Bánh bột lọc is one of those weird and wonderful Vietnamese snacks that you only ever find by looking at it, wondering what the heck it is and simply ordering it.
I’ve waxed lyrical about my love of all things Vietnamese food A LOT. Vietnam has the best street food on the planet, and although I have lived there I still find new dishes that I have not tried, even when not in the country!
And thus I found myself in Phnom Penh craving some Vietnamese food. This led me to the wonderful Magnolia Vietnamese restaurant, and our first dish of the evening Bánh bột lọc. What is Banh bot loc? We will get to that in good time.
Vietnamese cuisine in Cambodia
Vietnam not only borders Cambodia, but arguably used to be its colonial overlord, after they had rid the country of the Khmer Rouge. This has meant that Khmer cuisine has been heavily influenced by their Vietnamese neighbours. Case in point being the Banh Xeo/Banh Chao we also had at the restaurant. Other similar ones include Loc Lak, and of course Num Pang!
To read about Banh Chao click here
To read about Num Pang click here .
To get REAL Vietnamese food though, you need to go to a real Vietnamese restaurant, and you really cannot go wrong at Magnolia (yes I will do an artcle about it).
Ordering Bánh bột lọc
The menu at Magnolia was huge, and as I had not had Vietnamese food in so long, I decided to (mostly) through caution to the wind and try some new dishes. One particular page listed a bunch of “banh” dishes described as Vietnamese styled dumplings prepared in various ways, but with the pictures suggested an almost jelly like texture.
There were a few that caught my eye, such as banh nam (like a Vietnamese style Latin American tamale), banh it (known as “little cake) and banh bot loc. What initially drew me to the dish was that I recognized both “banh” and “lok”, although actually I was completely wrong.
What is Bánh bột lọc?
Bánh bột lọc is essentially a clear looking tapioca dumpling. Traditionally it is filled with shrimp and pork belly, or mixed pork, onions and sometimes mushrooms. This was what it said on the menu and indeed what prompted me to order it! It’s small dish that is usually had as a beer snack,or as an appetizer. We ordered it as the first dish of the evening!
Where is it from?
Bánh bột lọc is like many of the best Vietnamese dishes from Hue. I recently had Bun Bo Hue on the streets of Phnom Penh and much preferred it to Pho.
To read about Bun Bo Hue vs Pho click here .
To read about street food in Hue click here .
From Hue it spread to being a Vietnamese favorite, and even available as it would appear in Phnom Penh.
What the banh, what the bot, what the loc?
Fans of banh mi will known that banh means bread, BUT can also mean cake. Intros context it means cake. Bot means flour and loc means “clarity”, not of the mid you understand, but more like clear. So Bánh bột lọc – cake-flour-clear, or clear flour cake.
How is Bánh bột lọc served?
Bánh bột lọc is cooked in and therefore served on a banana leaf. I’ll add that the presentation we received was probably better than it would usually be due to the setting. Weirdly we were served 7 pieces of Bánh bột lọc as well as two large pieces of pork sausage, almost like pork luncheon meat.
I’ll honestly add that I have no idea what said luncheon meat had to do with Bánh bột lọc, but I ate it anyway!
It is served with a sweet chili sauce that you grab your chopsticks with then get down to eating.
How does Bánh bột lọc taste?
Again there are different variations, but ours came with onions, shrimp and minced pork, rather than pork belly. Texture wise and initial taste wise it very much “banh”, or cake. You could imagine having this dish with sweet ingredients inside, but Hue is famous for it simple, yet imaginative dishes. Thus the sweetness of the cassava/tapioca dumpling was accompanied perfectly by the shrimp, but weirdly it was the pork that provided the biggest contrast. In many respects the minced pork was the overriding flavour.
Bánh bột lọc was thus an amazing starter dish, and being so small, not at all filling! This was to be the perfect set up for the rest of the Vietnamese feast!
Best Bánh bột lọc in Phnom Penh? You bet your bottom dong it is!