“Husband and wife cake” or “Banh phu the” is a traditional Vietnamese sweet cake, it basically means “Husband and wife cake. (“Phu” and “the” are Sino-Vietnamese vocabulary, they mean “husband” and “wife” respectively).
Back when I was little, whenever I go to a wedding with my parents they’d give this “husband and wife cake” to the guests. The cake is usually squared shaped, fit in the palm of my hands, wrapped in transparent cellophane sheets (or sometimes in boxes made out of coconut/banana leaves), bright green coloured, some sesame seeds sprinkled on top, with yellow mung beans and coconut filling. Take a bite, and it’s the perfect combination of the chewiness of the skin, the crunchiness of the coconut or papaya flakes, the richness of the mung bean filling, simple yet magically delicious. For some reasons though, this cake started disappearing as I grow up, and it has been a long time since I’ve last tasted one.
I would have never thought that I would be able to taste this cake again in France. My brother’s family was moving at the end of last month, and when I came to help my mom told me that there were a bit mung bean and tapioca flour left, and she wanted to make this cake with me. We spent a few hours in the afternoon making a dozen cakes. When the cakes finally cooled down, I unwrapped one and took a bite, and was immediately taken back to my childhood, as the cake is 90% the same as the store-bought ones (the other 10% is really, in my opinion, just because dried tapioca flour can’t really be compared to the fresh one).
The story of the origin of the “husband and wife” name for this cake has some variations, I will ửite dơn my favourite version at the end of this post so you can read if you’re interested.
Công thức tiếng Việt: Bánh phu thê (xu xê)
This Lunar New Year my family went back to Vietnam (except me), so my new year’s eve dinner was spent with my Vietnamese friends here in Paris. I, of course, volunteered to bring sweets and treats for tea time and desserts, and also to keep up the gift box ‘tradition’ from last year.
Bài viết tiếng Việt: Bánh kẹo ngày Tết
I don’t really remember how I know of these cookies, since for kids born in the 90s like me these cookies are pretty much extinct (at least for me, because before making these cookies myself I don’t even know how they taste). It’s called ‘dipping cookies’ simply because when you make them, you mostly do…the dipping movement dipping the mold into the batter, then dipping the mold with the batter into the oil. I went back to Vietnam in summer 2014, I asked my mom to take me to the market to find this mold, and the sellers didn’t know what I was talking about as first, it took my mom a lot of describing for them to finally found me the molds.
I went back to France, feeling so excited with the molds, I looked for the recipe on the internet, read a bunch of tips and tricks, went straight into the kitchen to make them and…failed miserably. Either the cookies wouldn’t leave the mold, or the batter wouldn’t stick to the mold, I spent the whole afternoon trying, sweating like crazy, all my clothes and hair smelled like oil, and I ended up with around 10 cookies that were edible. To be honest, the cookies tasted incredible, but just thinking about fighting with the pot of oil and batter sends chills down my spine, so I just put the mold in the furthest corner of my cupboard after that time.
It was not until a few weeks ago, the weather was quite cool, I cleaned out my cupboard and saw the mold, and decided to give it another try. I was extra careful with the measurements this time, adjusted the heat of the oil, and tada…the cookies were a huge success!!! Looking at the cookies coming off the mold and slowly turn golden brown was an extremely satisfying feeling. After making these cookies a few more times, I have noted down some tips to successfully make them, which I will write down at the end of this post.
Công thức tiếng Việt: Bánh nhúng
Giầy cake is a simple and traditional glutinous rice cake that carries and very great folklore.
Legend has it that the King Hung the VI held a competition to choose the heir to his throne from the 22 of his sons. He said that each of the princes, on the last day of Lunar New Year, must bring a dish that they find the tastiest and the person with the tastiest dish above all others will inherit the throne. The princes immediately went their ways to scour the land and the sea for luxurious and exotic dishes. Only Lang Lieu (Tiet Lieu), who lost his mom from a very young age, and lived a very humble life ever since, stayed in his hometown to search for a dish. The final day of the year was approaching and he still hasn’t found anything, lost in his thoughts, he fell asleep, and a deity appeared in his dream and gave him directions as a reward to his humble lifestyle:
“There is nothing as valuable as rice, because rice nourishes people. Use glutinous rice to make two types of cake. One square shaped to symbolise the Earth, put mung beans and pork in the fillings to represent plants and animals, called the chưng cake. Use the same rice to make one round shaped cake to symbolise the heavens, pound the rice to make it white and pure, called the giầy cake.”
Lang Lieu’s cakes were judged to be the most delicious by King Hung. After listening to the beautiful meaning of the cakes, the King felt even more touched. Realising the humbleness and wisdom of Lang Lieu, King Hung declared him the successor of the throne. From then, the chưng cake and giầy cake became traditional foods of Vietnam during Lunar New Year.
Nowadays, these two types of savoury cakes are eaten not only during Tet holiday (Lunar New Year) but are also used as an everyday dish, especially the giầy cake. Back when I was home in Vietnam, my mom used to buy me a pair of giầy cake to eat with Vietnamese pork paste for breakfast. Traditionally, giầy cake is made by pounding cooked glutinous rice until it becomes a smooth and elastic dough, and then the dough is shaped into smaller round cakes. This process takes a really long time and hot glutinous rice is really sticky, so it was often done by strong men in the village and was made only during Tet holiday.
