Rumor has it that the breeze of spring has its power to rejuvenate all living creatures. And truly, it does revive my mood after long days burying myself in winter time’s sadness which merely and intangibly takes its toll on you no matter what (as proven by scientific research). So, these days, nothing is better than kicking off your day with a walk around the neighborhood enjoying the warmth and fresh atmosphere and then catching sight of your favorite childhood treat – sweet street food snacks.
To be honest, I have a “super” sweet-tooth. I always crave sugary taste and want to share with all of you the sweet taste in my country. Hence, in this journey to travel back in time to discover my Vietnamese favorite childhood sweet snacks, I choose three main stops: “bò bía ngọt” (sweet spring roll or sweet Popiah), chuối nếp nướng (Grilled banana wrapped in sticky rice) and bánh rán ngọt ( sweet Vietnamese doughnuts)
Let’s get start with “Bò bía ngọt,” which shares the same characteristics with “Popiah” in Chian, Taiwan, Malaysia, and Thailand. It can be considered as spring roll. Whenever you come across any school along the street, and spot a small stall often attached on a bike with the phrase “BÒ BÍA NGỌT”, just stop right there and give it a try. You are about to experience the yummy taste of a sweet spring roll with shredded coconuts, bars of harden malt sugar, sesame seeds sprinkled on top, all wrapped in a thin flour paper.
Just by standing near the stall made me recall the time I spent hanging out with the kids at the school gate waiting for our parents to pick us up. If we were lucky enough, we could succeed in convincing our adult buddies to buy us a piece of “bò bía ngọt” by our puppy eyes and enjoy it in happiness.
The next stop in our schedule is “Chuối nếp nướng” (Grilled banana wrapped in sticky rice), which is a common food from Ben Tre but has made its way to Saigon. This ordinary food is well-known to foreigners, thanks to Ms. Thuy, the owner of a famous grilled banana stall on Phan Dang Luu Street in Saigon, who have been selling no fewer than 300 bananas each day for the past 20 years.
The secret recipe together with personal expertise has created a unique taste for her grilled banana totally different from others. Therefore, it is becoming more popular and attractive to foreigners who come to try and are amazed with the taste. The sweet from just-ripen large banana and sticky rice grilled on hot coal then richened with coconut milk sauce leave an unforgettable impression on many foreigners.
Final destination is here. “Bánh rán ngọt” or you can call it sweet Vietnamese doughnuts (Yes, we meet the word “ngọt” again). Basically, the outer shell is made from glutinous rice flour while the filling is made from sweetened mung bean paste, and scented with jasmine flower. Altogether they are shaped in round and got deep fried. Then, to finish the process, this kind of doughnut is covered all over with white sesame seeds or sugary honey in order to satisfy different appetites.
Those three dishes are just based on my own childhood preference. Vietnamese cuisine still has many rooms for us to explore. For anyone of you who is planning to visit my hometown and share the same sweet-tooth as me, please put them in your bucket list of must-try snacks in Vietnam! Good luck!
By Nguyen Thu Thao, ASEAN Correspondent from Vietnam