Bánh Cáy

Bánh cáy is a traditional treat from Thai Binh, Vietnam, combining sticky rice with gac and gardenia fruits.

Lastest Updated January 6, 2024
Verified by A-Z Cuisines Team
  • Traditional
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Fact: There are around 300 households in the Nguyen Xa commune, Dong Hung District, making bánh cáy, producing 120-150 tons of it each month.

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Basic Information

Bánh Cáy: Basic Information

Pronunciation

/bahn kai/

Alternative Name(s)

No

Dish Type

Snacks

Course

Non-course dish

Mealtime

Anytime

Popular Variations

No
Origin and Region

Bánh Cáy: Origin and Region

Origin

Vietnam

Continent’s Region

Southeast Asia

Country’s Region

Northern Vietnam

Associated Region

Thai Binh
Vietnam Map
Ingredients and Preparation

Bánh Cáy: Ingredients and Preparation

Main Ingredients

Glutinous rice

Main Cooking Method

Assembling

Preparation Process

Marinating pork fat, roasting nuts and seeds, sautéing vegetables, and preparing colorful sticky and popped rice; all are combined to form bánh cáy
A Deep Dive

Bánh Cáy: A Deep Dive

Cultural Significance

Traditional snack from Nguyen Village in Thai Binh Province

Taste

Sweet

Texture

Sticky and chewy with a crunch from sesame seeds and peanuts

Aroma

Fragrant mix of sesame, peanut

Color

Yellow-reddish with sesame coating

Serving Style

Small pieces or bars

Serving Temperature

At room temperature

Accompaniment

Tea

Occasions

New Year

Seasons

Year-round, spring

Special Diets

Gluten-free

Calories

Unspecified

Popularity

Northern Vietnam, especially in Thai Binh Province

Popular Similar Dishes

Mè Xửng

Popular Dining Area

Local eateries and households in Thai Binh, Vietnam

Bánh cáy is a traditional specialty of Nguyen Village in Dong Hung District, Thai Binh Province in Vietnam.

Banh Cay Overview

Bánh cáy is made from high-quality sticky rice (ideally yellow flower sticky rice), combined with gấc fruit (spiny bitter gourd) for red color and dành dành fruit (Gardenia jasminoides) for yellow color.

Other components in bánh cáy are pork lard, peanuts, sesame seeds, carrot, ginger, mandarin orange peels, sugar, and sugarcane molasses.

Its yellow-reddish color resembles the eggs of cáy (a type of small crab living in Northern Vietnam), hence the name “bánh cáy.”

There is also another legend that bánh cáy contained ginger which offers a spicy taste and was called “bánh cay” (spicy cake).

After cooking, the sticky rice is pounded into a smooth, doughy texture, then dried and shaped into small pieces.

Bánh cáy is best enjoyed with tea, making this duo a favorite treat in the New Year in Thai Binh

.The tale behind bánh cáy is very interesting, rooted in Vietnam’s imperial era, which I’ll introduce in the following part. Following this, you’ll have a sneak peek at how locals prepare this treat.

Additionally, there are advantages and disadvantages of bánh cáy that you need to consider before eating it.

In case you still have any lingering curiosities about this Thai Binh specialty, check out the FAQs section. And lastly, don’t miss out on other delicacies that share some similarities to bánh cáy.

Key Points

  • Bánh cáy originates from Nguyen Village, Dong Hung District, Thai Binh Province, Vietnam.
  • It is made from yellow flower sticky rice, gấc fruit for redness, and dành dành fruit for yellow color.
  • Other ingredients are pork lard, peanuts, sesame seeds, carrots, ginger, mandarin orange peels, sugar, and sugarcane molasses.
  • Bánh cáy comes in small pieces or bars, ideal to enjoy with tea.
  • This Thai Binh specialty was developed by Nguyen Thi Tan, a royal nurse in the 18th century, who secretly provided nourishing cakes to Prince Le Duy Vy in prison.

What Is the Tale Of Bánh Cáy?

The story behind bánh cáy begins with Nguyen Thi Tan, who was born into a respected family in 1725. She became a royal nurse to Prince Le Duy Vy, a son of King Le Hien Tong. In 1769, the Prince was imprisoned, and Nguyen Thi Tan was his sole visitor.

