Quan Ganh: A Treasure Sold in Food Stalls
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On the National Road 1A connecting Hanoi to southern provinces, you can easily find food stalls titled "Bánh dày Quán Gánh" (Quan Ganh glutinous rice cake). This delightful dish has long been a favorite of drivers passing by or Hanoians during special occasions. Quan Ganh glutinous rice cake is a specialty of Thuong Dinh village in Thuong Tin rural district of Hanoi, where Quan Ganh street is located.
The cake is made from highly glutinous rice. before preparing Quan Ganh glutinous cake, villagers must sift the rice carefully to remove any impurities. The cake makers usually wake up at around 3 or 4 o’clock to cook and grind the rice and mung beans so the cake can be sold on time.
|Quan Ganh glutinous rice cake’s rustic appearance may give the impression that its preparation is similarly simple. Photo: VnExpress|
When the rice is about to be cooked through, the makers spray some warm water over the rice to ensure it is cooked evenly and exudes an aromatic odor. The makers then grind the rice using machines or manually with traditional pestles and mortars to create a thick, white, sticky block of rice. From this, the makers shape the cake completely by hand.
Quan Ganh glutinous rice cake is different from conventional glutinous rice cake in many ways. The most noticeable difference lies in its shape, which is slightly flat instead of round. Those who buy it for the first time would think a package of Quan Ganh glutinous rice cake consists of only one block of cake. In reality, each package of rice cake from Quan Ganh has 6 pieces packed in banana leaves. According to Quan Ganh rice maker Nguyen Thi Hien, 54, “to local people, 6 is the right number for a package because a table at a traditional party usually has 6 people.”
|Quan Ganh glutinous rice maker Nguyen Thi Thao, 57, and her products. Photo: VnExpress|
Quan Ganh glutinous rice cake is also unique because it does not contain any additives. As the cake is as white as snow, there is no way to hide any errors if the makers are not meticulous from the get-go. Also, it should be eaten fresh during the day, from 5 A.M. to 10 P.M. The cake can be stored in the fridge overnight, but the rice will be dried and the taste will be lost.
In addition, while for a normal glutinous rice cake (bánh dày), a piece of pork paste is inserted between two pieces of rice cake, Quan Ganh glutinous rice cake has sweet or savory fillings. The former is made of cooked mung beans, sugar, sesame and coconut, and the latter consists of mung beans, coconut, scallions and half lean- half fat pork. Whether sweet or savory, the flavors of the sticky rice mix perfectly with the fillings inside, leaving a lasting impression on those who taste Quan Ganh's glutinous rice cake.
|A stamp with the phrase "Vạn sự như ý" on the outside of a Quan Ganh glutinous rice cake package. Photo: VnExpress|
Starting as a simple dish served at local food stalls, Quan Ganh glutinous rice cake has been elevated to become a famous specialty. According to Quan Ganh glutinous rice cake maker Nguyen Thi Hien, about 20 households are producing Thuong Dinh’s iconic dish. To make Quan Ganh glutinous rice cake more recognizable, villagers often stick a stamp with the phrase "Vạn sự như ý" (may myriad things go according to your will) on the package. A package of Quan Ganh glutinous rice cake costs VND 20,000 – 25,000.
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