Bon Bon Bakery (19 Ba Thang Hai, District 10) is a lovely sweets shoppe that The Astronomer and I discovered when we first moved here. It’s located near my old place of employment so we used go quite often during our 1.5 hour lunch break. These days, we only swing by when we’re in the neighborhood shopping at Maximark, a western-style grocery store that carries the essentials like peanut butter and cereal.
This family-run shop isn’t much to look at, but they whip up great Vietnamese cream puffs (banh kem su) for 3,000 VND. The outer shell is light and airy, while the vanilla custard filling is creamy, sweet and chilled. Each puff is stuffed to order, so the shell never loses its nice texture.
The pineapple tartlets (top picture) with sticky preserves are quite addictive, especially at 2,000 VND a pop. I have always adored Vietnamese pineapple preserves (mut thom) because it’s so ridiculously sweet. The pastry tones down some of the jam’s intensity, which helps me to consume more tartlets overall. Bon Bon also makes coconut tartlets, but I’m too enamored with the pineapple ones to try them.
After my trip to Hong Kong, I’ve been on the lookout for egg tarts. I’ve only tried two Saigon varieties thus far—one from Pham Nguyen Bakery that was mediocre and another from here. Bon Bon’s egg tarts aren’t kept warm like those in Hong Kong, but if they were, they’d be almost as tasty. Just out of curiosity, I asked the baker where her recipe came from. She didn’t give me an exact answer, but she said that egg tarts are a Vietnamese dessert. Ohhh, are they?
The Astronomer and I both have killer sweet tooths. Whereas my heart skips a beat for che (details on my latest obsession to come), The Astronomer cannot resist doughnuts and cream puffs sold street-side.
Back in the good ‘ol US of A, we both ate very healthily and only splurged on occasion. However, in a country without trans-fat bans or nutrition labels, we’re throwing caution to the wind and enjoying ourselves to the max. It’s a good thing we’re continuing to run nightly!
On the outside, Vietnamese and American doughtnuts seem to have a lot in common. However, one bite and it’s obvious that their sole commonality is the hot bubbling oil they’re cooked in. The major differences between the two lie in the lack of frosting and types of flour used in Vietnamese doughnuts.
While American doughnuts are sickeningly sweet, Vietnamese doughnuts are dramatically less so and even a bit salty in some versions. The rice and tapioca flours used in Vietnamese doughnuts bring about a springy and chewy texture not found in Krispy Kremes or Dunkin Donuts.
The Astronomer’s favorite doughnuts are Bánh Vòng (rice flour rings sprinkled with sugar) and Bánh Tiêu (hollow mounds of dough dusted with sesame seeds).
A little less common, but just as addictive are cream puffs or banh kem su. The puffs are made beforehand and the custard and whipped cream are smeared to order. The first cream puff we enjoyed contained a vanilla custard that took us back to Beard Papa’s in NYC. Unfortunately, we weren’t as thrilled with our second experience—a sau rien (durian) flavored custard! It wasn’t horrible, but the flavor was unexpectedly intense. After the durian debacle, I’ll be sure to ask what flavor the custard is before placing my order.