Alice’s Guide to Vietnamese Banh (Steamed Cakes)





Banh bao

Same thing as char siu bao. Filling is usually lap chung, char siu and egg.

Banh beo

(rhymes with meow)


Silver-dollar disks of rice flour. Topped with mung bean powder, ground shrimp, and oil-moistened green onions. Served with nuoc cham.


Banh bo

(rhymes with raw)


literally: cow cake

Spongey/springy “muffin” made of leavened flour and coconut milk. Usually colored and steamed in Jello molds.

Banh bot loc

(sounds like boat lock)

Translucent, almost gelatinous tubes of sticky tapioca flour. Filling consists of whole shrimps and sliced boiled fatty pork


Banh canh



Not a steamed cake but a kind of noodle. Thick, round, almost translucent noodles (made of tapioca flour?) with a springy texture.

Banh chay

(sounds like chai tea)


literally: vegetarian cake

 “Mochi” balls made of sticky rice flour, filled with sweetened mung bean paste, in sugar syrup.

Banh chung



A cake with layers consisting of pressed grains of sticky rice, fatty pork and ground mung bean. Traditionally eaten at Tet.



Banh cuon

(sounds like kwon, intoned like you’re asking a question: kwon?)


literally: rolled cake

Steamed rice flour sheets around a filling of ground pork and wood ear fungus. Banh cuon thanh tri are the sheets served scrunched in a pile without filling.


Banh dau xanh

(sounds like doh! sang)


literally: green bean cake

Not a cake, but more like a candy.  Sweetened powdery ground mung bean pressed into tiny little blocks.

Banh day

(sounds like zey)


literally: thick cake

Thick flat rounds of sticky rice flour. Usually sandwiching a thick slice of steamed pork “bologna”.

Banh it



Very sticky rice flour balls. Filling of ground or cubed pork. Garnished with oil moistened green onions and sometimes fried shallots.


Banh it la gai

(sounds like guy)



Very dark green cake made of sticky rice flour with la gai leaf in the dough, filled with sweetened ground mung beans. Wrapped & steamed in banana leaf. 

Banh khot aka Banh can


 “Mini-cupcakes” made of a batter of rice flour, coconut milk and turmeric and topped with shrimp and green onion.


Banh nam


Flat rectangular packets of banana leaf. Inside is a base of steamed rice flour, ground pork, shrimp, and wood ear fungus.  Served with nuoc cham.



Banh phong tom


literally: puffed shrimp cake

Not a steamed cake.  They’re shrimp chips/ shrimp crackers, fried until puffed and crackly crisp.


Banh ran

(sounds like zan, intonation is like you’re asking a question: zan?)


literally: fried cake

Same thing as Chinese deep fried sesame balls.

Banh tom

(sounds like tome, a big book)


literally: shrimp cake

Thick yellow fried patties of whole shrimp and batter made of flour, egg, and turmeric. Cut into squares and served with lettuce, herbs and nuoc cham.


Banh trung thu

(sounds like chung too)


Just like Chinese moon cake.


Banh uot

(sounds like oo-ot)


literally: wet cake

The name for the rice flour sheets in the dish called banh cuon. Or a variation that’s thicker (not sure).


Banh xeo


Half moon “crepes” made of rice flour, coconut milk and turmeric.  Fried until crunchy and filled with bean sprouts, pork and shrimp. Almost similar to Indian dosa.

Banh xu xe


Sweet cake made of rice or tapioca flour and gelatin, with filling of ground mung beans. Wrapped in banana leaf shaped into a little box.