Image Credit to: infonet
If you have ever travelled to Vietnam before, you would have seen Banh Cay sold in street vendors across the street of Vietnam, especially in Northern Vietnam. If it is your first time seeing it, it looks similar to the Australian lamington cake, but the cake is made using different ingredients. Australia’s lamington cake uses flour to make the cake while Banh Cay is made with sticky rice, sesame, carrots and mandarin orange peel.
The Vietnamese love to eat Banh Cay over tea time. Once you try it, you are sure to agree that the sweet and savoury flavours compliment a cup of tea.
The Legend of Banh Cay
According to the famous Vietnamese legend, the Banh Cay cake was invented by Nguyen Thi Tan, a lady from the Nguyen Cong Clan in the Thai Binh Province. Originally the cake was made as a celebratory to welcome in the Lunar New Year like how Rendang and Ketupat are served on Hari Raya.
Nguyen Thi Tan or better known as Lady Tan created a cake recipe with five spices as an offering to the King in the 1700s. She later called the cake “Cay” because the cake’s colour was similar to the colour of a fiddler crab’s eggs. Since Lady Tan’s first offering to the King, the villagers followed in her footsteps and continued to make the “Cay” cake as an offering for the King every Lunar New Year.
Most of the “Cay” cake makers have been making the Cay cake for decades and even centuries now. The techniques and recipes are usually passed down through generations while Banh Cay has made its way to becoming one of Vietnamese’s famous dessert and snack. The dessert reminds Nguyen villagers of their long tradition.
The intricate technique of Banh Cay Making
Not everyone can make Banh Cay as it requires many steps and time. This is why most people who visit the Thai Binh in Vietnam will not pass up the opportunity to buy boxes of them as souvenirs or to eat it themselves.
To get the Banh Cay to taste right, preparation of ingredients can take up to 6 months before making the cake itself. Some families would pack the Fiddler’s Crab paste in a bag for up to 6 months to enhance the taste of the cake.
Despite its name, the fiddler crab does not come from the crab itself. Instead, the dish is a combination of distinct ingredients such as unripe jackfruit, sticky rice, dried melon, pork fat, peanut, sesame and gardenia fruit. The ingredients are combined together and turned into a paste before being kept away to allow the flavours to mix well.
According to “Cay” cake makers, a lot of things can go wrong when making the cake itself. The right amount of heat will determine whether the cake stays dry or soggy. The paste has to be poured into boiling sugar cane at the right moment to get the exact flavours and texture. Besides, the choice of glutinous rice used will have a considerable impact on how the end product turns out.
The recipe for Banh Cay is unique in each family as they have their own method of making the Banh Cay. Therefore, every family’s recipe will taste different than others.
Where to get Banh Cay in Malaysia
If you want to enjoy the intricate Vietnamese cake over tea time, visit An Viet in Midvalley Megamall or try the Du Viet restaurant in KLCC. Du Viet focuses explicitly on Vietnamese cooking that was first served to the kings and royalties.
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