|Don’t call them hot dogs! They are better than hot dogs!|
French influence has percolated just under the surface of Vietnamese culture since the days of French Indochina. The fallout has been largely beneficial in the modern era, with the best of France rubbing off on Vietnam in the form of food and architecture. The Vietnamese bakery is a modern expression of this weird cross-cultural synergy.
These breads and pastries I’ve sampled from around Ho Chi Minh City are always surprising and almost always delicious, with few exceptions!
Take a look at this photographic diary of some of the most interesting pieces of breaded bliss I discovered over the past few weeks!
Above: a braid of sweet bread cradles a halved piece of pork and garlic sausage, with chili paste, spring onions, and a hardboiled quail egg. There’s a sticky sweetness to the pastry although it’s decidedly savory overall. A small lunch!
A small aside – I’m sorry in advance that I don’t have the various Vietnamese names. These are often simply lined up in a glass case, with no placard to define them. I’ve done my best to transport you there via my photos and words. If you can help me name these, please let me know in the comments or email me from the sidebar!
Pastry dough sprinkled with oregano is wrapped around a tuna mixture in both of these scalloped beauties. Surprise! The crust is reliably flaky in this version, although the savory herbs are slightly different – the one on the right was a little more peppery.
These two are just different versions of the same trick:
Pork Pate innards! (The round one is only missing googely eyes to make it a muppet!) Less moisture in the mixture means the pastries are a little less delicate in texture, but still deliciously flakey and golden.
What’s this?? Haha, I have no idea! The beautiful exterior led me to believe I was in for a treat.
Some kind of shaped, baked sticky rice? It was slightly sweet, but the texture is a little gelatinous for my taste. Did I finish it? Of course I did. …heh. Of course I did.
Pretty! But… (say it with me) what the heck is that?? Is this savory or sweet?
Let’s tear it apart!
We have a pretty delicious savory bun here, complete with green onions, carrots, sausage, and chili sauce inside the braids. But what’s the fluff? My friend, may I make your acquaintance with pork floss! This bizarre product is great and can be found on top of breads and meals across the region. If you find some in your grocery, here’s a good way to use it.
Oh my holy gods of street food. Look at this. A meat filling (20k says pork) makes this the perfect savory pop-tart! Combined with the flavor puddle on top, we’re livin’ large here.
I won’t say it was disappointing (it was a phenomenal bun!), but I was expecting more than a bit of ham and cheese from my 20k. (Yes, 1 USD for this – expensive for a bread treat! 5 out of 10, would not buy again.)
This was by far the savory highlight of my baked goods experiment (even though the beef and onion poptart was really, really good): a little sesame seed-covered baked ball of mystery. Surely, there must be something fantastic in it, right?
SURELY THERE IS. The sweet pastry dough broke away to reveal a pork and egg mixture – the perfect bite! Essentially, a mini pastry version of the ubiquitous banh bao.
Let’s not forget the sweet side of the glass case! These aren’t stuffed, but instead have a well filled with a sweet, lemony custard. Perfectly flakey, perfectly lemony, without overdoing it. Like a very light buttercream frosting.
Holy what now. For a bit, I was expecting that to be, I don’t know, a jellied egg yolk or something. But FRIENDS: AN HONEST-TO-GOD DANISH. There’s sweet cream filling under them apricots!
Sunflower seeds on a chocolate frosting… this I could get behind. I kind of thought this one would end up being a dry, brittle biscuit, because of the cracks in the dough….
WRONG. WONDERFULLY, WONDERFULLY WRONG. Sweet cream! My favorite!
This one was not at all a gamble – it’s shape screams sugar! It’s a standard sweet, flakey dough, with a well of the same cream from the previous treat, with some melted chocolate in the middle. Pretty tasty stuff.
This was the one I was so curious about, and, yet, sort of dreading – what is it??
My guess was savory, some kind of pork pie? Because it is shaped like a pie? with… I dunno, bananas on top? caramelized bananas??
“Open your mouth, close your eyes, and you will get a big surprise,” is how I believe the Calvin & Hobbes strip goes… so I did.
WOAH. This was tasty. I CHOWED DOWN on this sucker! It was like a sweet pastry quiche, but portable. I didn’t expect to like it… at all. I was fully prepared for this to go the way of the pork/cashew pie-bomination I had last year.
I have no idea what it is. Can’t place the meat inside (my guess is pork, always pork), and the dense, eggy layers of dough are totally craveable. I was nervous, but the rewards were great. And if that’s not a sign that you’re doing life right, I don’t know what is. [Resolutions Note: Start listening to your own advice! Also, finish writing your Resolutions!]
The End? No way, friend. I’m just getting started on the world of baked goods in Ho Chi Minh Cit – stay tuned for updates! If only everyone had a Vietnamese bakery steps from their front door.
Got a purveyor of Vietnamese baked goods in HCMC that I absolutely, positively need to check out? Please leave in the comments!