It’s a very simple name: banh it (it literally means “few” or “a little”, banh in Vietnamese is a term used for anything made of any kind of flour, in any shape and size, cooked in any way imaginable, so “cake,” “pastry”, “pie,” “bread,” and similar terms are not equivalent translations, in fact I’m still looking for a correct corresponding term). I digress. This banh it we got from Gio Cha Duc Huong (Bellaire Blvd, Houston) has a pyramid shape, similar to the ones I’d had in Saigon. Once again I don’t know how the banh maker can shape these things up in banana leaves, and an American bonus, cling wrap.
It is as simple as a child’s treat can be. A clump of mung bean paste concealed by a layer of sticky rice flour. I believe brown sugar is added to the dough to make the color. (Update: indeed there is sugar, but I’m pretty sure there is no la gai in this little one.) The mung bean paste is also a little sweetened, but dry and scrumptious to the extent of powdery (so yeah, not really a “paste”). The dough coat is, you guess it, sticky. And a little plain if, at all possible, eaten without the bean paste. I enjoyed the mixing of texture in my mouth, mostly because of the filling’s nuttiness. The pyramid is only about 4 inch high and at most 9 square inch at the base, but it hits you hard and sound in the tummy. It is powerful. It makes me wonder about Vietnamese children. If these are their snacks, how come they’re so skinny? I suppose because it’s just sticky rice, bean, and very it sugar. Last note: if you want to savour food with your hand like a good traditional Indian, be prepared for some meticulous finger rubbing with soap and water, it sticks with you.