Cudweed cake: a must–try dish in Hanoi

15:23 | 28/04/2020
Social distancing measures put in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic have left many people trying to remember what it was like when life was normal.
cudweed cake a must try dish in hanoi
Banh Khuc (cudweed) cake, a must-try dish in Hanoi. Photo tintucvietnam.vn

For me, and perhaps everyone else, one of the things I have missed the most is food.

Only recently I was at the junction of Nguyen Thai Hoc and Le Duan when I recognised a little shop that just two months ago was full of customers, including myself.

Inside the shop, you can see a picture of national coach Park Hang Seo and his team hanging on the wall.

In the photo, a woman is serving food to players, including stars Ha Duc Chinh and Quang Hai.

That woman is Nguyen Thi Lan, one of the most, if not the most famous, cudweed cake chefs in Hanoi.

cudweed cake a must try dish in hanoi
Mrs Lan serves her tasty Banh Khuc for customers. Photo baomoi.com

And the Vietnam football team are not her only famous customers.

“The most memorable for me was the Trump-Kim summit early last year in Hanoi, when my cudweed cakes were served to reporters who attended the summit.”

“The Prime Minister himself chose my dish, first, because the food was fresh and clean, and second, because it is quick and convenient for the reporters to work and eat at the same time,” Lan proudly said.

For Lan, success didn’t come easy.

“My mother made cudweed cakes, so I learned from her. The first few times, the cakes weren’t that great. Honestly, I stayed awake at night thinking about how to make the cakes better.”

“If I did something wrong in the process, I’d think about the reason why, and learned from my mistake.”

“After many years, I finally have the result like today: delicious cudweed cakes to serve my customers.”

I used to question why cudweed cakes were held in such high regard because they're nothing but a sticky rice ball with pork belly and green beans inside.

It was not until last year that I had my first cudweed cake.

Nguyen Hong Hai’s family has been making cudweed cake since the French colonial period in Vietnam.

For him, this is not only a job but a responsibility and a legacy from his grandparents.

“My family has been selling cudweed cakes since French colonial times. Now my mother is old, so she has taught me and my siblings how to make them.”

“This is a family recipe. Our generation is trying to maintain, source ingredients and increase the quality of cudweed cakes to serve our customers.”

cudweed cake a must try dish in hanoi
Customers enjoy cudweed cakes at Nguyen Thi Lan's shop. VNS Photo Hoang Ho

Cudweed and glutinous powder are used to make the crust. The filling includes green beans, glutinous rice and pork belly.

Each plays its own important role, but cudweed takes the leading role.

“It creates a flavour that gives the unique taste to the cake.”

“Every ingredient has to be the best in the market. The pork belly is fresh from pigs reared on bran that gives it a rich fragrance.”

“Some might say it’s a simple dish, but they are wrong. Every day, I have to wake up really early to prepare the rice and make the crust out of cudweed leaves,” Hải affirmed.

“Everything has to be perfect, from kneading the rice and cudweed, to blending the ingredients together.”

cudweed cake a must try dish in hanoi
Cudweed grows wild in Vietnam's rural areas. Photo DoDinhTuan's blog

Cudweed season only lasts for two months, which might be why many people treasure the dish.

“When the weather is cold, the taste of a hot Banh Khuc dipped in sesame salt, eaten with pork and sprinkled with spicy pepper is wonderful.”

So, popular with world leaders and footballers alike, cudweed cake is the perfect treat to warm your cockles. So, grab a ball and savour the taste explosion.

VNS

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