Khuc Cake - a rustic and fragrant “gift” of the Hanoian

Khuc Cake - a rustic and fragrant “gift” of the Hanoian

Hanoi 05.06.2021

Khuc Cake has been one of Hanoi's traditional dishes for many years. With the salty taste of spices and aroma from glutinous rice and flour, it has become a specialty of the capital land.

Translated by nguyendo

Written by hangdt

The “unforgettable” taste of Hanoi Khuc Cake

"Who wants sticky rice, who wants Khuc Cakes..." - the familiar speaker's voice echoing into the space in the middle of the night made me crave Khuc Cake for 3 continuous days. I hurriedly looked for shops offering delicious Khuc Cakes in Hanoi.

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Khuc Cake is a familiar breakfast food of Hanoians. Photo: lovefoodvn.blogspot

Khuc Cake, also known as Khuc sticky rice, originates from the Northern Delta of Vietnam. The season of cudweed (the main ingredient of the cake) is in March of the solar calendar. Therefore, after the Lunar New Year, the family members are eager to make this cake. For children, there is nothing more fun than sitting and watching a pot of fragrant cakes with friends. They wait until the cake is done to get a big, delicious and hot piece.

Khuc Cake is a simple “gift” from the countryside that is filled with “human love”. Each grain of white rice is soft and fragrant, wrapped with crushed mung bean paste and cudweep leaves, and a piece of fat in the middle. The Khuc cake is that simple, but it makes people “fall in love”.

How to make a delicious batch of Khuc Cakes

The most important thing to have a delicious batch of Khuc cakes is to choose good rice and cudweed leaves. Cudweed is a wild plant that grows on the banks of rice fields and sandy banks. There are two types of cudweed, namely “ordinary” and “sticky” leaves. The sticky leaves are as small as the nib of a pen, while the ordinary leaves are as big as a finger. Each leaf is covered with a smooth white layer. The ordinary leaves are bigger, but when cooked, they will not be as fragrant as the sticky leaves. As the ordinary ones contain a lot of water, it can break the sticky rice easily when cooked. That is why people often use sticky leaves to make Khuc Cakes. Sticky leaves must be picked early in the morning when the dew drops are still on the leaves to make the batch of Khuc Cakes delicious. At this time, the leaves look like beautiful sparkling stones.

Sticky cudweed is used to make Khuc Cakes. Photo: doisong24h.com

The procedures of making Khuc Cakes are very complicated. After being picked, the leaves are crushed and squeezed to extract the juice. Mix the juice of the leaves with rice flour to make the cover of the cake. The filling includes mung beans and fatty meat. Mung beans are washed, steamed and then pounded finely. Fatty meat is cut into pieces (about 3cm thick), and then marinated with spices and fragrant northern pepper. Wrap the filling in the cake cover and then roll it over the soaked glutinous rice, then place it in the steamer. Each layer of cake is covered with a layer of delicious glutinous rice. When the water is boiled, it takes the cakes about 45 minutes to be cooked. If you steam the cakes for a longer time, the cakes will be mushy. Conversely, they will be too firm for you to eat.

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The filling of Khuc Cake includes mung beans and fatty meat. Photo: yan.vn

Those who have not tried this cake often say that “there is no difference between Khuc Cake and other sticky rice cakes”. This is true when it comes to their appearance, but once trying, you can immediately tell the difference. The layer of soft rice mixed with a layer of mung beans, a little spicy and aromatic pepper, the greasy taste of fat and the typical taste of the cudweed will definitely leave you a strong impression. The taste of cudweed is a bit tangy, similar to wormwood, but lighter and easier to eat. I have also heard someone say that the smell of cudweed resembles the smell of sun-baked mountain rocks. Khuc Cake is often enjoyed with a little toasted sesame salt or fragrant roasted cinnamon pork to increase the flavor.

Places offering delicious Khuc Cakes in Hanoi

In Hanoi, there are 3 famous places selling Khuc Cakes, namely Khuc Cake Ms. Lan, Khuc Cake Cau Go, and Khuc Cake Do The Gia. For a long time, the Khuc Cake Ms. Lan brand has been associated with Hanoian. Initially,  Khuc Cake Ms. Lan was just a small stall in Nguyen Cong Tru market, now it has expanded to 4 locations: 20 Le Duan street, 69 Nguyen Cong Tru, 29 Nguyen Thai Hoc, and 255 Thuy Khue. The price of a serving with toasted sesame salt is VND 13,000. If you want lean pork paste, the price will be VND 20,000/serving. The operating time is from 6am - 9.30pm daily.

In addition to Khuc Cake Ms. Lan, Khuc Cake Quan at 35 Cau Go, Hoan Kiem is another shop you should visit. The cake here is steamed in a clay pot, so it always stays hot and delicious. Each serving covered by banana leaves costs VND 15,000. It is noted that toasted sesame salt is free here. The operating time is from 6am to 10pm daily.

You can easily find Khuc Cakes at street vendors in Hanoi. Photo: dulichvietnam.com.vn

Another well-known shop of Khuc Cake is “Khuc Cake Do The Gia” at 264 Vo Chi Cong, Xuan La, Tay Ho. Each box of cakes costs VND 40,000, including 2 servings wrapped in banana leaves. The operating time is from 7am - 8.30pm daily, and the shop can ship the cakes to you around the city.

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Delicious Khuc Cake. Photo: Foody

Every morning, a serving of Khuc cakes with a cup of soy milk can provide you with enough energy for a hard working day. Therefore, people still say that Khuc Cake is a “rustic, cute, and memorable” dish. Once trying the cake, you cannot forget its typical smell and flavor of the cudweed leaves.