Today, we share another part of our traditional cuisine, a particularly sweet part.
These are Mung Bean cakes a.k.a Banh Dau Xanh in Vietnamese. They are popular year round and make great gifts for those coming back from their travels in Vietnam. These little sweet cubes melt in your mouth leaving a buttery, fragrant after-taste and make a perfect companion for your afternoon tea. Best served with green tea, the bitter tannin in the hot tea marries well with the sweet buttery taste of the cake. It is quite a relaxing afternoon activity to slowly pop a mung bean cube in your mouth and sip on some tea while entertaining a book. Indeed, it is a favourite past time of many Vietnamese elders to enjoy mung bean cakes with green tea while having a light chat with a friend.
Mung bean cake is made from mung bean powder, pomelo essence, sugar, and fat. Don’t let the short ingredient list deceive you though. Although green bean flour, sugar and pork fat are available all year round, to make the perfect mung bean cake, they have to be selected carefully. Only quality green beans which are ripe and yellow on the inside must be picked and dried in the sun, and then they are roasted, shucked and ground into powder. The green bean power must be absolutely dry. To cook, pork fat is melted over medium heat with care not to burn the fat as it will ruin the delicate flavor of the cake. Nowadays, many bakers have replaced pork fat with vegetable oil, sacrificing the buttery taste for a more economical approach.
The origins of mung beans cake can be traced back to Hai Duong town. Once, King Bao Dai went on a tour of inspection to Hai Duong Town. The local residents, who I guess realized the once-in-a-lifetime publicity opportunity, presented the king with a kind of cake made of green bean. The king was pleasantly surprised and enjoyed the cake tremendously. Upon his return to the imperial palace, King Bao Dao issued a royal decree to praise the green bean cake of Hai Duong. The decree bore the seal of golden dragon, the symbol of the king’s power. Recognizing the marketing potential, Hai Duong bakers have branded their cakes the “Golden Dragon Green Bean Cake” ever since. The name distinguishes the cake made in Hai Duong from the cake in other province.
Technology advancement meant that producers of Mung bean cake can now preserve it for up to one year instead of one or two weeks which means that you can enjoy this simple treat all year round !
Nowadays, this kind of cake also can be found in any shops and supermarket in Vietnam. Nonetheless, Mung bean cakes from Hai Duong remain in high demand and are most favored.