Va cake (or Gia cake, Banh va, Banh gia) is specialty food of Tien Giang province. Coming to Giong market in Go Cong Tay district, Tien Giang province, travelers should not miss this amazingly tasty and smelling cake. No one know when their ancestors created Banh va recipe, they only know they have eaten and taught to cook this traditional cake since they could eat and cook. It has been said that the cake appeared when the ancestors sow the land of South Vietnam. It It is named after “va” ladle – the tool used to fry it. The cake is as small as a cupcake and has a shape like the ladle. According to local people, this cake reminds us of a sad love in Go Cong. A folk song says:
“Một mai em gái theo chồng/ Còn đâu bánh giá Chợ Giồng mời anh”
(“Someday the female seller follows her husband/There will be no more Cho Giong Va cake offered me”).
Banh va is made from rice flour, tapioca starch, soybean flour, egg, wild shrimp, pork, pork liver, bean sprouts, wood ears, straw mushrooms, napa cabbage, mung beans, pig brains, and oil (or pork fat). The crush is made by mixing rice flour, tapioca starch, soybean flour, egg, salt and water into a viscous liquid mixture. Depending on taste and preference, each cook use his own ratio of the flours. The more tapioca starch is added, the more sticky the cake is. The more water is added, the more tender the cake is. The longer the mixture is beaten, the more spongy the cake is. The fillings are made from wild shrimp, pork, pork liver, bean sprouts, wood ears, straw mushrooms, napa cabbage, mung beans, pig brains, and oil (or pork fat). All of them should be prepared, seasoninged overnight.
Frying step of Va cake is very important step because it decides the shape, taste, and texture of the cake. Add a layer of the mixture from flours to the bottom of “va” ladle, add the fillings, then add another layer of flour mixture onto the fillings, top the ladle with a few shrimps and peanuts. Dip the ladle into boiling oil (or pork fat). When the cake is well-shaped, the cook carefully gets it out of the ladle and continue frying until crispy outside, airy outside, brown-yellow and well-cooked.
Va cake is cut into quarters, served with rice noodles, vegetables, herbs, pickles and fish sauce dip. All of the crispy and crust, buttery pork liver, sweet-tasty pork, juicy bean sprout, crunchy wood ears, tender straw mushroom, a little chewy rice noodles, sweet and sour fish sauce dip fresh veggies, and aromatic herbs make a great dish.