Forest vegetable pancakes on the highest mountain in the West

AN GIANG ‘s hot pancakes served with 30 kinds of wild vegetables are specialties on the 700m high Cam mountain, which is likened to the “roof of the West”.

On the way from the foot to the top of Cam mountain (An Hao commune, Tinh Bien district), visitors can encounter more than a dozen stalls of wild vegetable pancakes, most concentrated around Phat Lon Pagoda. Each shop arranges more than a dozen baskets of fresh, fresh wild vegetables instead of signs. Sweet shop owner: “Aunts, uncles, brothers and sisters support wild vegetable pancakes. Hotcakes are just blown and eaten”.

At a crowded restaurant at the top, as soon as they sat at the table, the staff immediately brought up a plate of wild vegetables, regardless of whether the customer was going to order some cakes. If it is not enough, diners can take whatever they want from the vegetable counter. Ms. Hoang, the owner of the restaurant, introduced that there are about 30 kinds of vegetables on the mountain served with Banh Xeo. Each type has its own unique taste, some vegetables according to human experience are good medicine for health.

The stalls full of wild vegetables are typical of the stalls selling xeo in Cam mountain.  Photo: Ngoc Tai
The stalls full of wild vegetables are typical of the stalls selling Xeo in Cam mountain. Photo: Ngoc Tai

Ms. Hoang said wild perilla is similar to house perilla but eye-catching with its bright red color interspersed with purple, sour leaves eaten together with pancakes to relieve boredom, royal jelly “functional food” for people suffering from arthritis, and aphrodisiac vegetables. Orchid women should eat a lot, figs are good for people with stomach pain, strawberry buds, avocados, forever, plums, imitation stars, convex sand…

In addition to the sour taste, according to the owner of the restaurant, the remaining vegetables are acrid, slightly bitter, slightly sweet… The number of typical mountain vegetables, the shop must order in advance from households specializing in the forest to pick, priced at 30,000-60,000 VND per kg. “This vegetable is available all year round, the rainy season is younger and more delicious,” she said. With the amount of vegetables seeming to be overwhelming, many diners think that the cake is just a side dish, served with wild vegetables.

In the kitchen, Ms. Xuan Mai is busy with 14 red pans. Put two freshly baked cakes on a plate, she added a little oil to the pan, one hand scooped the dough into the pan, and the other hand rotated the pan, and the coated dough was empty. Before putting the pan on the stove, she put some raw bean sprouts and boiled green beans in the pan. Salty cakes are added with meat, fried shrimp and cassava roots. Vegetarian cakes include tofu, cat mushrooms, and vegetarian fish balls. The filling of the cake has been prepared, after putting it in the pan, wait for about two minutes for the cake to be cooked, then it can be served to diners.

Ms. Xuan Mai is busy frying cakes, from a few hundred to a thousand each day.  Photo: Ngoc Tai
Ms. Xuan Mai is busy frying cakes, from a few hundred to a thousand each day. Photo: Ngoc Tai

While frying the cake, she turned her eyes to the finished pans, which was cooked immediately put on a plate. If the pan doesn’t fry more, add a little oil to the burning pan, then turn off the heat. She revealed that the Western pancake fryer day in and day out has certain challenges, especially frying pans, using only clean towels, not washing them often, and avoiding the cake sticking to the pan.

Mai has been in the profession for more than 5 years, frying 14 pans at the same time, none of which is too hot. For her, the work has become familiar and smooth. “Depending on the layout of the kitchen so that the travel time between one pan and another is short, the new worker can pour a lot,” she said. On a crowded day, the 38-year-old woman poured more than 1,000 pieces, at least a few hundred.

Another special feature of the mountain pancake is that it is big, the edges are thin, and it melts quickly in the mouth. “A Western daughter or daughter-in-law who can pour a round cake with a thin edge will be praised for her skill,” said Mai with a smile. Nearly a dozen shops, but the price of cakes here is quite similar, vegetarian cakes are 15,000 and 20,000 VND for savory cakes.

Hot pancakes, thin edges, crispy when put in the mouth.  Photo: Ngoc Tai
Hot pancakes, thin edges, crispy when put in the mouth. Photo: Ngoc Tai

Between the cool, chilly weather in the morning and at dusk, it would be ideal to enjoy a hot crispy cake with lots of vegetables, right after setting foot on the top of the “roof of the West” or before leaving.

Cam Mountain, also known as Thien Cam Son, together with Tuong mountain (Lien Hoa Son), Dai mountain (Nao Long Son), Dai Nam Gieng mountain or small Dai mountain (Ngu Ho Son), Co To mountain (Pung Hoang Son), Ket mountain (Anh Vu Son) and Nuoc mountain (Thuy Dai Son) and more than 30 unnamed mountains make up the Bay Nui area that attracts a lot of tourists every year. Particularly Cam mountain belongs to Tinh Bien district, bordering Cambodia, more than 250 km from Ho Chi Minh City.

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