Cudweed sticky rice balls, whose folk name is banh khuc, have captured the heart of Hanoians although they are only the rustic dish among many of Hanoi street food.
The flavor gladdens thousands of hearts
Banh khuc has been imprinted indelibly on the mind of Hanoians as well as people coming to Hanoi for their livelihood with the street cry “buy my banh khuc”.
Banh khuc has long been considered Hanoi traditional food when the weather turns cold. The fragrance and warmth of the cake make people crave to take a bite. Nobody knows when banh khuc was born and who created this delicious cake; however, the cake is really familiar to the Northern people from rural areas to the crowded city.
Banh khuc is distinguished from the other cakes thanks to the khuc leaves (or cudweed, which looks like the leave of daisy). When being mixed with glutinous rice flour, khuc leaves are linked together to hold the fillings tight inside. The cake core consists of ground mung bean, pork fat and pepper; therefore it has the characteristic aroma. The cake is more eye-caching with the white coat made of sticky rice.
Banh khuc is mesmerizing in white and green. The pale yellow of mung bean inside is too enticing to refuse. Banh khuc fascinates the people not only for taste and odor but also for the harmonious colors.
The retention of the traditional flavor
Making banh khuc is not difficult, but requires the love with food, the diligence and even the experience passed down by the previous generations. Over time, the cakes processing are also handed down from generation to generation to keep the traditional flavor of the cake.
To make the tasty cake, rice must be fragrant and delicious and khuc leaves must be fresh. There are two kinds of khuc leaves which are “male” leaves and “female” leaves according to the folklore. The “male” leaves is bigger than the “female” ones. The gourmets in Hanoi like to eat banh khuc made of smaller leaves.
The leaves are pounded and mixed with glutinous rice flour. The leaves and the flour have to be mixed well to make the elastic cake wrappers.
Mung beans are cooked and mashed into pulp. The pork fat is diced and spiced with pepper and salt. The cake fillings are covered with the wrappers of khuc leaves and arranged in the steamer. The cakes then are hidden under the layer of glutinous rice. At a glance, the cake may be mistaken for a handful of sticky rice.
The cake is chewy with sticky rice and khuc leaves wrappers. The cake core is greasy thanks to the fat and ground mung bean. Banh khuc is the dish for winter because of the pungency of pepper. The savory of pepper warm the body up. People often eat banh khuc with toasted sesame and peanut salt. Banh khuc and peanut sticky rice are also steamed at the same time and in the same steamer. Thus, sometimes you may hear the sellers cry “Buy my peanut sticky rice and banh khuc”.
Banh khuc is not only popular with people living in Hanoi, but it is also a well-known dish introduced by Vietnam food tours. Banh khuc in Hanoi is sold all day and night. If you are having night food tour Hanoi, having banh khuc for your night meal is truly an interesting experience.