The Prince expressed that he couldn’t eat the prison food. As a skilled cook, Tan secretly provided food for the Prince. Knowing that the Prince’s health was not good and he couldn’t digest simple foods, she used ingredients like ginger, beans, and peanuts to create a small, long-lasting, and nutritious cake.

After several years, Tan retired to her village and shared her knowledge of how to make this cake with others. Over time, this recipe was widely shared and eventually evolved into a special delicacy presented to the King.

Even after the Prince’s release and ascension to the throne, the tradition of making bánh cáy in Nguyen Village continued, honoring Tan’s contribution. However, making bánh cáy is a complex process, featuring the cultural heritage and culinary skills passed down through generations.

How Do Locals Make Bánh Cáy?

The preparation of bánh cáy begins about half a month in advance by marinating finely chopped pork lard with sugar to develop a deep flavor. This mix is later sautéed until crispy. Other components like peanuts and sesame seeds are roasted and then peeled. They also sauté carrots, ginger, and mandarin orange peels with sugar and set aside.

The cooked yellow flowered sticky rice used in bánh cáy is divided into three parts. One part is for making coloring half with gac fruit for redness, and half with gardenia water for yellow. Then, both types are mixed, finely pounded, thinly spread, cut into strips, and dried. The rest of the sticky rice is roasted in a hot pan until it puffs up into popped rice.

Finally, locals blend these components with sugarcane molasses in a pan, stirring until aromatic. Spoon the mixture into sesame-lined molds to shape, and once hardened, remove and coat with sesame seeds.

Obviously, making bánh cáy is not an ideal recipe for home cooking as it requires many steps and local ingredients. However, despite the complex making process, bánh cáy’s distinctive flavor and other good sides are worth considering, as I’ll discuss next.

Pros and Cons of Eating Bánh Cáy

Let’s evaluate the upsides and downsides of bánh cáy with the below table.

Pros

  • Fulfilling: Bánh cáy is a rich source of carbohydrates from sticky rice.
  • Cultural Experience: Eating bánh cáy offers a taste of traditional Vietnamese cuisine, especially from Thai Binh Province.
  • Complex Flavor: The combination of gac fruit, gardenia water, ginger, sesame seeds, peanuts, etc., gives bánh cáy a complex and delicious taste.

Cons

  • High Sugar Content: The addition of sugarcane molasses and sugar in the preparation may make it high in sugar.
  • Allergens: People allergic to peanuts or sesame seeds should avoid eating bánh cáy.

Also, it’s crucial to review other questions that are often asked about this Thai Binh treat.

Bánh Cáy FAQs

Its unique feature is the combination of sweet, nutty, and gingery flavors, with a texture that blends chewy, sticky rice and crunchy peanuts. The historical background and the intricate preparation process also add to its uniqueness.

It should be stored in an airtight container to maintain its freshness. It can last for several days at room temperature.

Yes, this Thai Binh specialty is suitable for vegetarians as it primarily consists of rice, nuts, and spices, without any animal-based ingredients.

It’s best enjoyed at room temperature with a cup of tea to balance its sweet and nutty tastes.

While it is a specialty of Nguyen Village in Thai Binh, it may be available in some Vietnamese communities abroad, especially in areas with a significant population from Northern Vietnam.

Similar Dishes of Bánh Cáy

Me Xung

Mè xửng is a traditional Vietnamese candy made from sesame seeds, peanuts, and maltose, known for its sweet, chewy texture.

Truc Tran (Kris)

Truc Tran (Kris)

Senior Food Editor

Expertise

Home Cooking, Meal Planning, Recipe Development, Baking and Pastry, Food Editor, Cooking-video Maker, Vietnamese Food Evaluation Expert

Education

  • Hospitality (Commercial Cookery) at TasTAFE
  • Culinary Arts at Kendall College (Australia Branch in Sydney)
  • Vietnamese Cuisine Head Chef at HNAAu School (Vietnam, International Joint Training Program)

Truc Tran (Kris), an experienced food writer and editor, is great at exploring and describing global cuisines, from simple street food to fancy dining. In her writing, she skillfully mixes different flavors, cooking methods, and culinary traditions, showing the unique character of various cultures through their food and drinks. On azcuisines.com, Kris highlights her knowledge, especially in Asian cuisine and worldwide traditional dishes.

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