Life Life

06/03/2018 - 13:00

Banh sen cuon (lotus rolls) and the charcoal fire

In the 1980s, 1990s of the last century, every year on the eve, I was often presented with one kilogram of banh sen cuon (or banh sen chay, lotus rolls) by Mr. Nguyen Van Tan, an artist who played dan nhi (Vietnamese two-chord fiddle). Every time I see this kind of sweet, I think of him.


Lotus rolls can last for some months

I still recall the respectable image of Mr. Nguyen Van Tan, who, every morning throughout the year, worked very hard making lotus rolls with his children and grandchildren in the family bakery for a living, but at night he leisurely played music with his friends in Hue singing halls.

Nguyen Van Tan has passed away; his music has died down too, but his beloved wife and children have still made lotus rolls until now. The main ingredient is of course lotus seeds, hence the name. Today lotus seeds are usually replaced by different kinds of bean, but the name lotus rolls is still kept. 

According to Nguyen Van Tan's eldest daughter, lotus rolls are cooked three times. First of all, lotus seeds (or beans) are soaked with water then steamed. They are mixed with sugar and beaten well by hand for about two hours. The mixture is then let to cool off and becomes thick.

Today mung beans and white beans replace lotus seeds

Next, laminate the batter on a steel panel coated with a layer of cooking oil placed on a charcoal fire. Finally, cut into small pieces, flatten them in a mold then roll into tubes by hand. Make sure to adjust the temperature of the charcoal fire so that the sweet will not be burnt.

When finished, lotus rolls, yellow in color, look very nice. They feel crispy, turn soft in mouth and smell good too. It is great if accompanied by a sip of lotus tea.

Hue people who know the value of lotus rolls often buy them for special occasions such as death anniversaries or parties. Lotus rolls last long, so they are often given as presents to friends and kinsmen.

Currently in Hue, there are only a few bakeries that still make lotus rolls. The one near Ben Ngu Market is Nguyen Van Tan's. However, most rolls are now made from mung beans. One needs to specially order to have rolls made from lotus seeds. 

Story: Vo Que

Photos: Viet Thinh