Sunday, March 04, 2012

Bến Thành market - Water fern cake (bánh bèo)

Last week I tried "noodle with coconut worm" at Bến Thành market, so this Sunday I probably go for something less exotic ? After my first discovery about beef noodle "Pho Minh" in small alley at right-in-the-heart-of-Saigon Pasteur street, with my friend we were heading to Bến Thành market for my second discovery in the day, and also second time at this historical market!

Water fern cake ! Sounds nice! In Vietnamese we call a tiny, tiny and thin steamed rice cake "bánh bèo", and "bèo" in our language symbolizes something cheap, that's why we have an expression "rẻ (như) bèo"(cheap as water fern)! In fact "bánh bèo" is really cheap, a dozen costs you less than 1 USD, at street place, but in the restaurant, another thing!

Plate of bánh bèo at Bến Thành market, not only bánh bèo , two others are bánh bột lọc (steamed tapioca cake filled with shrimp and pork) and bánh ít trần (steamed glutinous rice cake filled with mung bean) served with sweet fish sauce at 14,000 VND! Is it cheap as water fern?  
For to go!
We just have bánh bèo in the market - three in one!  And as water fern, this cake floats everywhere from one street to another, from one fancy place to another fancier! But wherever it floats always remains loyal to the original recipe!

From street place at Cư xá Bắc Hải, opposite Indoor Stadium... 
floats to fancy place at Cố Đô restaurant in An Duong Vuong street!  
Ok, time to sit back! No more float!
We have different recipes for 'bánh bèo"! Different area, different style! 
Huế style (very thin, each one served in small pottery or porcelain bowl with dried or fresh shrimp floss, fried pork skin...) as above!
Southern style ( dozen of thicker cake served in a plate with mung bean paste, dry shrimp floss, greased green onion, pork skin (bì).

Bánh bèo in Southern style, always with green mung bean paste! 
Central style, mostly in Quang Ngai and Đa Nang (much bigger, thicker cake, almost double, served in pottery bowl with special thick sauce made of shrimp, pork and chives (hẹ) and peanut!

We still have sweet "bánh bèo" with coconut milk and brown sugar! Only in the South!

These years more and more restaurants specialized in Huế dishes and some of them considered as hot spots for tourists.
Cố Đô (An Dương Vương street, dist.5)
Chain restaurant "Món Huế" around the city (I heard not good feedback!)
Famous Tib in Hai Bà Trưng (famous probably because the owner is a sister of legendary composer Trịnh Công Sơn!)
Popular Nam Giao (near to Bến Thành market) in small alley, opposite the market.
And very well-known Ngự Bình in Nam Kỳ Khởi Nghĩa street (82 CX Nguyễn Văn Trổi, Phú Nhuận, after 5-6:00 PM - better make a reservation!) the same time, your choice is open! Everywhere in the city we easily find street stalls selling water fern cakes cheap as water fern!!!

Bánh bèo stall in Bến Thành market, only 14,000 VND for a plate!  
Where the best place to try this water fern cake ? 
I may recommend Cố Đô in An Dương Vương street, dist. 5 or Ngự Bình in Nam Kỳ Khởi Nghĩa (82 CX Nguyễn Văn Trổi, dist. Phú Nhuận - on the way to Tân Sơn Nhất airport), or Bến Thành market for only 14,000 VND!  

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