Many tourists coming to Saigon have felt in love with traditional Vietnamese foods sold at shoulder poles or rolling carts on the streets. These traditional foods and street food stalls are important parts of Saigon culture. Let’s explore Saigon and these amazing traditional Vietnamese foods with me.
1. Bánh Tai Yến or Bird’s Nest Cake
Bird’s Nest Cake originated in Mekong Delta, its name comes from the shape which is looked like a canary nest. The recipe is very simple. The main ingredients are sugar, rice flour, tapioca flour and coconut cream… All of them are mixed well with water to create the batter. The cook uses a spoon to put the batter into heating oil to make this smelling, tender and light sweet cake. It’s food best to serve hot.
2. Chuối Nướng or Grilled Banana Wrapped in Steamed Sticky Rice
Driving along crowded streets, you can feel the attractive smell of Grilled Banana Wrapped in Steamed Sticky Rice which is being grilled on charcoal at food stalls on pavements. This grilled banana has been popular in Mekong Delta because ingredients to make it are easy to find in the area. These days, it is sold everywhere in Saigon and become a favorite food of many locals and tourists. Some cooks have brought it to international gastronomy festivals and introduce it to friends from all over the world. There are some steps to cook Grilled Banana Wrapped in Steamed Sticky Rice. The sticky rice must be steamed with coconut creme. Then the banana leaves and steamed sticky rice are used to wrap a peeled banana. The cook must stand and take care of the wrap carefully and skilfully until the banana leaves become brown and dry, the steamed sticky rice is crispy. The leaves are removed before the food is served. We usually eat this amazing food with coconut creme sauce.
3. Bánh Tằm Bì
Bánh tằm bì is a familiar dish in Bac Lieu and Ca Mau province, Mekong Delta. To cook Bánh tằm, the cook makes dough from rice flour, tapioca flour, salt and makes chewy and soft thick noodles. The noodle is served with pork skin in roasted rice powder, coconut creme sauce, deep-fried onion and fish sauce dip.
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4. Bánh Khoai Mì or Cassava Cake
This small grilled cake is made from shredded boiled cassava, coconut creme, salt and sugar. The cake is grilled on charcoal so that it has a special smell. Bánh khoai mì tastes sweet and greasy. There’s no better cake than this on raining days.
5. Bánh Ú Tro or Pyramid Sticky Rice Flour Cake
Bánh Ú Tro has a pyramid shape and is as big as a human hand. The chewy and tender crust is made from sticky rice and the filling is usually made from mung bean paste. One of the highlights of this cake is that the sticky rice is soaked in mix of water and ash overnight to make its unique taste. That’s also the reason why the crust has a beautiful transparent brown color. It’s wrapped in bamboo leaves before being cooked in a big pot for some hours. Bánh ú tro isn’t greasy and very fresh so that it’s a good choice when the weather is hot.
6. Bánh Cam or Orange Cake
Bánh Cam is sold popularly in front of schools and at small local markets in Saigon. Bánh Cam’s crust is made from rice flour and sticky rice flour. We mix mung bean paste and sugar to make the fillings. It is deep-fried in oil until it turns brown-yellow and becomes crispy. After that, the cake is covered by light sweet yellow transparent caramel and ready to serve.
7. Bánh Bò Dừa or Cow Cake with Shredded Coconut Meat
The main ingredients of Bánh Bò Dừa are wheat flour, baking powder and egg. The filling is made from shredded coconut meat, mung bean paste and sugar. After being grilled, the cake must be crispy but chewy.
In the past, these traditional Vietnamese cakes are made by mothers and grandmothers in families in Mekong Delta on free days after crops. It’s time for all members to gather to cook and eat together. Receiving these amazing cakes from my mother is one of my happiest childhood memory. Nowadays, they are easily found at local markets, street food stalls and even luxury restaurants serving traditional Vietnamese foods.
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