call it “Banh beo”.

Referring Banh beo, no one in Mekong Delta does not know about the famous Banh beo sold at Hang Bong market, My Tho city, Tien Giang province. Coming to the market, you can see many Banh beo shoulder poles which are simple with the poles, baskets, Bloating fern-shaped cake arranged nicely on green banana leaves. Eating Banh beo at street food shoulder poles at Hang Bong local market is the best way to enjoy the cake to its fullest and immerse yourself in local life.

There are two types of Banh beo at the market: savory and sweet. At first, we talk about savory Bloating fern-shaped cake. The savory one consists of 3 parts: the plain cake made from rice flour; the filling made from dried shrimp, mung bean, pork skin, deep-fried onion, bread; the dipping sauce made from fish sauce, sugar, garlic, chili pepper.

Although the recipe is easy, not all can cook this cake the best. It needs skillfulness and experience. High-quality rice is ground in order to make rice flour which is soaked in water to make it a little sticky. The cook adds some fat to the mixture of rice flour and water before pouring the mixture into small bowls in a steamer and steaming them until tender, a little chewy and pleasant. The cook must be careful and skillful to make sure the cake is thin and round.

Banh beo can be eaten hot or cold. To serve, the seller tops savory dried shrimp, buttery mung bean paste, crunchy pork skin strips, crispy deep-fried cubes of bread onto the white cake. The dipping sauce is made from fish sauce, water, lime, sugar, chili pepper, garlic, pickled shredded carrots and daikon. To eat, dinner uses a spoon to pour the dip into each small bowl of Banh beo, then tuck in. They do not use spoon, fork or chopsticks to eat Bloating fern-shaped cake but a bamboo knife to cut and eat.

Besides savory Banh beo which is mentioned above, sweet Banh beo is not less delicious. The sweet Bloating fern-shaped cake is made from rice (or rice flour), coconut cream, food colorings (pandan juice, magenta juice). The filling is made from mung bean and coconut cream. The sweet Banh beo is buttery, greasy and very smelling.

The simple but outstandingly delicious Bloating fern-shaped cake is a must-eat dish in Tien Giang. To people who live far away from Tien Giang, Banh beo is more than a food but something very special.

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