Sep 2008

Bánh Xu Xê

An alien’s breast implant or a Vietnamese dessert? If you guessed the former, you’ve got a wicked sense of humor, but are unfortunately incorrect. What you’re looking at is banh xu xe—a Vietnamese sweet with a jelly-like texture made of tapioca flour, pandan, mung bean paste, sugar, sesame seeds and coconut milk.

This one time, I left a banh xu xe in my messenger bag unknowingly for over a week and as a result, it grew fuzzy with mold. The day I discovered it at the bottom of my bag, I asked my colleague Chris at the AsiaLIFE office if I could please pelt him with it. Believe it or not, he said yes. I wound up softball-style and pitched it at him with all of my might. As anticipated, the banh xu xe exploded upon contact! God, it feels so good being a small child sometimes.

The bottom line—banh xu xe are interesting to look at, but lack substance and flavor. At 1,000 VND a piece, I suggest you buy a dozen and pelt them at your friends to show them how much you care. To satisfy that pandan-flavored, jelly-textured, mung bean-filled craving, eat banh da lon.

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10 thoughts on “Bánh Xu Xê

  1. Gastronomer, it’s called Banh Xu Xe but the correct name for it is Banh “Phu The”, means the “Husband Wife” cake.

    THe cake is normally served at wedding. THe reason it is called Banh “Phu The” is because of how it is wrapped: a box on the top fits perfectly with the box on the bottom =) (if you know what I mean)

    The version that you had is a new variety, having the same flavor but not the same meaning actually.

  2. Gastronome, the real McCoy Banh Phu The is a lot more interesting in texture and flavor. In fact, it is so good that they invente the new version, which is so bad compare to the old version .
    In the real one, the cake has it green color and flavor by being steamed inside its box, made from coconut leaves. I don’t know how to describe it but the real McCoy is hundred times better than the fake one.

  3. oh another one of the little desserts I miss eating so much. I wish I could have some Vietnamese desserts now.

  4. Michelle – Ah, thank you for the clarification (and I know what you mean, wink wink). I think The Astronomer was served banh phu the at the Caravelle when we had afternoon tea there. They called it a “pudding.”

    Duy – Although I’m not sure if you’d call a version made at the Caravelle the real deal, it was definitely better than the alien boob implant I tried.

    Angel Van – I think after living in Vietnam for a year, my sweet tooth has gotten dramatically sweeter.

  5. hi Gastronomer .
    THe real deal only have tapioca flour and shreaded coconut meat. It does not have sesame and mung bean paste in it. And the color will not be a sick green achieved by food color like that. And it will definetely not clear like that. I think you can only have it at a wedding.
    THe one you had at Caravelle is sure look like the real deal, but i don’t know if the chef modified it to suite westerner’s taste or not.

  6. Hi all!
    Found your website today trying to figure out what I was eating. I have Banh Com and Banh xu xe. One is green and one is yellowish. I received both at a Vietnamese engagement ceremony this weekend. They called it a pastry when we were there. Do you just eat this out of the box or do you cook it? Sorry for the ignorance and don’t want to offend anyone. Just wanted to give it a try.

  7. Hi Diane! I’m pretty sure you just eat both straight out of the box. They’re both pretty sweet, so if you’re a tea drinker, brew up a hot cup. Bon appetite!

  8. Duy got it right on about the authenticity of this sweet. The one at Caravelle obviously is a bad imitation, and shouldn’t be called a Banh Phu The (which they didn’t, from what I gathered reading your post). I guess you can’t be certain of getting authentic food even in Vietnam itself, because in a crowded market, everyone tries to stand out, sometimes to the detriment of the common good. For a picture of what a real one looks like, check the photos on

  9. Hi Gastromoner

    I’m vietnamese and I LOVE the alien boob implant looking one (although I don’t understand why your one in the photo has sesame seeds, mine always has coconut shreds on the top) but I think it’s great! I love that jelly like constency and reminds me of when I was a kid.

    I don’t really know what it’s called.. I just know I like it! 😛 Mmmmmm… Alien booby implant! xx

  10. Just now stumbled upon your post. I like how you used it to show affection. 😀 I haven’t had the real deal yet, and I don’t know if I can find it in Cali (if you do, please tell me where), but I have a mixed feeling about the modern imitation. At first it threw me off, but then I fell for that tasteless chew. It’s refreshing in a way. 😀

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