The Han Thuc Festival or the ‘Cold Food Festival’, falls on April 3 this year and Vietnamese housewives do not need to prepare all ingredients for making these cakes by themselves. Instead, they order from online stores on social media such as Facebook and Zalo or e-commerce platforms like Shopee and Lazada or buy from local wet markets.
|The lotus dough of floating dumplings prepared by Vu Lan Anh
Banh troi (floating dumplings) are small white dumplings made from glutinous rice flour stuffed with brown sugar. Meanwhile, Banh chay (sweet mung bean dumplings) are also made from glutinous flour, but they resemble boiled dumplings and are filled with mung bean paste, sprinkled with sesame seeds, and served in bowls with syrup flavored with grapefruit blossoms.
Traditionally, the banh troi and banh chay are white with a sugary taste, but talented cooks can make them more colourful and palatable by adding food colouring or flavouring to the dough.
|The banh chay cakes prapared by Thanh Mong Nguyen
As special dishes made exclusively for Han Thuc festival, banh troi and banh chay as well as their ingredients are sold at every market throughout Hanoi in the days leading up to and during the festivals.
Hanoi housewives can easily buy the ready-made ingredients and delight their children at home with a traditional cake cooking lesson.
According to Vu Lan Anh, a chef in Hanoi, in previous years, during the Han Thuc Festival (the third day in the third lunar month in lunar calendar), she sold ingredients of five-color floating cakes. But this year, seeing that the cakes in the shape of lotus flower are in high demand, she is switching to sell the ready-made dough.
“I advertise them on my Zalo and Facebook and the dough are selling like hot cake the day before during the festival,” she said. “A set of lotus banh chay includes: lotus flowers, lotus petals, lotus leaves and pretty little floating cakes with filling made from black sesame.”
|The final dishes of lotus banh troi and banh chay cooked by May Hong
“My lotus floating cakes are tinted entirely with natural colors. The yellow color is obtained from gardenia seeds and pink from beetroot juice, meanwhile the green colorant is squeezed from the la nep leaves. The glutinous rice dough that is colored with natural color won’t be faded when they are boiled ,” she added.
Each set of these lotus cake that looks both delicious and beautiful costs VND85,000 (US$3). Housewives just need to order, boil them and place onto a plate. It needs some 20 minutes for a wonderful fusion-sticky rice cakes to offer to the ancestors.
“Enjoying a dish of cakes, eaters can feel their delicious and cool taste on their palate and it’s very pleasing to the eye thanks to the array of colours,” Lan Anh said.
A dish of Banh troi may look simple to make but it involves several careful steps. Photos: Lan Anh
| Talented cooks can make banh troi more colorful and tasty by adding food coloring or flavoring to the dough
|The perfect dish of the sweet dumplings do not only have delicious taste but also shouldn’t be too gooey or sticky
|The eye-catching dumplings made by May Hong, a housewife from Dong Da District.
|Cooks can also make the banh chay with a variety of tastes thank to their rich source of stuffing. Photo: Thanh Mong Nguyen