It’s just a white bun made from sticky rice, loosely wrapped in banana leaf so that it doesn’t attach indefinitely to your fingers, ready to sandwich a thick cut of cha lua. The purpose of the bun is purely a textural enjoyment, it has neither taste nor smell. All flavors come from the sausage. Eating the bun alone would be like chewing an incredibly huge piece of gum, the only difference is you can swallow the bun. Come to think of it, we can make a bunch of bite size sticky rice “gum” for American school kids, they can chew until they’re bored, and swallow it, no unfortunate mess under the desks and your shoes. Cool, innit?
Because of either its simplicity or its antiqueness, the bánh dầy is not quite a favorable snack among the young Vietnamese these days. Or perhaps because it is a treat from the North? Southerners have a sweet tooth and are attracted to fatty, rich, flavor-compact concoctions. Bánh dầy is none of that. When I was in Saigon I knew of bánh dầy through three sources: the extremely common tale of bánh chưng bánh dầy, the book “Hanoi 36 streets” by Thạch Lam, and the tiny buns filled with bean paste (bánh dầy đậu) Little Mother got for me from Ngọc Sáng bakery in District 1. Another case of cross cultural similarity: compare the banh day dau with the Japanese daifuku: the sticky rice coat is exactly like mochi, the mung bean filling is salty while daifuku’s filling is sweetened.
For something the size of a can bottom, banh day makes a dense snack (just like its pyramid shape cousin, banh it). We got both at Giò Chả Đức Hương in Houston, but banh day is not always there. The reason might be the good amount of work in making those simple looking buns. An authentic banh day is supposed to be made by pounding cooked sticky rice to a goo, although the packages of sticky rice flour in stores would do the job. I’m not sure which method Đức Hương used. I also wrongfully microwaved it once, the result was a plain thick blob that could possibly rival superglue. Yep, banh day is supposed to be eaten at room temperature (not for folks who want a warm meal).
Address: Đức Hương Giò Chả (Houston)
11369 Bellaire Blvd, Ste 950
Houston, TX 77072