Also called bánh dày, a popular dumpling made from sticky rice, the special type from Quán Gánh differs from others which are non-stuffed and served with giò chả (special pork meat pies of Vietnam), in that they have stuffing. This type of bánh dày is famous for its unique savor, softness, color and flavor. Bánh dày Quán Gánh is not an expensive and exquisite food; it is popular and close to the consciousness of Vietnamese people.
There is no idea about the time when the first bánh dày Quán Gánh was made; we only know that Nhi Khe villagers (now in Thuong Tin district, Hanoi) have long been making such dumplings and sell them along the former National Highway 1A.The dumpling is round and flat, as large as a slice of orange; the crust made from finely ground glutinous rice and the stuffing made of green beans. Each dumpling is wrapped by a piece of green banana leaf, making it so delicious and exquisite. To remove the wrap, one should be very gentle so that it is not too sticky.
The first bite will give an instant smell of sticky rice mingled with onion-infused oil and green bean fillings, altogether mixed with the scent of the fresh banana leaf. Eaters will never forget such special taste that can not be found elsewhere.
Bánh dày Quán Gánh is made quite meticulously and mostly manually, requiring much patience and precision. First-class sticky rice is sieved and screened thoroughly and evenly, so that sub-quality grains will be sorted out. A little negligence in the sticky rice selection process may result in discharge of the whole batch, for the dumplings might be too dry and rigid. Green beans must be all rich and plump so that the filling can be most savory and nutty. Both the sticky rice and green beans must be properly soaked for softness for half a day or a day depending on the weather. Till mid night, the sticky rice and the green beans are steamed using 2 separate boilers. As soon as the sticky rice is done, it is removed from the boiler to the oil-covered trellis matting, and then transferred immediately to the strong men who will alternately beat the hot sticky rice with 2 big pestles in 2 hands until the mixture become extremely smooth.
The steamed green beans are placed in a stone mortar to be smashed, and later made into balls with onion-infused oil and essence of cà cuống (mangdana) to create its unique flavor. Shaping the dumplings is very important, since it requires skillful hands. Each piece of finely ground sticky rice is stretched in length and made in a tiny ball. After that, each of these balls is stuffed with the fillings and wrapped tight, each to be put in a piece of fresh banana leaf. In order to prevent the dumplings to stick to the hands of the maker and to further enhance its savor, people apply a layer of egg yolk on their palms. The banana leaves have already been quickly dried over fire so that they will not be torn. The makers, mostly women, are so skillful to make the dumplings very quickly so that these are smooth and shiny while the fillings are right in the middle and unexposed, making them both delicious and tempting.
There are 3 types of bánh dày Quán Gánh: non-stuffed dumpling, sweet dumpling and pork dumpling, each having its own flavor. The sweet type is quite sticky and stuffed with sweetened steamed green beans. The one with meat has a smell of pepper, lean and fat meat and green beans. Non-stuffed dumplings are often served with giò (lean meat pie) or chả (roasted meat pie). A piece of giò, is placed between the 2 pieces of dumpling, covered by the green leaf, together make such a beautiful picture that we just want to look at it rather than eat. Of the 3 types, the most common may be the one stuffed with pork.
Although bánh dày Quán Gánh is so delicious, they can not be preserved for a long time, for they have fillings of green beans and fat, making them rot easily. Therefore, bánh dày Quán Gánh should be enjoyed right in the day they are made before they get bad the next day. For that reason, makers must stay up late and wake up very early so that they can produce the very first batch in early morning and sell dumplings to eaters in the rest of the day.
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