We have glutinous rice flour now, so making giầy cake at home becomes much easier. I suddenly crave for this dish the other day, so I took out some glutinous rice flour and start kneading, only half an hour later I was rewarded with a fresh batch of cake. The chewy cakes coupled with a piece of Vietnamese pork ham, I sprinkled some salt and pepper on top, took a bite, and that was pure happiness
Công thức tiếng Việt: Bánh giầy
My Facebook was flooded with photos of Floating rice cakes/ Vietnamese mochi balls with brown sugar filling, which means it is the time of the Cold Food festival. We were preparing for Matthias’s leaving to Paris yesterday, so it was not until this morning that I sat down and made myself a plate of this treat. The Cold Food Festical is a 3-day festival, so it’s still in the right time for this treat today
Let me rant a bit before getting to the recipe. When I talked to my friend in England yesterday evening, telling her I was going to make Floating rice cakes for The Cold Food Festival, she asked me what this festival is about. I was caught a bit off guard to be honest, since I kind of celebrate this festival by default, and my mom always bought Floating rice cakes for this festival when I was in Vietnam so I didn’t really know the origin of the festival. I did a search on Google and found the story of the origin of the festival, which is pretty interesting so I want to share with you guys (copied from Wikipedia, with some slight modifications)
During the Spring and Autumn period, Prince Chong’er of the state of Jin endured many hardships while he was exiled from his home state because of the Li Ji Unrest. Once, when Chong’er and Jie Zitui passed through the State of Wey, all their provisions were stolen. In order to help the prince who was tormented by hunger, Jie Zitui cut off the flesh from his thigh and offered it to the prince for sustenance.
Later, when Chong’er became Duke Wen of Jin, he ordered a search for Jie Zitui who had gone into hiding in the remote mountains with his mother. Jie Zhitui had no political ambitions and felt ashamed to work with his hypocritical fellows, hence refused invitation of the Duke. Duke Wen ordered the mountains to be burned down in order to force Jie out of hiding. However, the fire ended up killing Jie and his mother.
Filled with remorse, Duke Wen ordered that each year during these three days the setting of fire is forbidden – all food was to be consumed cold (from the 3rd to 5th March of the Lunar Calendar). Therefore, the Festival is named The Cold Food Festival.
It is really not difficult to make Floating rice cakes, a search on Google with give you a few thousands recipes. The best way to make this dish is to use fresh glutinous rice flour grounded from soaked glutinous rice. It is impossible to find that here, so I have to use dried flour from Asian stores. The cakes will be a bit less flavorful, so I decided to give it some more color and taste, to make the dish taste better and make it looks more fun as well.
Công thức tiếng Việt: Bánh trôi ngũ sắc
Jersey cudweed glutinous rice is a dish originated from the North of Vietnam, made from Jersey cudweed leaves, glutinous rice, with mung bean and pork filling. This dish is usually made during eth Jersey cudweed season (February, March in the lunar calendar), and since the dish is usually seasoned with a lot of pepper and is served steaming hot, it is more popular in Hanoi (where the weather is usually colder) than in the South. The first time I had this dish was when my mom went to Hanoi and was given a box of this dish by a friend, and the taste of the dish stays with me until this day.
This is a very interesting dish to me. At a first glance it looks like a plain and boring ball of glutinous rice, but it turns out so much more complicated once you bite into it. First you have the soft and chewy sticky rice layer, then the chewy sticky rice flour skin together with the light sweetness of the Jersey cudweed, and then the rich taste of the mung bean and sometimes the firm texture of the meat. When my mom was here she made this dish for me 3 times and I still crave for it every day. She is back in Vietnam now so I have to roll myself to the kitchen to satisfy my stomach
It is impossible to find Jersey cudweed here in France, so I learnt from my mom to use spinach as a replacement. I have some salted egg yolks sitting in the freezer so I put them in the filling as well. The preparation and cooking take quite a lot of time, but when I dig into one of those steaming hot rice ball, enjoying the rich and chewy combination of the skin and the filling, everything totally paid off
Công thức tiếng Việt: Xôi (bánh) khúc
This dumpling is a very popular snack in Vietnam. We usually call it “Pillow dumpling” (Bánh gối) because when shaped as a half circle with the pleated edges it resembles a pillow, some people also call it “Folding dumpling” (Bánh xếp) due to the way we shape and fold the pleated edges, and it also has the name “Handle dumpling” (Bánh quai vạc) since it looks like the handle of an ancient bronze cauldron. I didn’t have a chance to taste this dumpling in Vietnam, since I wasn’t allowed to have allowance when I was a kid due to my mom’s fear of me eating some bad street food and have food poisoning.
When I started doing my study in France, one of my flat mates sells her handmade Fried breadstick (Youtiao) and other Vietnamese food, and that was when I had a chance to taste Crispy dumpling and immediately fell in love with the dish. However since she has to wait for her brother to send the dumpling skin to her from Vietnam, and she also moved after a few months, I didn’t have a lot of chances to eat it often.
The last few days in Paris was a bit cold and rainy, which makes me crave or this dish. So into the kitchen I went. The recipe for the dumpling skin is easy enough, and my dumplings were perfectly crunchy, they stayed crunchy even long after they have cooled down. Having one of these dumplings dipped in light dipping sauce during the cold winter is, for me, the best feeling in the world! I adapted the recipe for the skin from several sources, and I added tumeric powder and oil to give the skin a bit extra taste and color. For the filling, beside the traditional minced pork, glass noodles and black fungus, I also added fried shallot and a quail eggs
Công thức tiếng Việt: Bánh gối