At various times throughout life you see trends in food, like fashion and beauty, change with the times. These trends may take weeks, months or even years to peak. When they do they tend to become classics like chocolate truffles, Chinese chicken salad or crab cakes. While other food trends just slowly disappear like $5 bottle of tap water, cronuts or cheese fondue. I remember taking courses in learning to build a coffee shop and to become a barista long before the Starbucks coffee craze. Espresso and cappuccino was so alien to most Americans. I sometimes wonder what would have happened if I kept on pursuing that coffee dream.
I have been living and working in Vietnam for 18 years as a chef, restaurateur and for the past couple of years writing for AsiaLife. I like to focus more on what local Vietnamese people eat on a daily basis. You can guess that I have seen many food trends come and go here in Vietnam and especially in Ho Chi Minh City. This month I decided to focus on a couple of food crazes that hit the city in the past few years, especially with the younger Vietnamese generation. Trends like milk tea, banh ran Dorayaki and Vietnamese mixed rice paper (banh trang tron).
Tra sua, also known as milk tea, bubble tea, pearl tea or boba was originated in the city of Taichung, Taiwan back in the early 1980s. It is literally tea based with milk or an assorted fruit flavors mixed together with added chewy tapioca pearls or fruit jelly. Assorted fruit flavors can range from apple, strawberry, mango, coconut, jackfruit, longan, kiwi and so forth. My first experience was in Manila in the early 90’s when I was introduced to this boba tea craze. I thought it was interesting and love the taste of the tapioca, but the tea for me is just too sweet. I believed it was introduced to Vietnam some time in the early 2000s but only in recent years that it has become a craze, especially with the young generation.
Banh ran is literally a translation from the famous Japanese confection called Dorayaki (Japanese pancake). In Vietnam it is also known as banh ran Doraemon made famous from the popular Japanese manga Doraemon. Banh ran look like a miniature pancake made with egg yolks, egg white, sugar, honey, vanilla extract, sugar and flour. The difference here is they are filled with various ingredients such as shredded pork, Chinese sausage, cheese, chocolate, red beans, Nutella or served plain. Personally, I prefer normal pancakes with maple syrup, but some kids like my daughters love it because it is Doraemon’s favorite thing to eat and so it has become a craze.
What is banh trang tron? Translated as ‘rice paper mix’, it is literally a snack comprised of shredded or cut up dried rice paper with tiny dried shrimps, boiled quail eggs, shredded green mango, beef jerky, dried squid, rau ram (Vietnamese coriander), roasted peanuts, soy sauce, vinegar, garlic, sugar and chilli. Think of it like a Vietnamese goi (salad).
Tangy, salty and spicy all served in a plastic bag with two wooden skewers. Of all the recent food crazes this is probably the most popular amongst the young and the old and can be found literally everywhere. Unlike milk tea or banh ran, where they are being sold in shop or kiosks, banh trang tron are normally being sold by street vendors along most sidewalks.
1. Phuc Long Tea & Coffee
63 Mac Thi Buoi Street District 1 & 122 Le Loi Street, District 1
2. Chat Time
98 Le Thanh Ton Street, District 1
3. Furin – Chuong Gio Cafe
43 Huynh Khuong Ninh, District 1
4. Dorayaki Chocolate
21-23 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, Ben Nghe Ward, District 1