Coming to the annual festival of traditional foods in Mekong Delta for the first time, I didn’t expect much, but when arriving, I was so surprised by the scale, the number of counters and ,of course, by the foods displayed at the festival. The taste, the colors and the creative creations either by the masters or home-cooks – everything is so eye-catching, delicious looking, so irresistible…I just wish I could taste every single thing! If in the previous part, only sweets, now I focus on other taste – savory!
Bánh xèo is one of the most popular traditional foods from Mekong Delta, many different recipes, either filled with pork, shrimp…or other ingredients like clam, octopus or simply veggies. In different provinces, people have different recipes as well, like in Central Vietnam, bánh xèo is much smaller, a bit thicker and more crunchy!
In Sài Gòn there is many restaurant where you can try bánh xèo, I have one of my favorite places, from time to time I did go there to order for take-away or whenever I have visitors from overseas, I always take them there!
Another my all-time favorite, “bánh bột lọc”, i.e “clear flour cake” (!?). It’s small, bite-sized, clear looking, chewy tapioca dumplings, originally from Central but now very popular in South Vietnam.
Sometime ago, just by chance I found a place in Saigon, they do mostly online and to me it could be the best ones, the quality of this dish depends on the chewy texture, the fillings and the fish sauce. More chewy, well-seasoned fillings and the best fish sauce make this clear dumplings incredibly delicious, irresistible!
My next favorite is bánh đúc. I don’t really know where it’s originated, as we have bánh đúc in the North, quite different from the South, and my favorite is the Southern taste – where bánh đúc is made of rice flour mixed with coconut milk, steamed and served with some toppings like shrimp, pork, carrots…and always sweet spicy fish sauce.
During the festival, to my surprise, my childhood bánh đúc has been created with some new unexpected ingredients, honestly I don’t know since when people in Mekong Delta creatively mixed the rice flour with some veggies like zucchini or red cabbage…
I curiously decided to try the new bánh đúc, how does it with zucchini. If the traditional – the texture is soft, smooth-like-silk (!), the new creation is more chewy due to the zucchini texture, the taste is a bit different, to me it’s ok, not bad! But it’s surely more healthy as less flour and more veggies!
I’m happy to see these kids enjoyed their food tour, surely many dishes are new to them. I don’t know whether teachers allowed them to try or not but I would be happy to let them try, the experience in the childhood will last for long, maybe some of them will grow up as the master chef in the future.
I did enjoy my trip to Mekong Delta, I love the food at the festival, the atmosphere. For the first time I feel there is no limit in creating new dishes from the old traditional ones, I may stick to the original because that was the taste I experienced when I was kid, but time is changing, new generations have new tastes to their new lifestyle, so it’s fair to me!