Taking over the business from his brother-in-law, Vietnamese-Chinese man Trang Vinh Phat, 61, started selling honeycomb cakes with sweet fillings, or bánh bò dừa, in Ho Chi Minh City in 1980.
Starting off with a humble metal trolley in one of the small alleys on Nguyen Duy Street, District 8, Vinh Phat was still able to have customers of all ages lining up for his cakes.
The Teochew man later pushed his cart to sell honeycomb cakes filled with desiccated coconut across many streets in District 5, mostly Tan Da Street.
He eventually named his business “Banh Dua Tan Da”, with “banh dua" representing what he was selling: cakes with coconut filling.
|Trang Vinh Phat, 61, founder of Banh Dua Tan Da. Photo: Minh Chau / Tuoi Tre News|
Phat and his family would wake up early to prepare charcoal and essential ingredients namely wheat flour, eggs, granulated sugar and fillings for the cakes.
Every step is carried out meticulously.
To make a piece of the shop's signature bánh bò dừa, the bakers first stir the batter well for more than 20 minutes in order to produce a smooth and fluffy crust.
Next comes the batter fermentation process which can take up to two hours.
“This stage occupies plenty of time as it depends on yeast and weather,” Phat said.
After that, they pour the batter onto a hot metal mold on burning braziers.
|A baker pours the batter onto a hot metal mold to make the crust of ‘bánh bò dừa’. Photo: Minh Chau / Tuoi Tre News|
This step only takes roughly two minutes, but it requires intense concentration as the amount of batter needs to be measured carefully to produce a perfect crust.
Plus, the crust could easily be burnt.
The desiccated coconut filling, which is stir-fried to make it taste better and last longer, will be added in the next step.
|A staff member of Banh Dua Tan Da adds coconut filling to make 'bánh bò dừa'. Photo: Minh Chau / Tuoi Tre News|
After that, the batters put up another layer of crust to form a cylinder shape with fillings scattered evenly inside.
The finished product is a cake with a diameter of roughly 20 centimeters and a height of 3 centimeters, divided into 4-6 pieces like pizza to take away.
The original fillings were only coconut and sugar butter, now with two shops in operation, Phat has offered a more variety types of fillings, inclduding kaya custard, peanut butter, durian, buttermilk, to name a few.
In addition, pandan leaves are also added to the crust, offering more choice for customers.
|In this photo is a set of cakes with mixed flavors, including coconut, kaya custards, durian, peanut butter. This combo is priced at VND60,000 (US$2.47). Photo: Minh Chau / Tuoi Tre News|
Bánh bò dừa can be stored at normal temperature for ten hours, while it is eight hours for those of buttermilk and kaya custard.
Phat’s stores always serve new fresh cakes everyday. The remaining cakes get distributed for free to his family and relatives.
Each cake ranges from VND40,000 to 60,000 (US$1.63-2.45) depending on the fillings. Phat's shops also sell cakes in half.
Trang Vinh Phat said his two shops sell a total of around 200 cakes per day.
Phat also has wholesale orders and interprovincial delivery to Dak Lak, Nha Trang, and more.
He also shared that he takes orders from overseas customers.
|A whole loaf of honeycomb cake weighs about 340 grams. Photo: Minh Chau / Tuoi Tre News|
“My parents bought Phat’s honeycomb cakes for me when I was a kid, and I still remember the taste to this day. Luckily, I am able to find this childhood taste again,” Nguyen Thi Tuyet Nhung, 22, a District 5 dweller, said.
“I’m not accustomed to eating cakes from other shops since I know this place. My family also has a soft spot for Phat’s cakes because of the unique taste alongside his hospitality and enthusiasm,” Nguyen Van Duy, 44, a District 8 inhabitant, said.
At the present, Phat's four children have taken on the family's traditional cake business.
“Banh Dua Tan Da” opens at 8:00 am till cakes are sold out (normally at 6:00 pm) at 263 Hong Bang Street in District 5 and 90 Le Quang Dinh Street in Binh Thanh District.