My boyfriend and I taste tested some weird Vietnamese speciality desserts just for laughs yesterday afternoon. After all travel’s nothing without a little pointless adventure now and then. Some of the Vietnamese sweets I loved and some were pretty gross. In no particular order, here’s what we tried and what we thought about these various treats.
Red Bánh Xu Xe
My boyfriend and I tried a lot of sticky cakes. I believe these cakes are called husband and wife cakes because they symbolize marriage bonds and are served at weddings. All of them have mung bean on the inside and are made from rice and flour in addition to other ingredients. I think the red coloring in this particular cake is made from gac fruit.
I liked the sweet cherry flavor of this sticky cake. It’s a sweet, subtle, flowery flavor and I gave it a 7/10.
Yellow Bánh Xu Xe
This was the first husband and wife cake I tried. The yellow coloring is supposedly made from saffron.
To me, the yellow outside bit tasted like chewing gum and the white inside tasted like banana. I quite enjoyed it, especially the inside. I gave it a 6/10.
White Bánh Xu Xe
This one was nice. The inside had bits of shredded coconut, which I liked. It also had a very strong herbal smell, which I couldn’t quite put my finger on. But overall, it was fairly nice.
I gave it a 6/10.
I think, but I’m not 100% sure, that this green, square cake can also be called banh xu xe.
I really hated the texture of the bánh cốm which was very gluey, sugary, grainy, tapioca-like. I disliked how sticky and difficult to swallow this cake was. I gave the traditional bánh cốm a 3/10.
Bánh Chín Tầng Mây
I think the name of this cake translates to something like “nine layers of clouds” and indeed this was my favorite of all the sticky Vietnamese cakes. This one is made up of several colored layers and is cut in a cute triangle shape. I appreciated that it didn’t have anything in the center, which gave it a nice familiar Jello texture, as opposed to some of the strange textures of the other cakes.
I have no idea what this cake is made of. A quick google search tells me “pandan leaf,” which leaves me just ask confused, so it’ll have to suffice that I think it’s just a nice cake.
I gave it an 8/10.
As a departure from the sticky cakes, I also tried Jackfruit chips, which are touted as something of a souvenir in Hanoi as it’s sold in a lot of souvenir shops and even the Noi Bai airport.
Unfortunately these dried fruit chips had a weird fishy after flavor. I’m not sure if that’s normal or if it’s because we bought the chips at a random market stall which was pretty close to a dried shrimp stall. Eww, haha. Not a combo that people usually search out.
These chips get a 2/10.
The Vietnamese version of flan, caramen is sold at desert and cake shops across Hanoi. My personal favorite shop is Minci at the end of the Nguyễn Trường Tộ.
I love caramen. It is a sweet white pudding with delicious, drippy caramel pouring down the sides. I even love the little spoons that the desert comes with.
Caramen gets a 10/10.
Overall the Vietnamese dessert taste testing was a fun experience.
I love Vietnamese food and am going to continue eating everything cool that I see on the streets in Vietnam. Let me know if you’ve got any suggestions, and I’ll search out even more new eats in Hanoi.
If you want to watch our taste testing, check out this silly video to see our reactions to these great and gross Vietnamese desserts.