Banh ngo nep (waxy corn cake) has been known for decades as a sweet delicacy traditionally made by Vietnam's Mong ethnic minority group in the country’s northern mountains, captivating sweet tooths of all ages.
Hot, chewy banh ngo nep can be found at the Sunday-only local market fair in Dong Van Town, Ha Giang Province.
Every week, Mong ethnic women dressed in colorful traditional clothing gather around rustic wood stoves at the market to grill banh ngo nep, which is about the size of two human hands.
|Locals crowd a market fair in Dong Van Town, Ha Giang Province, Vietnam. Photo: Ha Thanh / Tuoi Tre|
Occasionally, these vendors use a paper fan to stoke the charcoal, allowing the appealing smell of the banh ngo nep to permeate the entire market.
Sung Thi Dinh, eight, from Dong Van Town, said that she had visited the market three times with her mom to try banh ngo nep.
“I really enjoy this delicious cake,” Dinh said while relishing the sweet treat.
Vang Thi Mi, 35, a Mong ethnic who has been selling banh ngo nep at the market fair for more than a decade, said that she learned how to make the cake from her mother and the cash she brings in each week is her only source of income.
|Vang Thi Mi grills ‘banh ngo nep’ over a makeshift wood stove at a market fair in Dong Van Town, Ha Giang Province, Vietnam. Photo: Ha Thanh / Tuoi Tre|
One of the most difficult parts of making this dish is choosing the perfect corn, Mi said.
Once chosen, the corn kernels are separated from the cob, soaked in water, and ground into flour.
The corn flour is then divided into three parts.
One part will be cooked and blended with the remaining two before the mixture is placed in a covered bucket to ferment.
|A local buys ‘banh ngo nep’ from a seller at a market fair in Dong Van Town, Ha Giang Province, Vietnam. Photo: Ha Thanh / Tuoi Tre|
The fermented flour is then poured in a mold to form the round shape of the cake before being steamed and sold the next day.
Each banh ngo nep at the market is sold for just VND10,000 (US$0.43).