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06/10/2019 - 07:04

Bánh lọc - A Hue specialty

Bánh lọc (tapioca dumpling) is a special treat for those living far from home. When I returned to my hometown, my mother went to the market to buy a big bag of bánh lọc for me to bring to Saigon. My mother bought the raw ones that had not yet been steamed.

Coming back to Saigon, whenever I wanted to eat the dumplings, I just needed to put them in a pot and steam. After about 30-40 minutes, I would have a dish of fresh dumplings.

Bánh lọc – A Hue treat

Bánh lọc is a beautiful kind of dumplings. When cooked, it is transparent like the morning dew, and you can see the appetizing shrimp and pork fat inside. To those with a rich imagination, it looks like a butterfly lying dormant in amber.

Wrapped bánh lọc smells of banana leaves. The skin absorbs some of the banana leave’s color and is more translucent. The unwrapped dumplings have a typical half-moon shape. People do not make round ones as the skin would be too thick and tough to chew.

The half-moon shaped dumplings have a more sufficient filling layer and thinner skin. The ratio of the dumpling’s skin and filling is more balanced and thus the dumpling will be tastier. Our ancestors were indeed very clever when they created the bánh lọc!

I remember, when I was small, my grandmother often boiled a large bowl of tapioca dough. It was eaten right then and there from the hot pot. We would twist the cooked dough out with the chopsticks and dip into some chili lemon fish sauce. It tasted delicious with its chewy texture and rich flavor.

Despite not having any filling, the "pure" bánh lọc still has its own appeal. It is delicious because of the unique way of eating, just like how people like to eat a chicken drumstick rather than pieces of boneless meat. If you have to put in a little “effort” when eating, the food seems to be more delicious and interesting!

Bánh lọc is quite stodgy because it is made from tapioca. To make the white flour, people have to grind and knead cassava roots and “filter” (lọc) it several times to turn cassava flour into tapioca flour.

The delicious bánh lọc looks simple but contains a lot of labor. Through many stages, the unappealing cassava roots become a specialty.

In order to make delicious bánh lọc, the filling must be well seasoned. Those who are not skillful will make dumplings that fall apart. The shrimp and fatty pork are stir-fried together and seasoned with salt, sugar, fish sauce, and shallots. The mixture must be stirred regularly and cooked on medium heat. The seasoning will penetrate into each piece of shrimp and pork.

In addition to the shrimp filling, Hue people also enjoy the green beans filling, especially on the full moon day or the first day of the month (Lunar calendar). Green beans are finely ground, seasoned just enough to create a soft, tender filling. The vegetarian filling makes bánh lọc more delicate and is the preferred choice for days when people want to eat light.

Bánh lọc can be compared to the soul of Hue people: simple and sincere but sophisticated and profound!

Story and photos: Thuc Dan