Saturday, December 15, 2012

Sticky rice cake in southern style (bánh tét)

I was born in Saigon. I'm a southern Vietnamese. So, to me - this sticky rice cake in southern style is something that I love to buy regardless of time or need. As we say "Just buy!"
I love this bánh tét - a sticky rice cake in cylinder shape, sometime big and long, sometime shorter and slimmer, I do prefer not too small as the quality is far from good!

           Bánh tét in Mekong Delta, more colorful and with salted egg yolk! 

            Traditional bánh tét - filled with simple but tasty mung beans paste! 

Talking about this savory (and sometime sweet flavor) cake - we have a legend which related to our first King, thousands of years ago! The cake is a symbol of the Heaven, and another one, also sticky rice cake but in square shape, from the North, symbolized the Earth! This is a good educational story for children to remember our history! We learn it when we were kids and it's quite easy to find, this story, in many site about Vietnamese traditional food!

                 Bánh tét with banana - my favorite, I bought from Cần Thơ market - Mekong Delta

Another different thing between bánh tét and bánh chưng - not the shape, not the ingredients (as both cakes - made of sticky rice, filled with green bean paste, pork meat...bánh tét can be filled with sweet green bean paste or beautiful sweet banana - bánh chưng seems more conservative - never has sweet taste!
             Bánh chưng - another sticky rice cake in square shape - northern style. 

               Bánh chưng in northern style - very loyal to the original taste...

                always filled with green mung bean and pork. 
Bánh tét can be sweet, can be colorful, sometime very tasty due to the coconut flavor! It's quite interesting fact as it reflects the differences between North and South: living style, cooking habit. Southern people seems more open to the new things, new tastes while Northern - more faithful to the tradition!

           Another bánh tét chuối from Bến Thành market! 

Ok, we have a southern style cake - we call bánh tét ( I really have no idea why tét - and what does it mean!) and a northern style cake - bánh chưng (again, why chưng ? chưng means something?). My guess - both words may related to the long preparation process of these cakes! If before we mostly have this cake during our traditional Lunar New Year, but now anytime! 

           Bánh tét in sale display at Cần Thơ market - Mekong Delta! 

It's very easy to find bánh tét in Saigon, right from the streets, markets or from some traditional bakery shops, or in many markets in Mekong Delta, but to get the best ones, it seems we don't have specific places, not like bánh chưng, we have certain shops which are famous for their signature rice cakes in northern style. Quite strange! 

                              A street vendor of bánh tét!                     

The best bánh tét should made of good glutinous rice, mung beans and specially well-tighly wrapped in banana leaves. Cooking time takes up to 8-10 hours, depends on how big is the cake! Better have a cake not right after cooked - few hours later, when it's already cooling down. We can keep it in the fridge for several days and fry it. Many people love fried bánh tét! 
         While we eat sweet bánh tét - filled either with banana or sweet mung beans with nothing...

        but traditional savory one, we prefer eating it with preserved veggies in thick sweet fish sauce!

Bánh tét, as said, typically only in South or it's surely another version of bánh chưng in North when in our history, few hundred years ago, there was an expansion to the southern lands. People moved to South. And here the shape, the look of sticky rice have been changed from the original but the key ingredients always remained the same and probably forever as it's our history, our tradition!


  1. Would you please tell me where I can buy this banh chưng in your post here? It looks so good I wanna try.

    Thank you.

    1. H there, could you tell me where are you living now? If you happen to be in Saigon (HCMC), the easiest for you, just go to Ben Thanh market in the morning, near to fruits stalls inside the market (as there is many fruits stalls outside too!) , you will see a middle-aged woman, sitting on the floor, selling this sticky rice cake - 60,000 VND per whole cake, you can select either with green mung bean, or with sweet banana. They are good. For bánh chưng (square shape) you better go to a shop called Minh Chau at 76 Ly Tu Trong street, dist 1, HCMC. In my post, most cakes I got from Can Tho, Mekong Delta. Hope you will have chance to taste it. Cheers

    2. Thank you for your quick reply. I live in HCMC. I absolutely will get this "banh chung" as soon as possible. Thanks a lot for your work, that is really inspired to me.


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