Banh troi tau
Last year when I started breaking the news to friends, family and colleagues that I was trading Sydney for Hanoi I got two main reactions. 1: “Oh, so you got a job in Hanoi? What will you be doing? Wait, what… you’re quitting your awesome job here to go the developing world to be unemployed?!?” and 2: “I am so jealous! I can imagine you drinking coconuts under palm trees, all tropical like. The weather will be fabulous and warm, I wish I were going. Wait, what do you mean… winter? Cold? Really?”. Yes, that is correct, I chose to be unemployed for 6 months, and it gets cold in Hanoi. I really like cool weather, so I didn’t too much mind skipping the southern summer for a short damp Hanoi winter. Actually I much prefer it to the current ridiculous heat. Winter in Hanoi is locals wearing puffy jackets, gloves and scarfs even on mild days, freezing on the back of a motorbike, days of constant drizzle, banana fritters, hot pot (lau) and warm sweet soup desserts.
As soon as the weather gets cold, dessert shacks around the city add pots of steaming Banh Troi Tau to their displays. These are glutinous rice dumplings boiled in a sweet ginger soup. Order some (the easiest way is to point at the pot, then sit down), and you’ll get two dumplings, one filled with black sesame, the other with coconut. In my extensive sampling of this dessert I have also had some filled with mung bean, or a mixture of black sesame and coconut (see picture above). These dumplings are mochi like, chewy, stodgy, filling, sweet winter perfection. The best soups are syrupy and heavy with spicy ginger, tempered by a splash of coconut milk and a sprinkling of crushed roasted peanuts.
The portions are quite small, perfect for a warming afternoon snack, though I have seen wisps of women down multiple servings in one sitting.
Banh Troi Tau is available all over the place, from about November to April. There is one famous place on Hang Giay in the old quarter (reviewed by stickyrice) that is supposed to have superior Banh Troi Tau. I swear there are like million different streets called Hang Giay in the Old quarter, and I have searched on all but one of them at the right time for this shack, and have yet to find it. But that is a task for next winter.
Banh Troi Tau spots:
Che Bon Mua: 4 Hang Can
Che places around: 1 Cat Linh
Che places across the street from Bun bo nam bo: 76 Hang Dieu, and another shop a few stores down, opposite Bun Bo Nam Bo’s motorbike parking lot.
Banh Troi Tau Pham Bang (famous spot): 30 Hang Giay
Price varies, but should be about 10,000vnd (62c AU).