Best Vietnamese Desserts
Kẹo Lạc (Peanut Brittle)
Kẹo Lạc is a speciality of Duong Lam, a traditional village about 55 kilometres west of Hanoi. Locals believe the recipe was handed down by Lord Tr’nh Tráng’s concubine, who helped rebuild Mia Pagoda and taught the villagers how to make sugar cane sweets. Today, using traditional methods that have existed since the 17th century, this candy bar-like treat is made by combining roasted peanuts, sugar and malt.
Xoi Dua (Sticky Rice With Sliced Coconut)
One of the many Vietnamese dishes made with sticky glutinous rice is Xoi dua. While sticky rice is typically served with savoury ingredients, with the addition of fresh fruit, coconut, and sesame seeds, several restaurants serve it as a dessert. Xoi la dua, consisting of sticky rice made with pandan leaves, sugar, coconut milk, and topped with sesame seeds, is a common variation of xoi dua.
Banh Cam (Sesame Balls)
Banh cam, also referred to as banh ran, is a deep-fried dessert sold in Vietnam at just about every local store, restaurant, and roadside stall. This ping-pong ball shaped treat is wrapped in a glutinous rice floor and filled with sweet mung bean paste with shredded coconuts. It is then coated and deep-fried with sesame seeds until golden in color.
Banh Pia (Puff Pastry)
Banh pia, similar to the Chinese traditional mooncake, consists of a dense filling of durian, green bean and salted egg yolk with a flaky pastry crust. Durian’s pungent fragrance can be off-putting to some travelers, but if you love the fruit, this pastry is a must-try. Banh pia, mostly drunk with bitter tea, comes from the Soc Trang Province of Vietnam, which is home to the ethnic communities of Kinh, Hoa and Khmer. Taro, coconut, shredded pork, salted egg yolk, and mung bean paste are among other filling variants.
Rau Cau Trai Dua (Coconut Jelly)
You can find numerous dessert cafes in Da Nang selling rau cau trai dua (coconut jelly), especially along Bach Dang Street, facing the Han River, light, refreshing with just the right amount of sweetness. It is served (with its flesh still intact) in a coconut shell; the top layer is custard-like coconut cream while the bottom consists of coconut water jelly. Rau cau trai dua is also a good dessert option for travelling vegans as the jelly is made from seaweed called agar-agar.
Bánh Khoai Mì Nướng (Steamed Cassava Cake)
The key ingredients of Bánh khoai mì nướng are cassava, coconut milk and sugar, but variants that include desiccated coconut, eggs, condensed milk, and pureed yellow mung beans can also be found. Texture-wise, thanks to tapioca starch, it is very dense and sticky and although most cakes are fried, this Vietnamese cake is steamed because back in the day, most locals did not have access to ovens.
Bánh Tam (Silkworm Cake)
Bánh tam looks like a colorful silkworm from afar, but with cassava, coconut milk, food coloring, and tapioca starch, it’s actually made. This chewy treat is also popular in southern Vietnam as a dessert and convenient snack, and is also coated with ingredients such as coconut syrup, desiccated coconut, and roasted sesame seeds before served in skewers.
Bánh Bò (Honeycomb Cake)
Called after its spongy and fluffy interior, Bánh bo is said to resemble a honeycomb or the liver of a cow (depending on eyes of the beholder). It’s a simple cake made with sugar, glutinous rice flour, coconut and yeast, fluffy, sweet and moist, while food coloring is used to make a more aesthetically appealing dessert.Banh bo can be bland when eaten on its own, so it’s often topped with sesame seeds on top and coconut cream to help enhance its taste.
Bánh Da Lợn (Steamed Layer Cake)
In Vietnamese, Bánh da l’n can be translated as ‘pig skin cake,’ but it is actually a steamed layer cake with a gelatinous texture that is similar to pig skin (hence the rather unappetizing name). For an eye-catching ensemble, each layer is made from tapioca starch, rice flour, mashed mung beans, taro, coconut milk, and sugar, and comes in contrasting colours, usually green and yellow. It’s also a filling snack to help tide you over until lunch or dinner, thanks to the rich combination of coconut milk, taro and beans.
Bánh Flan (Caramel Pudding)
Bánh flan (or bánh caramel in northern Vietnam) comprises custard pudding with a layer of soft caramel on top. Introduced by the French, this sinfully sweet dessert is made by combining eggs, sugar and milk or coconut milk. Bánh flan is served chilled with a side of fresh fruit, but some places add a shot of espresso on top of the caramel layer – a must-try if you’re looking for a jolt of caffeine.
Chuối Chiên (Fried Bananas)
Basically, Chuối chiên is whole bananas which are dipped in batter and fried until crispy. Sold in Vietnam by many roadside vendors, particularly Hoi An, these piping hot snacks are perfect for rainy days as they are crunchy on the outside, but on the inside they are soft, sweet and caramelised. Chances are that it is served with a scoop of coconut ice-cream if you order chu-i chiên at a restaurant.
Chè (Dessert Soup)
For dessert soup or pudding, Chè is Vietnamese, which comes in a range of flavours and ingredients. While this unique dessert is now available at just about any local restaurant in Vietnam, during special occasions such as birthdays, Tet Festival, and family reunions, it is traditionally served. The base of chè is usually coconut milk, while toppings include sago pearls, mung beans, kidney beans, tapioca, sweet potatoes and glutinous rice, as well as fresh fruits such as bananas, jackfruit, durian and mangos.