Ms. Mai’s sidewalk rice cake shop is a familiar address for many domestic and foreign diners, selling about 500 pieces every day.
Located at 58 Ngo Thi Nham, Hai Ba Trung District, the banh gio shop was started by Ms. Tran Thi Mai, 63 years old (pictured), continuing her parents’ profession and selling it since she was 11 years old. Up to now, the banh gio shop has been in business for 52 years.
From 10 a.m. every day, Ms. Mai’s daughter begins to prepare goods and open for sale. At 2:00 p.m., Ms. Mai’s sister changed shifts and starting at 4:00 p.m., Ms. Mai went out to the shop and was in charge of selling.
The banh gio shop is located on the sidewalk, near the intersection of Ngo Thi Nham and Tran Xuan Soan streets, next to a coffee shop. In front of Mrs. Mai’s seat is a small table containing pork sausage and beef sausage. Behind are two styrofoam boxes containing Mrs. Mai’s homemade spring rolls.
Mrs. Mai said all the ingredients for the banh gio are made by her family. The crust is made from carefully filtered fragrant rice flour, pureed, mixed with water and then cooked over fire until cooked. After lifting the pot, you must continue to stir the pot of flour for a while, called the “flour stirring” step.
“Stirring the dough” is a difficult step and requires physical strength and flexibility of the hands as the maker must use chopsticks about 5 cm wide to stir a large, viscous, thick amount of dough in the pot. This stage is usually in charge of Mrs. Mai’s son and grandson. This is also the step that creates the soft, flexible crust of banh gio, a characteristic of her restaurant and other shops and restaurants in Hanoi.
The filling for banh gio is made from minced meat mixed with wood ear mushrooms, shiitake mushrooms, pepper, and stir-fried until cooked.
After cooling the cake dough, scoop it out and pour it onto a layer of fresh banana leaves that have been cut, washed, add meat filling in the middle, wrap, and boil for about half an hour. If the cake is not boiled for enough time, the fat from the filling will not penetrate the rice shell to create the smooth and greasy texture of the cake shell. If boiled too much, the crust will be steamy and the filling will be dry and fragmentary, Ms. Mai said.
A meal of Banh Gio at Mrs. Mai’s restaurant costs 30,000 VND, including one Banh Gio and one of three toppings: green rice cake, beef sausage or pork sausage, depending on the customer’s choice. If you have a good appetite, diners can order a full serving of spring rolls with three types of toppings for 45,000 VND.
After the customer orders, Mrs. Mai removes the banh gio before starting to slice the rolls or sausages. Fried green rice is reheated at the restaurant using an oil pot placed on the stove, next to the counter.
The plate of banh gio is decorated with pickled cucumbers, chili sauce and soy sauce to enhance the flavor. On an average day, she sells about 400 – 500 plates of cakes.
The outermost crust of the cake is light green dyed from banana leaves. The inner layer is white, has the consistency of rice flour, and has a nutty taste. Fragrant, sticky green rice rolls, beef sausage, sweet and fleshy sliced pork sausage are arranged around the cake plate.
When eaten, the crust in the middle is removed and filled with meat, wood ear mushrooms, and mushrooms that are plump, fatty, greasy, and fragrant with pepper. All are covered with a layer of homemade “special chili sauce”, which has an eye-catching orange color and a pungent, mildly spicy taste. Diners can also season with soy sauce.
Mr. Tuan (photo) has been a regular customer of the restaurant for more than 10 years. For him, banh gio is a favorite afternoon treat and can be eaten all year round. On average, he visits the restaurant about 4-5 times a week.
“From banh gio to sausage, spring rolls are all made by the owner himself, a family heirloom, so the taste is fresh, delicious, and hygienic. Especially, the crust here is soft, flexible, and melts in the mouth,” he said.
Mrs. Mai’s restaurant is a trusted address for many diners from young, middle-aged to elderly. Not only local guests, tourists from other provinces and foreigners also come to the restaurant to enjoy banh gio.
The restaurant’s peak hours are from 12:00 to 1:30 p.m. and from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. The restaurant is usually more crowded on weekdays than on weekends.
Because it is located at an intersection, the restaurant’s rush hour is also the time when there is a large amount of vehicle traffic. Moving to the restaurant and finding a parking space is quite inconvenient because the restaurant is located on the sidewalk and does not have a separate parking area.
The restaurant can serve about 20 – 25 customers at a time. If you come during peak hours, diners will have to wait.
Photo,Video: Internet (Vinlove.net)