Together with Pho and spring
roll, Vietnamese sandwich has become so famous and popular in many countries
that it is included as a new word in the American dictionary.
Vietnamese sandwich is a type
of loaf bread made from wheat flour. The loaf is chopped vertically so that
paste, meat, mayonnaise and vegetables such as onion, cucumber, carrot and
coriander… can be stuffed. Chili sauce and soy sauce are then added. Special
attraction of this dish comes from its ingredients which are adapted subtly to
suit diners' taste; for instance, margarine is used instead of fatty butter.
The sour and crispy stuffing helps balance perfectly the fatty and buttery
elements. The harmonious combination of ingredients in the Vietnamese sandwich
represents the characteristics of Vietnamese culinary art - harmony in
The kind of bread used to
make sandwiches originates from the baguette bread imported by the French into
Viet Nam in the early 19th century. During its adaptation, Sai Gon
people modified the baguette bread and made it into a kind of bread
characterized by Sai Gon style with more stuffing and length of 30 or 40
centimeters. From then on, the sandwich has become familiar and popular in Sai
Gon. Nowadays, the sandwich stuffing is creatively modified with other
ingredients being added like steak and fried fish.
With its convenience and
reasonable price, Vietnamese sandwiches are available at almost every corner in
Sai Gon city: from luxurious places to underprivileged residential quarters,
from big restaurants to street vendors. The sandwich has become a popular
breakfast for people of all social strata from officials to students and
From Sai Gon, the sandwich
spreads to other regions of the country and being modified to suit the taste of
local people; it is also considered as a fast food during the day.
The introduction of the
Vietnamese sandwich to the outside world began relatively early. After 1975,
the sandwich followed the Vietnamese community to enter the U.S., Australia and
Canada and became popular in these countries. In March 2012, the tourist column
of The Guardian - a famous newspaper of the United Kingdom - voted Vietnamese
burgers as one of the top 10 street food that most attract tourists.
SQUARE CAKES AND
The square cake and round
cake are two traditional specialties of Viet Nam, often used at festivals,
Lunar New Year celebrations and important rituals. Legend of these cakes has it
that, after defeating An invaders, Hung King intended to hand the throne to his
children. He summoned 22 mandarins and princesses, saying "I want to hand
the throne to the one who can please me by offering delicacies to my ancestors
at the end of the year, showing my filial respect to ancestors". Everyone
headed towards different directions looking for delicacies, except Lang Lieu,
the 18th mandarin who was a motherless child since early childhood;
he did not know what to do. One night, he was instructed by a God to make cake
"Take glutinous rice to make two cakes: a square one and a round one that
symbolize heaven and earth; the cakes are wrapped in big leaves. Inside the
cakes are delicious ingredients which imply gratitude paid to parents".
Lang Lieu followed what the God had instructed him and was handed the crown.
From then on, during Lunar
New Year celebrations, the square cakes and round cakes are often offered as
tributes to the ancestors and the universe.
The square cake is square as
it is called, symbolizing the earth. It is wrapped by arrowroot leaves with the
surface being turned inwards to keep the color of the cake naturally green, and
then tied with bamboo strips. Ingredients for this comprise glutinous rice,
mung beans, pork, pepper and onion…. The cake is square with each side of about
15-17 centimeters and thickness of 4-6 centimeters. It should be cooked for
10-15 hours continually so that the cake will have the softness of sticky rice
and buttery taste of mung bean mixing with sweetness of meat...
The square cake demonstrates
the culinary philosophy and the culture of Vietnamese people: carefully
prepared, meticulous and well-made…, showing the gratitude of Vietnamese people
to their ancestors. The square cake is a reflection of the wet rice civilization's
sophistication to the culinary art of Viet Nam.
The making and enjoying
square cakes during Lunar New Year celebrations manifest the cultural fineness
of the Vietnamese people. After the square cake is offered to the ancestors,
family members enjoy the cake together. Square cake cutting is regarded as an
art: the cake is divided into equal pieces with equal outer and inner parts.
Normally, people use the bamboo strings that are used to wrap the cake to
devide it into eight evenly triangle pieces. The square cake, therefore, is an
illustration of the Vietnamese culture: unity, sociability, consideration,
equality and ritualism.
Square cakes are always
accompanied by round cakes, which are made from glutinous rice and paired up to
symbolize yin and yang. As it is called, the round cake is round, smoothly
white, slightly aromatic of sticky rice, sweetly flavored and pure. To make the
cake, cooked sticky rice is finely brayed until it turns smooth. Then it is
pinched into evenly and round parts of about 5-7 centimeters in diameter and
about 1 centimeter in thickness. Round cakes used for offerings are white
without stuffing, served with lean pork paste or salt and sesame.
The making of round cake
manifests the cohesion of the Vietnamese people which normally requires the
synergy of a group: at least 3 or 4 people must work together to mix, bray and
mold the cakes. Making a delicious and nice cake often requires the strength of
the men and the skill of the women.
Made from glutinous rice, a
simple and rustic ingredient yet valuable to farmers, the round cake represents
a fine combination of good values and the meticulous work which is broadly
Although simple, the square
cake and round cake express the sentiments, moral principles and cultural
beauty of the Vietnamese people, all together making up the value of the cakes.
