A Food Lover's Travel Guide to the Best of Vietnamese Food

Banh Tet/Banh Chung/Banh U

Sticky Rice Cake

During the Vietnamese Lunar New Year celebration people like to kick back and not have to worry about cooking. That's why they prepare a pile of these filling treats -- they are easy to store, and they keep for days. Plus, they look like little presents. But what's inside? Peel back the banana leaf and you'll find a mound of rice. The rice is usually a greenish colour and tastes a bit woody as it has absorbed some of the banana leaf taste. Inside the rice is another surprise. They are usually filled with a combination of mung bean and pork fat. Not a combination that you would normally put together, but nonetheless an interesting one. The sweet and saltiness mixed with the leafiness of the rice is interesting. Other fillings include a sweetened red bean. Overall, I'm not a huge fan of these, but they do have a certain charm. Firstly, they are kind of cool looking when their wrapped up in their leaves and tied shut. Secondly, the process to make them is very time consuming and it's usually done as a family activity over the holiday. Sometimes it's more about the process than the taste.