Jul 2008

Bánh Rán

Bánh rán is a deep-fried glutinous rice ball from northern Vietnamese cuisine. In Vietnamese, bánh means “cake” and rán means “fried.”

Its outer shell is made from glutinous rice flour, and covered all over with white sesame seeds. Its filling is made from sweetened mung bean paste, and scented with jasmine flower essence. Traditionally, the filling should be separated from the shell so that if one shakes the bánh rán, one can feel the filling rattle against the inside of the shell.

Bánh rán is very similar to a Chinese fried glutinous rice ball called zin dou (煎道), which is a standard pastry in Cantonese cuisine and Hong Kong cuisine. The Chinese version is generally slightly sweeter and does not have jasmine essence, and uses fillings such as lotus paste or black bean paste.

Even though banh ran is a northern specialty, I was lucky enough to find a version down south. Or rather, it found me. I was noshing on noodles at the lunch lady’s stall when a dude selling banh ran approached my table. My dining companion Nina bought a few and kindly shared one with me.

The mung bean innards were at one with the shell, so there wasn’t much rattling going on, but the banh ran was still pretty great (and greasy). However, as a whole, I prefer its Saigon counterpart banh cam because I like my sweets very sweet.

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7 thoughts on “Bánh Rán

  1. Mmm I grew up on these. They’re hard to find outside Houston (in various places I’ve lived), instead it’s always the Chinese kind that’s filled with red bean paste.

  2. WOW, those are pretty tasty looking right now. BTW, I’ve been reading your blog for a few months now and I have to say I’m envious of all the great food you get to taste!

  3. Jaye Vee – you could always eat banh tieu as an adequate substitute 😉

    Cathe – Ah, so glad you’ve delurked! San Jose’s Viet food ain’t nothin’ to scoff at.

  4. Nope, San Jose’s Viet food is okay. Wish I can get more of it everyday. I know, sad right? Here I am living in one of California’s biggest (next to So. Cal, right? Correct me if I am wrong) Vietnamese communities and I don’t get to taste it very often. Your blog makes me salivate.

    Ya, I’ve finally de-lurked…been reading since your aunt told me about it. Can’t wait for the Pinoy food report. I can’t stand Chocolate Meat, but you have to try Turon (it’s the Filipino friend bananas, rolled super long and pretty tasty). Also, I hear that the street foods are the bomb – especially the fish balls. These are all tales from my SILs.

  5. Cathe – I eat a lot of Vietnamese these days, but before I moved here I only ate it when I visited home. That’s why I must learn to prepare it! And I totally missed out on chocolate meat and turon and fish balls 🙁 I guess I should have asked Brian to ask his SILs what to eat!

  6. Are these street food?
    I like street food. I and my friends usually hang out at the waiting shed in front of our school campus and nibble those caramelized bananas on stick or potato fries.
    I have not tasted fried rice cakes ever. Bánh rán is definitely in my food list. (^ ^)/

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