In May 2014, Vietnamese
square cake is listed as one of the top 10 traditional specialties in the world
by the National Geographic magazine.
WEST LAKE LOTUS TEA
scented tea of the West Lake is known as an art of making and enjoying tea of
Made from carefully selected
materials and gone through an elaborate process, West Lake lotus scented tea is
commonly regarded as a treasure of Ha Noi City. Hundreds of years ago, this
kind of premium tea was exclusively used as tributes to the Lord and the noble
Embalming lotus tea is an
extremely sophisticated and meticulous job. Lotus used for embalmment must be
fragrant; each flower should have more than one hundred petals and be grown in
Quang Ba area of the West Lake. Lotuses growing in the fertile mud of the lakes
in this area are more beautiful than others. The lotus is multi-layered with
pink petals and a gold pistil with a sweet fragrance.
West Lake lotus season lasts
from mid-May to early September. At the peak of maturity, thousands of fragrant
lotuses are picked to prepare for tea embalmment. The lotus must be picked
before sunrise when its scent still remains. Lotus stamen seeds are taken from
selected lotuses; they can be used to embalm the tea. Around 80 to 100 lotuses
are needed in order to produce 100 grams of lotus stamen seeds; 200 grams of
lotus stamen seeds are needed to embalm one kilogram of tea. Therefore, it
requires about 1,400 lotuses to get one kilogram of lotus scented tea.
To embalm tea, each layer of
tea is alternated with a layer of stamen seeds, so on; the tea then is covered
with a piece of paper and put in a small chamber for incubation. The case used
for tea embalmment should be like the tray used for betrothal ceremony. In
order to prevent the tea from being decayed, one should stir it every 4-6
hours; the tea embalmment lasts from 36 to 48 hours depending on the moisture
of tea and stamen seeds. The next step is to remove the used stamen seeds and
dry the tea. It should be dried in such a way to evaporate the moisture but
still retain the lotus scent. The drying cycle is carried out repeatedly until
the tea is fully imbued with lotus fragrance and ready for use. Sophisticated
as it is, the production of West Lake lotus scented tea often requires the
experience of skillful embalming artisans who are widely honored as craftsmen.
The art of enjoying West Lake
lotus scented tea is also as sophisticated as the process of production. An
ideal venue for drinking traditional lotus tea is under the eaves looking over
the lotus lake. Tea drinkers sit on a wooden platform, enjoying the taste of
lotus scented tea and the beauty of just blossoming lotuses at a fresh and pure
climate. When being prepared with water, lotus tea turns honey yellow with a
pleasantly light scent. In order to deeply sense the beauty of lotus tea, tea
drinkers must stay in a delicate and refined mood; they can enjoy tea while
contemplating the scenery, making poems, having a quiet chat or being deep in
thought. The climate for drinking tea, therefore, is very tranquil. This
simple, gracious style of tea drinking is a distinctive feature of the
Vietnamese Tea art.
Lotus scented tea is seen by
the Vietnamese as a valuable product that represents the Vietnamese
characteristics and culture. Today, many enterprises have invested in the
production of lotus scented tea and introduced a variety of convenient products
such as tea bags, bringing the tea to more consumers.
Lotus stamen seeds are used
to embalm tea. Each layer of tea is alternated with a layer of stamen seeds,
put in a small terra-cotta pot and incubated in a warm chamber for three days.
After that, the used seeds are removed and the tea is dried before the new
cycle begins with new seeds. This cycle is repeated around 7 times to produce a
batch of lotus scented tea. No more than three kilos of tea is embalmed in one
When autumn comes, Hanoians
usually have a delicate pleasure to enjoy lotus scented tea with young green
rice flakes or Lang Vong green rice flake cake - a distinctive product of Ha
Noi. Lang Vong young green rice flakes (Vong village is located in Cau Giay
district) have been famous for its smoothness and good taste in Ha Noi. The
flakes are made of young glutinous rice which are green in color. Young green
rice flakes are the embodiment of the skill, diligence and creativity of the
To have well-cooked and tasty
green rice flake cakes, a sophisticated making process is required. For making
the cake, only mature green rice flakes can be used since young rice flakes can
be dissolved in sugar thus cannot make up the outer coat of the cake. The green
rice flakes are dried and put in pots or jars, or packed up tightly to avoid
from moisture. To make cakes, 1 kilogram of green rice flakes is mixed well
with 1.3 liters of water until the rice flakes become soft; sugar is added in
the ratio of 1 kilogram of sugar to 1 kilogram of green rice flakes. When
cooking, the green rice flakes should be stirred well; otherwise, it may become
pasty if under-heated or burnt if overheated. When the cooking is about to
finish, some drops of pomelo flower essence are added to create a special
flavor for the product.
A well-made green rice flake
cake has the color of natural green rice flakes which are yellowish green. It
must look flat with observable stuffing of shining yellow green beans.
It is the perfectly matching
flavor that West Lake lotus scented tea and Lang Vong green rice flake cakes -
the quintessence of culinary art of Ha Noi - are often chosen as offerings in
the betrothal trays of Hanoians.
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