Banh Khuc – distinct flavor in Hanoi cuisine hinh anh 1Banh Khuc is usually eaten with a mixture of ground salt and sesame, and pork pie (Photo: VNA)

Hanoi (VNA) – Besides the widely-known Pho, Bun cha or Bun thang, Banh Khuc (cudweed sticky rice cake) is not so internationally known but it has its own established place in Hanoi cuisine with its distinct flavor.

Banh Khuc is made from glutinous rice flour mixed with liquid from brayed leaves of the Khuc plant with filling being a mixture of ground mung bean, minced pork and lots of pepper beans. Though ingredients are almost the same as Banh Chung , what makes Banh Khuc different is the Khuc leaves and the generous amount of pepper.

In the past, families used to make Banh Khuc in the second lunar month, when the Khuc plants bore new leaves in early spring. To make good Banh Khuc, rice and Khuc leaves must be chosen carefully. The Khuc leaves must be picked early in the morning. There are two types of Khuc plant , the Khuc nep (Gnaphalium polycaulon) and the Khuc te (Gnaphalium affine), and one must be careful to pick the Khuc nep leaves, as traditional experience said Khuc nep leaves will make better Banh Khuc. The plant used to grow naturally along river banks or at the edges of fields. However, it is quite a task to find Khuc plants nowadays, and sometimes or in some places, kohlrabi leaves are used instead, which of course gives a different taste.

Glutinous rice should be washed and ground finely, while Khuc leaves should be cleaned and crushed to obtain the mash liquid, which is then thoroughly mixed with rice flour to create a dark green dough. The dough is then divided into parts as big as the fist of a child.

To make stuffing, peeled mung beans are steamed, ground and mixed with chopped pork and seasoned with salt and pepper. The cudweed sticky rice balls are then put into a steamer, with a layer of soaked sticky rice between two layers of cakes. After that, we cover the steamer tightly and keep the heat evenly for about 45 minutes until rice grains are evenly cooked.

Well-known local brands

Banh Khuc co Lan is among the best known brands of Banh Khuc in Hanoi, and was chosen as one dish to serve at the press centre during the US-Democratic People’s Republic of Korea Summit in Hanoi in 2019.

The shop is located at Nguyen Cong Tru street. Not only locals but many international tourists also come here to try the dish.

Owner of the brand, Nguyen Thi Lan said she inherited the brand from her mother, who taught her how to make the cake in the 1960s.

According to Lan, the glutinous rice and mung beans are thoroughly selected, and the filling of the rice ball contains a lot of well-kneaded ground mung bean mixed with cudweed.

“The technique of cooking the mung bean is crucial,” she says. “If the mung bean is too crushed, the whole dish will become crushed and if the mung bean is hard, the whole rice ball will become friable.”

Customers who prefer a greasy taste might find their favourite Banh Khuc  in Lan’s shop, as the fillings there contain more greasy lean and fat pork, wrapped in layers of steamed glutinous rice, mung beans and brayed cudweed. Each portion costs only 13,000 VND, a little more than half a US dollar.

Though the cudweed grows only during winter, it can be collected and dried and stored for use in Banh Khuc throughout the year. But it is only in winter that the dish tastes the best, for its ingredients have been freshly harvested.

“A serving of Banh Khuc seems to be small, but it’s actually filling. The colours and flavours of its ingredients mix well to create its unique taste,” says Lan./.

VNA