Bánh Cóng

January 24, 2007
Cuisine: Vietnamese

Vuon Chuoi Street (toward Dien Bien Phu Street)
District 3, Ho Chi Minh City

Phone: none
Website: none

Bánh Cóng (4,000 VND)

At first glance, I thought the lady was frying up some bánh tôm tây hồ—battered and deep fried julianned sweet potatoes with shrimp. Upon closer inspection, I came to realize I did not recognize what was bubbling away in her oil-filled wok.

It is truly a red letter day in Saigon when I stumble upon a food that I have not heard of or tried before, and my encounter with bánh cóng on Vuon Chuoi Street (toward Dien Bien Phu Street) in District 3 was no different.

A close-relative of bánh tôm tây hồ and a distant cousin of bánh xèo, bánh cóng is golden in color and muffin-esque in shape due to the unique ladle-like mold it is assembled and fried in.

Bánh cóng is comprised of mung beans, shredded taro root and shrimps with their heads, tails and skin intact. Each ingredient is layered in the deep, metal ladle and dipped in a saffron and scallion batter before meeting the scalding hot oil.

After just a few quick minutes in the intense heat, the bánh cóng are freed from their moldings to develop a crispy exterior solo. The cakes are served piping hot with a heaping pile of fresh greens and herbs and the classic nuoc mam sauce.

What I find most special about bánh cóng are the layers of taro and mung beans that comprise the cake’s base. These two ingredients brown beautifully and create a substantial and dense cake that is satisfying in a way that only carbohydrates can be. The greens and herbs delicately mask the cake’s oiliness, while the nuoc mam sauce ties all the flavors together like a champ.


8 Responses to “Bánh Cóng”

  1. 1 Wandering Chopsticks January 29, 2008 at 12:58 am

    I’ve never had them with the taro strips. I’ve only had them with the mung bean and shrimp and that makes it too doughy for me.

    I’m wracking my brain trying to think of a banh khot place I went to that had these gigantic cast iron molds that were really a sight to see. There’s also a seafood place that skewered live small fish on the grill. I never really paid attention to addresses though, just hopped on the back of family member’s motorbikes and let them take me whereever.

    Oh! But one address I do remember, if you’re ever in District 1, #8 Ly Tu Trong has really good bun cha with cha gio cua be.

  2. 2 tanglethis January 29, 2008 at 2:40 am

    I am both charmed and kind of freaked out that you can see the shrimp’s little eyes peeking through that cake. I never could get used to food with faces… I love the sound of everything else that comes with these, though.

  3. 3 crunchasaurus rex January 29, 2008 at 7:31 am

    I would definitely love to try it.. since the last time when i was in Vietnam.. i was a wuss about street food.. 😉

  4. 4 White On Rice Couple January 29, 2008 at 7:42 am

    Looks awesome, especially if the vendor gives a generous plate of herbs. His frying is clean too! It looks spotless and brand new!

  5. 5 Gastronomer January 29, 2008 at 10:25 am

    Wandering Chopsticks – Oooh, banh khot! I hope you think of the location because I have yet to try that dish. And thanks for the bun cha and cha gio rec, I can’t resist a killer cha gio!

    tanglethis – I didn’t even realize the shrimp still had its eyes until I saw the pictures!

    crunchasaurus rex – Street food definitely takes some getting used to. I was a wuss when I first arrived too 😉

    White On Rice Couple – all the herbs and greens you can eat! And you’re right, the oil is quite clean!

  6. 6 Wandering Chopsticks January 29, 2008 at 12:23 pm

    I blew up my photo of banh khot and saw 59B on the edge of the towel wrapper. So Googling 59B and banh khot, I came to this restaurant’s website http://banhkhotcobavungtau.tronghieuphoto.com/Default.aspx located on 59B Cao Thang in District 3. Except, I’m not sure if they’re just using a nice photo for the website, or if that’s really what the restaurant looks like now. So I can’t vouch for whether this is the right location, but I think you said you live in Dist. 3 so if it’s not far, and you’re in the area, you can check it out. What I remember was not tablecloths and carpet like in the photo. Just basic folding tables and stools, and two 3-feet in diameter cast iron pans in front of the restaurant where they were making dozens of banh khot at a time. Within the $1 or less price range for an order so I hope this is the right location…

  7. 7 Gastronomer January 29, 2008 at 3:46 pm

    WC – you rule! I will check this place out after Tet (everything seems to be closed these days and the holiday is still a week away!)

  8. 8 Thanh Nguyen February 7, 2008 at 4:33 am

    It was mispelled. It should be bánh cống not cóng but some southern vietnamese pronunciation is lazy to enunciate the ô.

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