Along the narrow streets full of motorbike and plastic stools, we often find a vendor hunching to pedal a rustic bicycle with a heavy bamboo basket on its back. That everyday scene has been a part of street life in Hanoi forever, Hanoi visitors could be curious about the sound coming from the vendor’s magnetic tape recorder. It sounds “banh khuc nong day, ai banh khuc nong nao?”.
Customers on our Hanoi street food tour, almost always, ask us what’s that sound. Well, it’s the vendor’s calling people to buy his steamed cake, the sound means ‘hot sticky rice! anybody want hot sticky rice?’. He’s selling Banh khuc, or Cudweed sticky rice cake, steamed sticky rice balls with delicious stuffing.
Banh khuc is one of the northern Vietnam’s most traditional cake, it’s made of sticky rice and stuffed with brayed local cudweed tree, mung bean paste, pork belly and black peppers. The cake is formed into balls before being steamed for few hours to get them well cooked.
Quan, one of the vendors selling the traditional cake that I often buy from, said that he grew up with his father’s heralding voice – ‘hot sticky rice cake, anybody want a hot sticky rice cake?’.
To make the cakes, his mum chopped the cudweed into small pieces and put it into a stone mortar to pestle with water. Then strain it through a sieve to get the juice, discard the solid.
Then she put sticky rice flour into the cudweed juice, knead the dough until it is no longer sticky on fingers. Then she formed the mung bean pastes into balls, and stuffed the well-marinated pork bellies into those mung bean balls. After all, she put the stuffed mung bean balls (with the pork inside) into the cudweed-flour balls before rolling them over sticky rice. Finally, she steamed all the cudweed sticky rice balls for a few hours to make the delicious Banh khuc.
The Banh khuc cake is best served when it’s steaming hot, but it’s still good to eat when it’s at room temperature. The dish is Hanoian’s favorite breakfast and snack. Banh khuc is also sold by vendors on the sidewalk, or in dessert restaurants. Flavors of Hanoi gives travelers chances to ty Banh khuc during our food walking tours, we know some good shops that hiring local in rural areas to seek out the fresh cudweed to make outstanding Banh khuc.